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Health & Exercise  

by Max Haaksman

The most important thing you need to know is that exercise is a natural activity that is required in order to stay healthy. The human body was not made for a sedentary lifestyle. Think about this. Most of us, as we age and become absorbed in our careers, simply ignore the physical needs of our bodies.

Research is providing some interesting results with respect to fat loss, muscle mass and general health. For example, did you know that high intensity cardio can burn more calories in the long term than long bouts of low intensity exercise? Do you realize that each pound of muscle you carry burns approximately 50 calories per day whether or not you exercise?

As always, before you start any new exercise program, please check with your doctor first. If you are currently sedentary, overweight or simply out of shape, jumping into a demanding exercise program may not be a good idea. Once you are declared good to go then read on to get started.

New Cardio Ideas
Cardio isn't just about slogging away on the treadmill, stairmaster or exercise bicycle anymore. While low level cardio can certainly play a role in your exercise routine, it is probably not optimal in terms of achieving your goals in a timely manner. A new style of cardio, called high intensity interval training (HIIT), is king.

HIIT involves performing regular cardio activities at extremely high intensities for short periods of time. HIIT can be performed using activities such as rowing, cycling, sprinting and stair climbing. For example, after warming up on your exercise of choice go as fast as you can for 30 seconds. When 30 seconds have past, then go slow and recover for 2 minutes. Repeat these fast and slow intervals from 5 to 7 times.

Although this sounds easy, you will find this is a very advanced training technique. You may need to work up to this over several weeks by performing standard cardio training with brief intervals of intensity. You will certainly stress your heart and your respiratory system with HIIT training. In fact, this new style of cardio, while short, maximizes your cardiovascular fitness adaptations.

Resistance Training
While a complete encyclopedia of weight lifting exercises is too comprehensive to include here, you should know that resistance training is one of the best ways to gain or retain both muscle mass and bone density. Why is this important? Muscle mass is responsible for most of your resting metabolic activity. It is also what makes you look fit, shapely or sexy.

A common concern for women is that they don't want to look too bulky. This is generally not something you have to worry about. You will find that even men, if they are not using steroids or other illicit methods, have a hard time putting on an appreciable amount of muscle mass. Another concern for women is that if they put on muscle the scale weight may rise!

It is very important that you learn the difference between total weight and how lean you are. Putting on muscles will almost never make you look bad, but covering your muscles with fat will. What you want to do is lose the fat while retaining the muscle -- something which is not easy to do. In general, if you diet to lose weight, you lose both fat and muscle, which reduces your metabolism and makes it increasingly difficult to achieve the body you desire.

Although adding muscles is somewhat easy in the very beginning, it takes a lot of time and effort to build up muscles. However, just remember that for every pound of muscle you put on and maintain, you will be able to safely eat another 50 calories per day without gaining weight. Of course, you will likely want to adhere to appropriate nutritional guidelines.

To summarize, add resistance training to your exercise regimen. It is okay if you use machines, especially at first, but if possible learn to use free weights. Make sure that you know the proper form for the exercises you do and focus on compound movements where possible. For example, squats, chin ups, bench presses, rows and deadlifts are all great exercises that will work multiple large muscle groups at one time. If you follow this advice you will find it easy to put on and maintain reasonable amounts of muscle in a relatively short period of time.

Rest & Recovery
If you are working hard to put on muscle mass, which most men and some women are, then you need to realize that you gain muscle only when you aren't in the gym. Muscles grow in response to work, but only if you feed them the appropriate nutrients and give them time to recover appropriately. Working out every day or performing long bouts of cardio will probably not help you achieve your goals!

About the Author

Max Haaksman works for a small private think tank organization. In his spare time he writes on a variety of topics for his public hobby site www.topicguru.net.

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