Kettlebells are a popular piece of workout equipment. You have probably seen one at the gym, on social media, or on a workout video at some point; they look like a cannonball with a handle on top. Since kettlebell exercises have just gained popularity in recent years in the United States, you might be surprised by how long they have been used as a strength training tool. Although there isn’t any proof as to who invented the kettlebell, or exactly when, there are signs it was used in ancient Greece and the Russian word “Girya” (which translates to kettlebell in English) was published in the Russian dictionary in 1704. Others believe kettlebell training originated in Scotland as a competitive event where an actual kettle was used loaded with weight.
Using a kettlebell involves more muscle groups and uses a wider range of movement than barbells or weight machines. Barbells and weight machines generally target isolated muscle groups directly, whereas the kettlebell can be used in exercises that use more than one muscle group and even full body exercises. Using multiple muscle groups at once in an exercise, or a compound movement, is a more functional way to train and burns more calories than a move working only one muscle group at a time. It is also what helps to increase the heart rate making it a workout for your cardiovascular system as well as a strength workout. This means you can get more of a workout in less time.
Kettlebells are especially great for strengthening your core because they challenge your balance by changing your center of gravity when performing exercises, like squats and lunges for example.
A study done by ACE (American Council on Exercise) and The University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science found that after an eight-week training period consisting of a kettlebell class two times a week led by a pair of certified instructors, the participants had not only strength gains, but also had increases in aerobic capacity, improved dynamic balance and increased core strength. The study confirmed that with kettlebells, you are “able to get a wide variety of benefits with one pretty intense workout”.
Kettlebells are prevalent in fitness centers and gyms but might also be a good addition to your home gym. Kettlebells are relatively compact and portable so are a good option for workouts at home as well. They come in a variety of sizes and weights. Depending on your fitness level and the workout you plan to do, there is an appropriate size of kettlebell for everyone. Most kettlebells are cast iron, some are vinyl coated or plastic coated. There are even adjustable weight kettlebells, essentially a set of kettlebells built into the space of one. If you are worried a cast iron weight might damage your floors, there are soft kettlebells available as well. None of these options is better than the other, it all depends on what works best for you.
There are many different exercises that can be done with a kettlebell. If you have never used a kettlebell before, ask a personal trainer or take a kettlebell class to get the basics on form. Here are three moves that can be done with a kettlebell and completed on their own or as a circuit. If performing them as a circuit, complete 10-12 repetitions of each exercise then rest before repeating the circuit two more times. This could be done 2-3 times a week on non-consecutive days.
Important: Throughout all movements with the kettlebell, remember to keep your core tight by drawing your naval into your spine, maintaining control of the kettlebell throughout all movements.
- The Kettlebell Swing
The kettlebell swing is an extremely effective exercise when done with proper form. It combines strength training and cardiovascular conditioning into one movement. This move works many different muscle groups (most of the muscles in your body) but focuses on the core – including the hips, back, abs and glutes.
Start with your feet just a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed out slightly. Hold the kettlebell by the handle with both hands and keep your arms loose but straight as you hinge at your hips, sending your hips back while maintaining a flat back, and then squeeze your glutes to drive your hips forward to a standing position keeping your arms straight, the kettlebell swinging to just below shoulder height. Lower the kettlebell to the start position with control.
Once you master the kettlebell swing with two hands, try a one-handed swing. The one arm swing delivers the same benefits as the two-handed swing but with a few extras. Swinging the kettlebell with one arm rather than two puts extra demands on the shoulder and attempts to pull the body into rotation. This means your shoulder stabilizing muscles will work harder and your core muscles will work harder to keep your body forward. The one-handed swing is performed the same way as the two-handed swing except for just one hand holding the kettlebell handle while the other arm is held straight out to the side. Do a number of reps with one arm then switch to do the same number of reps with the other arm.
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands and close to the front of your body while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Sit back with your hips, keeping your chest lifted as you slowly lower to a squat. Knees travel outward over toes. Lower to a level that is comfortable (but challenging) to you. Straighten legs as you return to the starting position.
- Kettlebell Overhead Press
The kettlebell overhead press takes the kettlebell from the racked position (During this position the kettlebell is held comfortably against the chest with the arm tucked in, wrist straight, shoulder down and Latissimus Dorsi muscle engaged.) to overhead and into a straight arm position. Keep your shoulder down away from your ear while you press your arm up and lower it back down with control. Make sure the kettlebell goes straight up and not in front or behind the head.
