Want to improve your exercise know-how? Find out how you can get more out of your workout.
Exercise Benefits You Need to Know
If you’re just starting a regular workout routine, or if you already exercise and want ways to improve your routine, there are some important things to know. Here are 10 concepts that can help you be more active and make the most of your workout.
Change Up Your Workout Routine
You’ve been sticking to your workout routine for two to three months and watching what you eat, yet the scale seems to be stuck. The problem could be that you’re doing the same exercise routine over and over, and your muscles have memory cells. “Your muscles become more efficient at whatever it is you’re doing consistently,” Gray explains. “It’s no longer a struggle, so you plateau.” To increase your calorie burn and get the full exercise benefits, kick your workout routine up a notch. If you walk, try jogging. If you bike, head for the hills. Or try some new aerobic exercise — cross country skiing, swimming, or rollerblading.
When You Eat Should Depend on Your Goals
Which is better, to eat before your workout routine or after? It depends on your exercise goals, Gray says. If your goal is an intense workout, you’ll want to fuel your muscles before you work out. If your goal is weight loss, you’ll want to eat after because you’ll tap into your fat stores faster if you work out on an empty stomach. However, if you complete your workout routine on an empty stomach, you could get lightheaded or nauseous. Your best bet might be to first eat something light, do your workout routine, and then have your meal. Whether you eat or not, you must stay hydrated, Gray says. If you’re exercise routine lasts longer than 15 or 20 minutes, be sure to drink during your workout.
Exercise Ups Your Energy Level
“I’m too tired to exercise” isn’t a good excuse for not exercising. In fact, if you get up a little earlier to complete a 30-minute workout routine before heading off to work, you’ll have more energy the rest of the day. Here’s why: Exercise releases endorphins, which are feel-good hormones, into your bloodstream. Endorphins can help you feel more energized the rest of the day, says Zen Gray, a certified personal trainer and lifestyle coach in Los Angeles who was featured in the two seasons of Bravo TV’s “Workout Reality Show.”
Exercise Makes Your Heart Stronger
Regular exercise not only gives you more energy, it also makes your heart stronger. “Your heart is a muscle,” Gray says. “The more you exercise it, the more efficient it becomes at pumping blood throughout your body.” The stronger your heart is, the more blood it pumps per beat. The more blood it pumps per beat, the faster oxygen is delivered to your cells — so you feel stronger. Strengthening your heart muscle also lowers your resting heart rate. Make heart-pumping aerobic exercise a regular part of your workout routine.
Music Can Help You Quicken Your Pace
Need motivation to speed up your workout routine? Try listening to upbeat music. There’s a growing body of evidence that music can improve your exercise routine and the benefits you get from it. Costas Karageorghis, PhD, of Brunel University School of Sport and Education in London, has shown that music actually “moves” you: Your body hears the music and it just can’t sit still. Music is also distracting, he says, so it can increase your endurance because listening to music makes it easier to ignore any discomfort from your workout. Gray often recommends that people make a playlist for their exercise routine, and the faster the beat the better, she says. “You’ll work out at a more intense pace if you’re listening to something like Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing With Myself’ than Johann Pachelbel’s ‘Canon in D Major.'”
Stretching Doesn’t Prevent Injury
You’ve probably been told to stretch before you start your workout routine to avoid injury. But new evidence shows that this so-called static stretching, meaning you stay in one place, can actually be harmful. An example would be bending over and touching your toes without any prior activity. A study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that static stretches lasting longer than 60 seconds could harm your performance and lead to injury. Gray says to improve your exercise routine, you need to warm up — but that’s not the same as stretching. Instead, warm up by doing a cardiovascular activity such as walking, dancing, or marching in place for four or five minutes. And when you’re done exercising, don’t forget to cool down.
High Intensity Workout Routines Can Be Just As Effective
You may believe that if you can’t exercise for at least an hour, it’s not worth your time. Here’s good news for the time-crunched: Doing short bursts of intense exercise with short recovery breaks in between can be as effective, perhaps more so, than endurance exercises. Researchers from Canada’s McMaster University found that men who cycled at a high intensity for 60 seconds, then rested for up to 75 seconds for 8 to 12 minutes in all, greatly improved their muscle capacity. An added bonus with high-intensity training is that “you might not even have to change into workout clothes,” Gray says. You could run fast for half an hour or walk slowly for 90 minutes and you’ll burn about the same calories. So it’s up to you, based on your preference and schedule.
Your Body Can Adapt to the Cold (With Your Help)
Here’s a good excuse for having (just a little) extra fat on your torso: If you have some fat, your body is a little better insulated than if you’re very lean, so you’ll lose a bit less heat when exercising in the cold.
No matter what your weight, you can take your exercise routine outside, even if it’s really cold, and still be safe as long as you dress properly in layers, which help trap air, keeping your warmer. To keep your internal organs warm and protected, your blood flows to the center of your body away from your hands and feet. So if you keep the rest of your body warm, your hands and feet will stay warmer, too.
Exercise Keeps Your Immune System Sharp
Another reason to fit exercise into your day: Having a regular workout could mean catching fewer colds. Research shows that after exercise, your body produces more antibodies that attack foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. A few hours after you complete your exercise routine, your body returns to normal. However, it appears that the more often you exercise, the longer those antibodies circulate in your system. David Nieman, DrPH, of Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, says his studies have found that subjects who walked with some moderate intensity for 40 minutes a day had half as many sick days from colds and sore throats than those who didn’t exercise.
You Can’t “Spot Reduce”
As much as you’d like to believe it, you can’t lose weight from one area — whether it’s your stomach, thighs, or butt — with a specific workout routine. That’s the case even if your exercise routine targets the muscles in a particular area. “When you lose weight, your body decides where it’s going to come off of” Gray says. “You don’t get to pick where unfortunately.” Most of the time, you’ll lose weight first where you put it on last. However, there are extra exercise benefits from working your abdominals or your thighs: When these muscles are toned, your skin around them won’t sag as much, so you can look thinner in those areas, Gray says
Originally published here.