October 6, 1997
Volume 50, No. 7
When most people start an exercise program, their main focus always seems to be aerobic activity. Aerobic workouts are a very important component of an exercise program, but so is strength training. A combination of the two is a great way to lose weight and improve your overall health.
Most people's idea of strength training is personified in a huge, bulky bodybuilder. That's the extreme, but many women are reluctant to participate in strength training because they're afraid they'll "bulk up" by building lots of muscle.
To bulk up, you use a heavy weight with fewer repetitions (6-8). To build endurance and muscle tone, you use a lighter weight and more repetitions (12-15).
Working out with light weights and more repetitions shows great benefits, especially for women. One advantage is that it promotes higher bone density, which helps fight osteoporosis. Another benefit for everyone is that strength training builds lean muscle tissue. This in turn raises the metabolism and increases the body's ability to burn more calories.
When beginning a strength training program, you may notice a few extra pounds on the scale initially. That's because muscle is dense and weighs more than fat, but it takes up less room. That's why when you lose body fat the inches come off and your clothes get looser. Scale weight doesn't really tell us how healthy we are, but by losing body fat we decrease our risk for heart disease and cancer.
Here are a few tips for starting a strength training program:
1. Always warm up and stretch before each workout.
2. Be sure machines are adjusted correctly to prevent pain or injury.
3. Be sure to exhale when exerting force.
4. Build up to two to three sets for each major muscle group (chest, arms, shoulders, back, abdominals, thighs and calves).
5. Rest for at least one to two minutes between each set.
6. Develop a routine you can follow and keep a record of it.
7. Be aware of form and technique; when done correctly, both will ensure exercise efficiency and decrease the risk of injury.
8. Remember to consult your physician before starting any exercise program.
The new Blomeyer Health Fitness Center in the 1525 Building makes it easier to get started on an exercise program. Members can receive a free fitness assessment and consultation.
The fitness assessment is done by an exercise physiologist and provides an evaluation to determine your current fitness level. The assessment includes height, weight, body composition, upper/lower body strength, flexibility, estimation of your aerobic capacity and nutritional guidelines. Once you have completed the fitness assessment, your next step is the fitness consultation. This is done by a certified personal trainer who will provide a tour and explanation of equipment at the center. The trainer then takes the results of your fitness assessment and creates an exercise program that best meets your needs and goals.
A little commitment goes a long way when trying to improve your health. Don't be afraid to commit!
Darin Armour is an assistant manager at the Blomeyer Fitness Center. "Wellness" is coordinated by the Seretean Center for Health Promotion at the School for Public Health.
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