Friday, 20 September 2013

What’s The Best Fitness Discipline To Lose Weight

Over the years I have read so many different news and magazine articles covering the discussion of fitness and weight loss. Let’s face it, fat loss remains one of the main reasons why people choose to exercise. So what type of exercise works best for fat loss? Should we be joining a zumba class, getting to grips with vibrating plates or signing up with a personal trainer?

In this experiment I put 5 popular fitness activities to the test. I followed each activity for 4 weeks and 3 hours a week. I maintained the same diet on each activity. Here is what I discovered:-

Vibration Plates
(Score 5/10)
I first used these whilst I was on holiday in Dubai. The hotel I was staying at had a room full of them. I tried them and it felt very odd. Initially I was not that keen. But when I heard of how effective they can be, I signed up to a course of sessions back home in London. This was a 6 week vibrating plate course consisting of 3 sessions a week.

After 4 weeks I had lost 3 pounds in body weight. Okay this isn’t much but I definitely felt more toned. The cost of the 4 week program was £225.00

Zumba Class
(Score 6/10)
Now this I was really looking forward to. I had heard so much about it that I couldn’t wait to give it a try. I signed up for 4 weeks of zumba consisting of 3 classes a week. I found the sessions difficult to master to begin but by week 2, I was finding my feet (so to speak).
After 4 weeks I had lost 4 pounds in body weight. I felt really fit and my body was definitely more toned. The cost of the 4 week program was £140.00. Definitely the best value for money program out of all those I tried.

Personal Training (Score
This was the one that scared me the most. Would I be laughed at by my trainer, would I be humiliated? All these questions ran through my head. The reality was a lot more pleasant than I suspected. My trainer was lovely and she really impressed me with her knowledge. However, she made me work hard and this was the toughest option of them all. I signed up to 4 weeks of training consisting of 3 sessions a week.
After 4 weeks I had dropped 9 pounds and had really toned my stomach, legs and arms. This was head and shoulders the most successful result out of all the plans I tried. I felt I looked the best out of all the different exercises too.
The 4 week program cost me £550 – the most expensive option, so for that reason I cannot give it full marks, but pretty close!

The Gym
(Score 6/10)
So I joined a gym on a temporary 4 week contract. I attended 2-3 times every week and was given a program (for free) by a fitness instructor. This involved moving through a circuit of machines. I have to say I did find it the most boring of all the programs I followed, but it was good value for money.
I lost 4 pounds in the 4 weeks and the membership cost me £70 which was good value. However, I struggled to keep motivated and by week 2 was finding the program boring.

Running Club (Score 3/10)
I joined a local running club. These have become really popular in the recession. This was the cheapest option but not being a natural runner I was slightly nervous if I would get left behind. Lucky for me I was put in a beginners class – and I found it okay to begin. I attended for 4 weeks, but I did pick up more injuries here then any other exercise I tried. I developed shin splints, excruciating pain in my hip flexors and then excruciating pain on the tops of my feet – so much so that I had to go and get my feet x-rayed as I was sure I had fractured something! Perhaps my running style or footwear was to blame, as not everyone had these problems but it did put me off road running.
I lost just 4 pounds and experienced so much pain that meant it really put me off running! The cost of 4 weeks membership was cheap though at just £60

Overall I achieved the best results through personal training, but this was also the most expensive option. I think however, if you can afford it then the results are really worthwhile. I did my personal training through based in London.

For those on smaller budgets I can really recommend Zumba classes. They helped me to lose weight but just less intensively compared to the personal training. Most gyms provide these classes for free including Fitness First and Virgin Active. However, I did mine through a local drop-in class held in my son's school sports hall.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Can Computer Video Games Actually Get You Fit?

With the popularity of computer consoles such as the Wii Fit many people now use computer games as a way of working out. But are these computer games really able to help us work up a sweat? The Wii Fit has been the forerunner in this style of active gaming and is actually a fairly simple looking step which you perform most exercises upon or next to. You can create a profile by adding your height and weight, but don't get offended by the picture it creates of you - this will correlate to your BMI.

Many of the exercises are based upon balance and focus therefore around developing and strengthening your core muscles. Whilst this is great for balance, coordination etc it does very little to really improve your cardiovascular fitness. Whilst you can use the board for basic step ups, hula hoop and running on the spot, these low level aerobic exercises may do little to enhance your fitness.