- Kettlebell Goblet Squat Thruster
Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands and close to the front of your body while standing with feet shoulder width apart. Sit back with your hips, keeping your chest lifted as you slowly lower to a squat. Knees travel outward over toes. Lower to a level that is comfortable (but challenging) to you. Straighten legs and press the kettlebell over your head, keeping your arms as straight at possible. Lower the kettlebell back down to your chest.
Kettlebells can offer a highly effective workout. Kettlebell exercises use multiple muscle groups at the same time which allow you to work your entire body in less time. They target all aspects of fitness, including strength, endurance and power. When kettlebell workouts are programmed correctly and done with proper form, they can provide a full body mix that will increase your metabolism and generate fat burning hours after your workout has finished. With so many benefits to using kettlebells, and so many ways to work out with them, kettlebell training is for everyone who wants to burn fat, develop full body strength, improve their cardiovascular health and those with little time to exercise.
Some gyms hold specialized kettlebell classes. (Check out LivRite’s class schedules here!).
I’m sure you have heard it before; you should stretch after your workout. Or before. Or both. Stretching has long been talked about as something we should do, but typically it is the first thing to get skipped when we are in a hurry. After this difficult year, stretching is coming back as a hot topic because of the much-needed mind and body benefits that stretching provides.
Benefits of Stretching
Research has shown that stretching can help improve both your body’s flexibility and mobility. Mobility is the range of motion of your joints. Flexibility is the ability of your muscles, tendons and ligaments to lengthen. For example, flexibility is being able to reach down and touch your toes. Your hamstring muscles must lengthen, or be flexible, in order for that toe reach to happen. An example of mobility is your ankle flexing so that you can lower into a squat. If your ankle won’t bend as much, you can’t go as low into a squat. Going back to the toe reach example, someone could have good hamstring flexibility but limited mobility at the hip joint keeping them from reaching their toes (or vice versa). Mobility and flexibility do sometimes go hand in hand, and the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but they aren’t the same thing. What matters most is that you do need both in order to perform at your best.
Better flexibility and mobility can help to improve your performance in physical activities, reduce potential aches and pains, decrease your risk of injuries, and enable your muscles to work most effectively. Our everyday lives can lend to shortened muscles, especially after sitting for long periods of time. Shortened muscles, in turn, decrease range of motion and can trigger body aches and pains. Working out can leave our muscles shortened and feeling tight as well. Lengthening the muscles through static stretching after your workout can help your muscles recover from your workout and potentially leave you with less soreness. Stretching helps keep muscles long, healthy and strong.
Stretching should be part of every workout, and not just at the end. As ACE (American Council on Exercise) points out, “Dynamic stretches are often used as part of a warm-up to help increase core body temperature and functionally prepare the body for the movements that are to come. As a result, stretching is often considered an important part of injury prevention, as cold muscles and tendons in the body have a greater likelihood of rupture, strain or sprain.”
Stretching will help you stay active as you age. Improving mobility and maintaining flexibility (which naturally declines as we age) allows our body to stay in top shape. Maintaining flexibility while aging can decrease the risk of injury, improve balance, decrease chronic pain, improve workouts, improves posture and keeps you looking younger! The more we care for our bodies, the longer we can continue to be active and live independently.
Another benefit of stretching beyond flexibility and mobility is possible improvement in hypertension. According to research, when you stretch your muscles, you are also stretching all of the blood vessels that feed into the muscle. This includes your arteries. If you reduce the stiffness in your arteries, there is less resistance to blood flow which can result in a reduction in blood pressure.
Combine stretching with mindful breathing and it can help to reduce stress, tension, anxiety and depression.
Types of Stretches
Static Stretches: to extend a muscle group to its maximal point and holding it for 10-60 seconds. Static stretches can be either active or passive. In an active stretch added force is applied by the individual for greater intensity. Added force is added by an external force in a passive stretch.
Dynamic Stretching: unlike static stretching, dynamic stretches are continuous movements that usually mimic the exercise or sport to be performed. These types of stretches are usually done as a warmup.
