If you think that exercise is not for you, think again. The benefits you will reap will far outweigh the effort you have to put in. You’ve probably heard the term “aerobic exercise”, that’s any activity that causes you to breathe more deeply and helps you burn fat, as well as working your heart and lungs harder than normal. It’s so called because aerobic means “with oxygen”. Oxygen is simply a fuel, like the petrol in your car. But just as we can’t put crude oil into our petrol tanks – it has to be refined – the oxygen needs additional components to be converted into the energy we need to exercise, and this conversion takes place in our muscles. When we perform aerobic-type activities, such as walking or jogging, we are forced to breathe more deeply as our lungs demand extra oxygen. The heart beats faster and pumps more blood around the body, carrying the oxygen to where it is needed. The oxygen is getting to the surface of the skin as well as to the muscles. This is important when we are trying to lose weight and want to encourage the skin to shrink back. But it gets even better than that.
When we start exercising aerobically, it’s as if the body switches on its central heating and starts burning extra fuel. The fuel is manufactured in the muscles, but to make this fuel, three components are needed. The first is the extra oxygen we are breathing in. The second is an engine to fire up the burning of the fuel, and in our muscles we have lots of tiny engines called mitochondria. The third is real fuel to burn, and this comes from our fat stores around and inside our muscles. When exercising aerobically, try to visualise your fat being burned in the oxygen flame! Once our bodies are warm, we can keep exercising aerobically for a very long time because we are literally making the fuel needed to continue. Interestingly, we burn more fat if we exercise at a moderate, steady level for 30-40 minutes than by doing a short sprint. That’s because extremely energetic activities don’t use the same fat-burning fuel system. And there’s more good news – as soon as you become a regular exerciser, you stimulate your fat cells to release their fat stores more easily. The more regularly we work out aerobically, the more mitochondria we create in our muscles, which helps them burn fat even more effectively. And that means that we will find it easier to stay lean and trim in the long term.
The key to maximising our weight and fat loss is to find a form of exercise we enjoy. Despite being in the fitness business for more than 30 years, there are only a few types of exercise that I enjoy. I hate swimming, running and exercise bikes, but I like walking and exercising to music, and that’s why I continue to teach classes. I also spend loads of calories by being active. I do my errands, run up and down stairs and cram a huge amount into my life. But this on its own would not be enough to keep me in good shape, because I would not be working out at a level that elevates my heart rate to call on my fat stores. To do that, we have to breathe more deeply for 20-30 minutes at a time – the sort of workout that you get at our classes.
Unless you introduce some form of activity into your lifestyle, you will find that your weight-loss progress is slow and your figure will not be in as good shape as it could be. I have a better figure now than I did in my twenties and that has only been achieved by eating a low-fat diet and doing proper aerobic exercise every week. It does not mean you have to join an expensive gym or start training to run a marathon. Just go to a fitness class on a regular basis. I have run exercise classes every Monday evening for as long as I can remember. About 15 of my members have been attending for more than 20 years. Even though that class is the only formal exercise that most of them do, it has made a difference to their fitness levels and figures.
Ideally, we should aim to do some aerobic activity five times a week for 20-30 minutes. It sounds daunting, but realise that as well as your (hopefully) regular aerobics session, you may be doing housework, gardening, playing with the children, walking the dog etc. They all count. We also need to include some regular strength work or “body toning” to help us achieve and maintain a good body shape and to increase our muscle mass, which helps us to maintain our metabolic rate. My new Shape Up & Salsacise DVD is designed to give you a fun, fat-burning aerobic workout plus toning sessions that incorporate a resistance band to maximise the benefits to your muscle tone. The key to any form of activity is to do it regularly. You wouldn't expect to improve your game of tennis if you played just twice a year. Similarly, if you want to improve your body shape, you need to practise the exercises regularly. Why not photocopy the form on the reverse of the year planner included in this magazine and make an exercise plan for every week? You'll be so glad you did!
Type of Approx cals aerobic burned in activity 30 mins Aerobic dance 300 Running 300 Swimming 280 Skating 260 Cycling 245 Stair climbing 245 Rowing 240 Tennis (singles) 230 Walking 200 Tennis (doubles) 85
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