Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coach Laura: Best Exercise Types

Coach Laura,

Which exercise is best for losing weight fast?


Trying to Get There Fast

Dear Fast,

This is a great question! The answer is easy – whatever one you like and will stick with is best!

A good friend of mine recently started exercising as part of her own personal Battle of the Bulge. She said, “It surprised me how long it took to find something I actually could stand doing for more than 10 minutes. If I keep looking at the clock, I know it's the wrong thing. At the Y I am taking Body Combat, which is a mix of aerobics, boxing, tae kwon do, and other martial arts. Tried Zumba, but I was watching the clock after 10 minutes! It never seemed to end. I haven't taken a spin class yet, but I plan on it soon. I am planning on 5-6 days a week of classes, with the elliptical machine as a last resort.”

I love her approach because she’s willing to experiment to see what works best for her – in this case, something she’ll like well enough to get the benefits of aerobic exercise consistently during a week.

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, adults should do two types of physical activity each week to improve their health – aerobic and muscle strengthening. In one week, try to get in 150 minutes, or 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. It may sound like a lot when it’s put that way, but if you break it down it’s really only 30 minutes a day if you do it five days a week. Or you could do an hour a day three days a week of aerobic activity, and save the other two days for muscle strengthening/stretching. If you choose a higher intensity exercise type (for example, running or a spin class), then you only need to do 75 minutes/1 hour 15 minutes in a week. But don’t forget the strength training!

Here are some more guidelines:

Aerobic Exercise
• Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
 • Exercise recommendations can be met through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (five days per week) or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (three days per week).
• One continuous session and multiple shorter sessions (of at least 10 minutes) are both acceptable to accumulate desired amount of daily exercise.
 • Gradual progression of exercise time, frequency and intensity is recommended for (your own sanity) and to prevent injury.
• People unable to meet these minimums can still benefit from some activity. 
Resistance Exercise
• Adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using a variety of exercises and equipment.
• Very light or light intensity is best for older persons or previously sedentary adults starting exercise.
• Two to four sets of each exercise will help adults improve strength and power.
• For each exercise, 8-12 repetitions improve strength and power, 10-15 repetitions improve strength in middle-age and older persons starting exercise, and 15-20 repetitions improve muscular endurance.
• Adults should wait at least 48 hours between resistance training sessions.

 Flexibility Exercise
• Adults should do flexibility exercises at least two or three days each week to improve range of motion.
• Each stretch should be held for 10-30 seconds to the point of tightness or slight discomfort.
• Repeat each stretch two to four times, accumulating 60 seconds per stretch.
• Flexibility exercise is most effective when the muscle is warm. Try light aerobic activity or a hot bath to warm the muscles before stretching.

(The flexibility stuff doesn’t have to be a separate portion or day of your exercise program – just do some nice gentle stretches AFTER your aerobic workout, and that will satisfy that requirement.)

Do what you like, like what you do. That’s always the key to an exercise program. And don’t start off too gung-ho – you don’t want to get so sore that you don’t hit your goals for the rest of the week.

Happy exercising! (“Happy” is the key word there.)

To your health,

Coach Laura 


Ellen said...

Dear Madame Elle and Coach Laura,
I'm enjoying your column very much. Last week I said my two goals for the week would be to drink plenty of water and walk each day. I think I've done okay on the drinking water part, and, while I've walked a few times, I need to get that daily routine established. Once I do get that daily routine established, I know something will come along to mess it up. I will get sick, or my foot will start hurting (injury) or my schedule will change or my walking partner will poop out on me, or I'll just decide one day to skip it. What are your suggestions for keeping myself going when things change in my life?

Ellen said...

p.s. So, I realized two things after I posted the other comment. One, I asked a lot of questions. Please feel free to answer them one at a time or not at all or whatever you please. Also, I wanted to share my goal for the coming week. This week I plan to walk three or four days, 40 minutes or two miles at a time, and to stretch for at least 10 minutes after each walk. Plus keep drinking the water.