Ballistic Stretching: this type of stretching isn’t frequently recommended. It utilizes repeated bouncing movement to stretch the targeted muscle group. The bouncing movements can trigger a stretch reflex and may cause a risk for injury, so they are not usually recommended without supervision from a Trainer.
It is important to stretch safely with proper technique. Stretching with improper form could do more harm than good.
Don’t do static stretching (when a stretch is held for 10-60 seconds) with cold muscles. Warm up with some light walking or another activity at a low intensity for 5 -10 minutes before doing any static stretching. Even better, stretch after your workout when your muscles are warm and the stretches will lengthen your worked muscles.
Instead of static stretching before your workout, complete a dynamic warmup with low intensity exercises like walking or dynamic stretches that could be completing similar movements to those in your upcoming workout but at a low level, then gradually increasing the speed and intensity as you warm up.
Dynamic stretching is great for joint mobility. A dynamic warmup features functional movements that move multiple joints through their full range of motion. This type of warm up can even include plyometrics (quick powerful movements) like hopping or jumping. Think jumping jacks or high knee skips. Other examples of great dynamic warm up moves are arm circles, squats, side leg swings and forward leg swings. Through your dynamic warm up, you are putting your joints through their full range of motion and getting your muscles warm because of an increased blood flow which makes your muscles and joints ready for more. This will help to keep proper form throughout your workout, as well as reduce the risk of injury and soreness after your workout.
Don’t lock your joints. Your arms and legs can be straight while stretching, but they shouldn’t be stiff, and your knees and elbows should not be locked.
Don’t bounce in your stretch. Bouncing as you stretch can injure your muscle and actually contribute to muscle tightness.
Watch for pain. You can expect to feel tension while you are stretching, but it shouldn’t be pain. Back off to the point that you don’t feel any pain, then hold the stretch.
Stretch regularly. You will get the most benefits if you stretch at least 2 – 3 times a week consistently.
Remember to breathe! Inhale right before you start the stretch and exhale as you relax your muscles and lean into the stretch. For static stretches, stay in the stretch for at least 30 seconds while breathing in and out normally.
Why Try Stretching Classes?
I don’t know about you, but I tend to rush through static stretching after my workouts, and I don’t do enough flexibility work on its own. It’s the first thing to go when in I’m in a rush. By taking a class specifically for stretching, it ensures each stretch will be held for the optimal time and that more stretching will be done. Also, having a professional lead you through a routine will ensure you will get a total body stretch.
Stretching can also be done with gentle movement, such as tai chi or yoga. But if those are not your favorite, don’t worry, they aren’t the only stretching classes. Many facilities are offering specific stretching classes that are geared to work on the muscle imbalances that can happen as a result of a sedentary lifestyle or that are an outcome from workouts. Other types of classes will focus more on the stress reduction benefits of stretching. Some stretching classes will blend the strengthening of muscles with stretches to improve balance, mobility, flexibility and strength. All with stress busting benefits as well.
With so many benefits to stretching, and so many options of classes to help to incorporate it into your routine, I hope you don’t skip this important part of keeping yourself healthy again.
It’s summer and it’s hot outside. A great way to cool off and get a good workout at the same time is to add water! Any time of year, exercising in the water is a low-impact activity that takes the pressure off your bones, joints and muscles.
Water aerobics may make you initially think of senior citizens bobbing in a pool, but water workouts have changed and research shows that water aerobics, pool workouts and swimming benefit people of all ages and ability levels.
Water workouts, or aquatic exercise, can work your entire body.
Aerobic: Aquatic exercise can get your heart rate up which can provide a good workout for your cardiovascular system. For those with heart problems, it is helpful to exercise in the water because the heart rate doesn’t increase as much as if the exercises were being performed on dry land.
Strength: Water offers natural resistance, which can help strengthen your muscles. The resistance of the water is about 12 times the level of air resistance. The harder you press during an exercise, the more resistance the water provides. You are using many muscles in your body to move in the water and they are all working against the resistance of the water, therefore, increasing your muscular strength. Some classes use equipment to further increase the resistance of the water which will intensify your workout and strength gains.
Flexibility: A lot of twisting, stretching, and joint movement is required to move through the water, against resistance. This increases flexibility.
