Aging Gracefully Blog

Posts Tagged ‘HIIT’

Weighing in for the Holidays

Monday, October 31st, 2016

If you are typical of most Americans, your weight was probably at an annual low at the beginning of October. It is likely to creep up with the approaching holidays, peaking around New Year’s Day with an increase of about 0.7 percent. According to a study by Cornell University, those extra holiday pounds that happen in the next ten weeks take about five months to come off – that’s late April for us!

How can we resist this trend?  The Cornell study (conducted with data from a company called Withings that sells wireless scales) showed that participants who weighed themselves four or more times per week gained less weight and dropped it more quickly, by the end of January. Personally, I believe in the benefits of daily weighing, a habit that will work for you too!

Weighing in can be an effective tool of feedback.  By establishing your average daily weight within a narrow range of several pounds, it’s easy to recognize when you start gaining.   Your weight normally fluctuates from day to day within a few pounds, depending on fluid levels, salt intake and hormonal changes.  Damage control is most effective at an early stage, as you start to exceed this range, rather than waiting until you have a major project of losing ten or more pounds.

How you lose weight matters. Crash diets usually backfire because if you don't eat enough your metabolism switches to slow-mo as your body adapts to sustain itself with fewer calories when faced with potential starvation. Clinging to those calories makes it harder to take weight off. A more effective strategy is to eat a well-rounded diet of healthy foods in moderation. Portion control is key, as is limiting sugar, fat and alcohol. Exercise restraint when confronted with temptation and keep track of your party-time indulgences.

In a similar fashion, if you are always doing the same steady pace cardio workout at the same moderate intensity for days, weeks, months on end, your body will adapt to the training stress after 4-8 weeks.  As you continue this type of training, you’ll actually burn fewer calories, not more, even as you add more workouts.  To trigger fat loss, shorten the length of your exercise session and increase the intensity by adding sprint intervals.  For more on this, see my recent blog post Beat Belly Fat with Burst Training.

Stress also contributes to weight gain. The holiday season can wreak havoc with your best intentions to stay calm, cool and collected.  Stress levels rise along with hectic schedules, parties, travel and general disruption to your normal routines.  When you are in a stressful situation, your body makes a hormone called cortisol, meant to give you a quick boost of energy.

But if you’re stuck in a stressed-out zone, the body thinks you still need to fight, so it keeps making cortisol. High levels of this hormone make it harder for your body to use insulin which slows your metabolism and fuels weight gain. Helpful tips to stay calm and carry on include:

  • manage your time; keep track of your commitments
  • pace yourself to avoid over-booking throughout the month
  • make sure you get enough sleep
  • practice mindful techniques like meditative minutes and deep breathing

So prepare yourself to sail through the holidays with a minimum of overload by using simple steps to track your weight, moderate your diet, intensify your cardio workouts and manage stress.  Here’s looking to late January for being back to normal!

For more about how to beat belly fat, please see Joan Pagano’s video program “Beat Belly Fat, Bloating, Bone Loss and the Blues:  Simple Steps to a Better You

© Copyright – Joan L. Pagano.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Burn Calories or Fat to Lose Weight?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

Which contributes to greater weight loss:  exercising in the "fat-burning" zone or at a higher level of intensity? The Burn Calories or Fat to Lose Weight?answer lies in the number of calories burned not in which fuel substrate the body uses for energy.

To burn the most calories, you need to exercise at higher intensities.  For example, you burn more calories running for 30 minutes than walking for the same amount of time.  Running consumes calories from readily available fuel of carbohydrates. Walking at a more leisurely pace utilizes slower-burning fat for fuel; however you are using fewer calories per minute than with more intense exercise.

Higher intensity exercise also offers another benefit for weight loss in that it temporarily suppresses your appetite.  A recent study showed that cyclists who rode stationary bikes hard for 30 minutes consumed far fewer calories afterward than when they rode at a more moderate pace.  They also had lower blood levels of the hormone ghrelin, a known appetite stimulant.

According to other new research high intensity interval raining (HIIT), short bursts of intense exercise alternating with recovery periods, may have the potential to lower abdominal fat by creating a surge in hormones that have been shown to drive fat breakdown, especially deep abdominal fat.

So we can conclude that high intensity exercise contributes to weight loss by burning calories, suppressing appetite and reducing abdominal fat.  If you are a fan of moderate exercise, there are several ways to ramp up your program:

  • Know your heart rate training range which determines how hard you should work for light, moderate and high intensity levels.
  • Intersperse faster paced intervals into your moderate cardio activity.  Allow twice as long to recover from a high intensity interval, i.e. if you sprint for 1 minute, allow two minutes of active rest.
  • Add intervals of cardio activity into your strength training program, so that you keep your heart rate elevated continuously.

For more posts on this topic, please see:

Cardio Tune-Up

The 7-Minute Workout

Have You Got IT?  Maximize the Minutes in Your Workout

 

The Seven Minute Workout: Fitness in a Flash for the Whole Family

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

It's all the rage:  twelve exercises in a seven minute workout using only bodyweight, a chair and a wall. According to the American College of Sports Medicine Human Performance Institute, this total body workout delivers all the benefits of prolonged endurance exercise in an interval training format.

Interval training combines high intensity effort interspersed with brief periods of recovery. The twelve exercises - alternating upper body, lower body and core muscles – must be done in rapid succession, in the order given.  Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, resting for 10 seconds in between. Work at 80% of your maximum capacity, i.e. at level 8 on a scale of 1-10 perceived exertion.

The exercises are:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Wall sit
  • Push-up
  • Abdominal crunch
  • Step-up onto chair
  • Squat
  • Triceps dip on chair
  • Plank
  • High-knees running in place
  • Lunge
  • Push-up and rotation (side plank)
  • Side plank

This is something the whole family can do at home. Several people have told me that their kids are into it. One woman told me that her son does it with her while her daughter times them and her husband demonstrates proper form for push-ups!

Have You Got IT? Maximize the Minutes in Your Workout

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Does your workout have the IT factor?  That is IT as in Interval Training.  Here's an easy tip for getting the most out of your workout:  Add minutes of faster paced, higher intensity exercise into your cardio program.

High intensity interval training is a hot topic in the fitness world.  Several new studies suggest that a few minutes a week of strenuous exercise can improve aerobic fitness more quickly than moderate exercise does, and may improve blood pressure and blood sugar levels after several weeks.

These studies have looked at various bouts of exercise, but haven't established a definitive period of time for interval training to provide maximum health benefits.  It's especially unclear if interval workouts can help maintain weight, since these shortened sessions do not burn as many calories as longer sessions of moderate exercise.  They may not help with building muscle either.

While you may be tempted to cut your workout time by switching to hard workouts of short duration, consider this: Very good epidemiological studies support our current recommendation that 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week is associated with improved health and longevity.  Larger, longer studies need to be done to prove the benefits of short workouts.

To give your longer workouts a little juice, and burn extra calories, try interspersing some interval training.  A good rule of thumb is for every minute of pushing, rest for two minutes, then repeat.  It adds some life into your routine and may also add years to your life!

Speaking personally, it's time for summer vacation!!  We are signing off for the month of July and will be back with more in August.  Enjoy those lazy, hazy days of summer!