Choose Your Exercise Routine

By Dr. Jean Harvey, Ph.D., R.D., Joyce Hendley, M.S., EatingWell Editors, "Choose Your Regimen," The EatingWell Diet (2007)

Tips to help work exercise into your daily life.

Strength Training

While aerobic activities are most effective for calorie burning, another kind is also important for building fitness: strength training, or resistance training. This type of exercise involves using your muscles to push or pull weight by lifting weights, working out on weight machines or using resistance bands or stability balls. Resistance exercises like pushups and abdominal crunches also qualify, because the weight you’re pushing and pulling against is your own.

Strength training helps strengthen bones and muscles and improves your body’s sense of balance. It also revs up your metabolism; muscle tissue burns calories, so the more you have, the more calories you’ll burn. And, as you’re losing weight, strength training helps preserve some muscle tissue that might otherwise be lost along with the fat.

One of the best reasons to add strength training to your exercise routine, though, is that it produces satisfying results fairly quickly. No matter how old or sedentary you are, you’ll soon notice that everyday tasks, like lifting groceries, are easier to do. This can give your weight-loss plan a motivating kick start.

You don’t have to be a pumped-up bodybuilder or gym rat to benefit from strength training: as little as 15 minutes a day, two or three days a week, is usually enough to produce noticeable fitness gains. It doesn’t take a large investment in equipment—just a pair of inexpensive hand weights can be used for a wide range of strength-building exercises. (Instructional guides are available at bookstores and online.) To get started on a strength-training program, you may want to ask your doctor for a recommendation or check your local YMCA, neighborhood recreation center or health club. If you’re trying it for the first time, it’s worth investing in a few sessions with an exercise trainer; those that are certified as athletic trainers, strength and conditioning coaches or personal trainers are your best bet.

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