Swimming is an extremely effective exercise. It uses your entire body – your abdominals, arms, legs, back and glutes all work to help you swim. It’s also an aerobic activity as your heart rate will increase to move your body through the water. Make sure you have a safe place to swim. Pools are ideal. If you are swimming in lakes or oceans, be mindful of currents, water temperature and other obstacles. And it is never a good idea to swim alone.
Aquatic exercise isn’t just swimming. There are many other ways to exercise in the water. In fact, you don’t need to be a great swimmer to work out in the water. It’s good to know how to swim for safety’s sake, however, many water aerobics classes don’t require swimming for a great workout.
The first organized form of water aerobics was demonstrated by fitness professional Jack LaLane on his television show in the 1950’s. LaLane promoted a healthy diet and the benefits of aerobic exercise. He showed how water aerobics could be one way to get a good cardio workout. As the health and fitness industry became more popular in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the benefits of aquatic exercise became more widely known and it became an organized class at gyms and health clubs across the country.
The modern form of water aerobics, or aquatic exercise, is a fitness program that takes place in the pool. The class is designed to get your heart pumping for a cardiovascular workout without placing undue stress on your muscles and joints. It is often performed in waist or chest deep water and forces your body to move despite the resistance of the water. An instructor will lead the class through movements, usually with music. Sometimes resistive and buoyancy equipment is used to intensify the workout.
The types of water workout classes offered are expanding beyond traditional aerobics as well. Many of the exercises done in the traditional gym setting can also be done in the water, for example, lunges, squats, walking or running. HIIT (high intensity interval training) and boot camp style classes can be done in the water to increase intensity, but lessen the impact on your body. Popular dance classes like Zumba and barre classes now have versions available in the water in some locations.
Since working out in the water works your body while minimizing joint stress, it is an ideal workout for many including (but not limited to) those with arthritis, pregnant women, seniors, individuals who are overweight and those recovering from an injury or surgery.
Research shows that people with rheumatoid arthritis have greater improvement in joint tenderness and in knee range of movement with hydrotherapy than with other forms of exercise. Health benefits for aching joints are long-lasting, according to a study published in 2002 in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology, which found fibromyalgia patients still had improvements in symptoms and physical and social function up to 24 months after a hydrotherapy program. Plus, warm water can have a immediate soothing effect on achy joints and muscles. On the flip side, if the weather is hot, swimming can keep you cool while you get in shape. You may even workout longer since you will be cooler in the water.
All of the benefits of exercise can also be obtained through aquatic exercise. A small study showed that participants in a 12-week water aerobics program (two 50-minute classes per week) saw a drop in their blood pressure as well as improvements in explosive strength and body composition. Another study concluded, “Like exercise on land, aquatic exercise should have a beneficial effect by lowering blood pressure.” Research shows that aquatic exercise lowers blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes.
One common misconception about water workouts are that they are relegated for only the elderly, injured or chronically ill. However, working out in the water actually forces your body to work out harder than if you were on dry land. It’s a great workout for everyone!
Athletes were typically only encouraged to exercise in the pool when they needed to rehabilitate from an injury. However, while this continues to be a good recommendation, more collegiate and professional athletic coaches are seeing value in cross-training in water as a regular off and on season method. Some collegiate football teams, for example, use pool workouts as active recovery after a game. It isn’t just for football players. Performing active recovery in a pool helps to reduce soreness, flushes out lactic acid and prevents a drop-off in performance. A 2010 study in the International Journal of Sports Medicine concluded a "swimming-based recovery session enhanced following day exercise performance.” The hydrostatic pressure from the water increase circulation, reduces swelling and enhances recovery. Runners can supplement their training with underwater running. There are even underwater treadmills! Coaches have stated that running underwater is just as important as running outside. It helps runners become stronger by running against the resistance of the water, and it helps them to recover from on land training. Healthy athletes benefit from aquatic exercise in more ways as well, like reducing any potential overuse injuries and overcoming any training plateaus by adding a new way of exercise.
Another value of aquatic exercise is that according to research it leads to less muscle soreness and damage after the workout. When comparing high-intensity land and water based plyometrics programs it was found that training in water produced less inflammation and muscle soreness than the land based workout.
Being in the pool or open water is a fun and effective way to exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels and has many benefits. It’s gentle on your joints and muscles but still can provide a total body workout. Plus, being in the water can feel relaxing even though you may be working hard. Adding water workouts to your fitness routine may be a good idea. Mixing up the type of your workouts will help to avoid injury and burnout. Also, if you are planning on increasing your current volume of exercise, the addition of one or a few water workouts is a safe way to do so without increasing your injury risk. New or returning to exercise after some time off? Water workouts are a great way to jump back in to physical activity.
LivRite Fitness has a variety of water aerobics classes in their pool. Find more information and links to the schedule for each location on the LivRite website or in the app. The pool is also available for swimming whenever a class is not in session.
Topics: LivRite News
The amount of information out there about health and fitness is overwhelming. Some of it is contradicting so it can’t all be true. It’s difficult to sift through everything and know what to believe.
One reason myths may start, and stay around, is because everyone’s experience with exercise is different. What works for one person may not work for another. Or they might be partially true. However, there are also things you may hear that are flat out false and could be keeping you from hitting your goals or could even be dangerous.
Here are ten common statements that are either not completely true or are completely false!
1. Doing Crunches Will Get Rid of Belly Fat – FALSE
Unfortunately, this isn’t completely correct. Crunches, and other similar exercises that work your abdominal muscles, will strengthen those muscles but do not directly reduce fat. You can’t pick the specific area where you lose fat. In order to burn fat, you must create a calorie deficit (consume fewer calories than you burn). A good nutritional plan and exercise will help with that process and reduce overall fat.
For more tips on belly fat check out 5 Tips to Lose Belly Fat.
2.Running Hurts Your Knees – FALSE
As a runner, I’m thrilled to say that numerous studies have shown this is false. In fact, runners have shown to have lower rates of knee osteoarthritis than sedentary people. In one study, runners had lower rates of osteoarthritis and hip replacements than even other casual exercisers. The researchers cited the runners’ lower body mass index (BMI) as part of the reason. Being overweight is associated with chronic low-grade inflammation throughout the body and can negatively affect your joints.
Another reason running doesn’t hurt your knees, rather than breaking down your knee joints, running helps to keep them lubricated and stimulates your body to build new cartilage.
This isn’t to say that runners don’t get knee injuries. There is even a common one that is called runner’s knee. Most of the knee injuries in those who run are caused by overuse or a weakness or instability in another area, like the hip. If you run, make sure you are getting rest days, cross training and strength training to prevent any potential injuries.
3. If you aren’t sweating, your workout isn’t hard enough. – FALSE
This one is not necessarily true. Sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself off. Sweat is not an indicator of exertion or calorie burn. It is possible to get benefits from exercise without breaking a sweat. Of course though, you could be sweating and getting an awesome workout but you don’t have to be.
4. No Pain, No Gain – FALSE
A common mistake made when returning to or starting an exercise routine is to do too much too soon. If returning to exercise after some time off, don’t go back to how hard you may have worked in the past. Ease back into your workouts. Even if you feel ok in the moment, you will probably feel soreness in the next day or two. If you feel pain during your workout you should stop. Discomfort is ok, true pain is not.
Any physical activity has benefits. Don’t think that lower intensity exercise like brisk walking or yoga doesn’t “count” because it doesn’t cause pain, sweating or soreness. Fitness doesn’t have to be painful or extreme to be beneficial.
5. If you don’t feel sore after your workout, you didn’t train hard enough. – FALSE
Along the same lines of no pain, no gain – this one is also not true. While you can expect to feel some soreness a day or two after working out after starting a new workout, or returning to exercise after some time off, it shouldn’t be severe and it does not mean you didn’t get the benefits of the workout if you don’t feel sore.
6. Sports Drinks are The Best Way to Refuel After Exercise – FALSE
Sports drinks like Gatorade are typically seen at sporting events. I’ve worked with clients who thought they needed to drink one during and after any workout. Gatorade, and other brands of sports drinks, can be useful in certain situations. They contain electrolytes which are the micro-nutrients; sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous that can be lost when you are dehydrated. However, these drinks also contain a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners along with excess calories, artificial colors and additives in some cases. None of which are that great for you and they can undermine your health goals.
After exercising, it is important to replenish your carbohydrate, protein and electrolytes. However, if you are working out for less than 60 minutes, water and your usual balanced meals will do the trick. It is unlikely that most individuals' electrolyte levels are low. If you do work out intensely for over an hour, there are better and more natural ways to refuel and rehydrate than sports drinks. Here are a few ideas:
- Pickle Juice
- Fruits (watermelon and bananas are popular after exercise)
- Water with Honey and Lemon
7. Lifting Weights Gives You Big Bulky Muscles – Not Necessarily
There is a meme going around that says something like; not lifting weights because you think you’ll get bulky is like not driving a car because you think you’ll become a NASCAR driver. It’s not easy to get big muscles, especially for women due to less testosterone. To build large muscles requires a certain type of weight lifting and nutrition plan. It typically won’t happen unless you are really trying to bulk up.
Don’t let the fear of bigger muscles scare you away from weight training. Just a few of the things lifting will do is help to build lean muscle mass, boost your metabolism and decrease your risk of osteoporosis.
8. Fasted Cardio Is Best for Weight Loss – FALSE
There are some studies that suggest that working out on an empty stomach causes your body to dig into its fat reserves for energy. However, if you notice a decrease in your workout due to lack of energy, it probably will negate any potential benefits.
Without fuel in your tank, your energy levels will be down which can inhibit performance. Some who have low blood sugar from not having recently eaten, might even experience light-headedness or dizziness if working out in a fasted state. It’s important to know your body and how you perform best.
If you are able to power through a solid workout before breakfast, go for it. However, if you are just slogging through because you have no energy, it may be better to have a light snack before your workout or a complete meal an hour or two prior.
9. Muscle Turns to Fat if You Stop Working Out – FALSE
This is a common belief because usually when someone stops exercising they lose muscle and their diet may cause them to gain fat at the same time. The muscle isn’t turning into fat, these are two totally different tissue systems with different functions. They just happen to be occurring at the same time. Muscle and fat do not convert to one another, they simply change in most cases simultaneously.
10. You Should Stretch Before Your Workout – FALSE
Before your workout, it is important to warm up your muscles. Research now shows that static stretches (where you extend a muscle to the end of its range of motion and hold) should only be done after you complete your activity. To warm up, you should do dynamic stretches (continuous movement where the muscle goes through the full range of motion). After a workout, static stretches help to lengthen muscle and improve flexibility.
When it comes to fitness, there is no one size fits all prescription for everyone. Don’t believe everything you hear or read. Do your research, consult with experts to see what is true and find what may be right for you.
Topics: LivRite News
**This post is a part of our beginner's guide to fitness series. To see all blogs in the series click here.
Losing weight is always a popular topic. Magazine articles, social media and TV programs are always claiming they have the best way to lose weight or the newest diet fad. We are bombarded by before and after pictures and messaging about workouts and how to eat. Yet, with all of this information out there, The CDC reports that the prevalence of obesity in America in 2017-2018 was 42.4%. That means that, using the CDC data and measurement, almost half of Americans are considered obese (a Body Mass Index or BMI of 30.0 or higher)!
So why are so many people still overweight when losing weight seems to be all we can talk about? Maybe it is because the sheer volume of information about health and wellness is overwhelming and confusing so it isn’t helping.
Or it could be because of the fact that a lot of the information out there is about fad diets or weight loss programs that promise quick and easy weight loss. Unfortunately, there is no quick and easy way to lose weight and keep it off in a healthy way. For successful, long-term weight loss, lifestyle changes and healthy habits must be made permanently.
At the very basic level, to lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. That is, to burn more calories than you are taking in. This can be done with eating healthfully, and being mindful of your calorie intake, along with increased physical activity. Of course, there are many things that can complicate that simple (but not easy to do) equation like medications or certain medical conditions. Plus, it is challenging to implement an effective and sustainable weight-loss plan. While not easy to do, it is possible to lose weight by making some lifestyle changes.
Nutrition – There is a popular phrase, “You can’t out exercise a bad diet”. It is possible to lose weight just by changing how you eat and drink. It is less likely you will lose weight by exercise alone without any nutritional changes. If the number of calories consumed each day still exceeds the amount burned, you will still gain weight despite exercising. It is important to have an idea of how many calories you are consuming.
Some individuals find it helpful to track their calorie intake using an app like My Fitness Pal. As a trainer, I recommend to track for at least a week to get an idea of the calories that are in your typical diet and so you can compare that to how many you need each day.
Most of us overestimate how many calories we burn and underestimate how many we take in. Also, we may not realize how many calories are in what we are eating and drinking until we really take a look. Tracking this information even for just a short time helps to put it into perspective, and to learn about the choices that are best for us.
How much you eat matters, but what you eat is also important. Limit or avoid highly processed foods. Research has shown that reducing sugars and refined carbohydrates (like white bread, white pasta and most highly processed food) helps to lower your insulin levels and reduce hunger. Whole grains will keep you more full for longer and provide more of a nutritional benefit. Focus on eating lean proteins, vegetables, complex carbohydrates (carbs) and fruit.
Drink lots of water and skip the alcohol, soda and juice. Alcoholic beverages contain more calories than you think. Plus they lower inhibitions, which can result in consuming more food. Sodas and juices also contain a lot of calories that don’t provide a feeling of fullness. Like refined carbs, they also can create a blood sugar spike which causes more hunger just a short time later. Sticking with water, unsweetened tea or black coffee will ensure you aren’t drinking all of your calories and is better for your health.
Sleep – Adequate sleep is beneficial for many reasons and your weight is one of them. Many studies show that when tired, people reach for more food and less healthy food. The neurotransmitters that control hunger and fullness cues don’t work like they should without enough rest. Too little sleep also triggers a spike in cortisol, the stress hormone, which signals to your body to conserve energy (i.e. hold on to fat). Many studies have shown that sleep deprivation commonly leads to metabolic dysregulation which may contribute to weight gain, obesity and type 2 diabetes. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Exercise – I already mentioned how important nutrition is for weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight. As well as how just exercising without considering the calories you are consuming usually won’t result in losing fat. So where does exercising fit in? Exercising helps you to affect the calorie deficit equation by burning more calories than you would at rest.
Resistance training with weights is important for building and maintaining muscle and bone mass. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate overall. That means you will burn more calories all the time with more muscle! Also, you will continue to burn calories after a strength training session. With steady state cardio (think a walk, leisurely bike ride, or a jog), your calorie burn ends with the exercise. This afterburn created by weight training is due to your body repairing the microscopic muscle tears that happen when you challenge your muscles with weights. These tears will repair and that is how your muscles get stronger.
Any extra movement counts and helps burn calories. Think about ways you can increase your physical activity throughout the day if you can't fit in formal exercise on a given day. For example, make several trips up and down stairs instead of using the elevator, or park at the far end of the lot when shopping.
Both weight training and cardio exercise are important for your overall health. Either combine your cardio and strength training in intervals or complete your strength training then get your cardio in or even do them on different days. Choosing the type of workouts you do depends on your fitness level and which you like doing. The exercise that will burn the most calories is the one that you will do on a consistent basis! Most importantly, make physical activity a part of your lifestyle for your health, not only to burn calories. So even if you are working towards burning fat and reducing inches around your waistline, remember that exercise is so much more than just something to help with weight loss. Regular exercise helps to regulate your blood sugar and hormones, maintain a healthy blood pressure, strengthen your bones and muscles, increases the growth of new brain cells and decreases your risks of illnesses from heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression and more.
Set Realistic Goals – In general, it is best to shoot for losing 1 to 2 pounds a week. To do so, you need to burn around 500 - 1000 calories more than you consume each day, through lower calorie consumption and physical activity. When setting goals, make sure they are SMART -specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. For example, instead of saying your goal is to lose 50 pounds, break that down.
A goal to lose 5 pounds per month is specific, measurable, most likely attainable (depending on the individual), relevant and time bound. Smaller goals within that bigger goal may also be helpful. For instance, a goal to exercise 3 times this week. These smaller goals can be helpful to create new habits, which are key to weight loss and keeping it off.
Remember that maintaining a healthy body is a lifestyle. It’s not enough to eat less and exercise for only a few weeks if you want long-term, successful weight management. Assess any challenges that may have prevented you from creating healthier habits in the past in order to create strategies to gradually change them and learn how to deal with them. There will always be setbacks, the road to weight loss isn’t a straight one. Start fresh after any bumps in the road. Remember you are planning on changing your lifestyle and that won’t happen in a day or all at once. Progress not perfection!
Want a partner in your weight loss journey or don’t know where to start? Schedule a complimentary fitness assessment with a LivRite Personal Trainer to discuss how they can put a plan together for you and work with you to reach your goals!