However, other activities that involve hand held motion controllers such as tennis can burn about 5 calories a minute making it a reasonably good aerobic activity. The Wii boxing in particular is a far more cardio-intense activity that can really increase the heart rate and improve fitness, especially if practised regularly over time. Increasing the level of difficulty will also help improve your fitness as you can add an element of progression. However, compared to real tennis or real boxing, the calorie burn has shown to be around 30% less when using the games console compared to the real thing.

Evidence shows that using computer video games as a form of fitness can be moderately successful but like most activities, consistency is key. Most owners of the Wii Fit and other exercise based games, actually confess that they use it very rarely. With the basic government guidelines stating we need 30 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise a day, it seems we may need to all do more than just occasionally playing computer games. Exercise experts recommend fresh air and variety when performing exercise and unfortunaetly most games are very routine and encourage us to stay indoors!. However, as games developers expand their software building capabilities maybe there may be potential for us to all use computer games as part of a rounded fitness routine in the future.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Importance of Engaging Our Core

Core fitness is a term that is widely used by fitness professionals. Most times I step foot in the gym I hear trainers telling members, "Make sure you engage your core!" - but why is that so important? And what precisely do they mean by the core?

Simply speaking your core is the belt that runs around your mid-section, which includes your stomach muscles and lower back muscles. Fitness professionals believe that strong core muscles provide the basis of any fitness program. That's not only because none of us want a beer belly, but also because stong abdominals hold in our internal organs, whilst a stong lower back will support your spine. Working together these muscles are key to just about every human action from walking and running to turning (rotating), sitting and bending.

Because the abdominals are composed of different muscles we need to be doing various exercises to hit the abdominals from all angles including front flexion (such as sit-up), side-flexion (such as oblique crunches) and to work our deep abdominal muscles (such as the plank).

Whilst many people try to spend a portion of their workout on such exercises, many fitness experts now believe that we should simply incorporate core exercises more as part of more general exercise. Examples may include boxing or TRX training. Almost all moves in either of these pursuits will use the abs. Yet even in exercises like lunges we can introduce a medicine ball and incorporate rotational twists to work the core. The more we can work the core the stronger our body will become. Adding exercises like squats, deadlifts and planks will also increase our lower back strength - improving posture, flexibiltity and reducuing lower back pain.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Fitness Myths Exposed

One of the most common things we see in the Fitness Industry is a proliferation of myths. These seems to come from a misquoted magazine article and get propogated on a global scale. In this article I try to dispel some of the most common fitness myths:

Long Periods of Cardio is Great For Fat Burning
This just isn't true. Yes you will burn some calories, but you'll be surprised how few. You need to be focusing on high intensity interval training if you want to really start changing your metabolism and burning fat. These intervals should include both cardio-based exercises and resistance training.

Doing Lots of Sit-Ups is Key To Getting a Flat Stomach
False. You can do all the sit-ups in the world, but if you have abdominal (belly) fat you won't lose it by doing sit-ups! Instead follow the recommendations above.

Lifting Weights Will Make Me Big
No it won't. In order to get big you will need to have the right hormonal environment, be eating thousands of calories a day and hitting incredibly heavy weights. In fact, many men who wish to get bigger find that they cannot achieve much growth despite heavy weight training. Even professional body builders find they have to supplement their diet with testosterone boosting support to create the correct hormonal environment for real growth.

If you stop exercising, muscle will turn to fat
No it won't. Fat and muscle are two different things. What happens when you stop exercising is that you may lose muscle mass and you will likely put on weight (fat) if you become inactive. Hence many people wrongly assume that their muscle has turned to fat - it hasn't.

Keeping heartrate in the fat burning zone will help me burn more calories
Ever seen those cardio machines in the gym that talk about fat burning zones? This low level intensity exercise would actually burn less calories than shorter bursts of much higher intensity exercise where your heart rate vastly exceeds the fat burning zone. Most exercise scientists now believe the fat buring zone is an outdated concept and one that's best to ignore if you're serious about burning fat.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Are Reality Fitness Shows Putting People's Health At Risk?

I must confess to having watched both last years Biggest Loser UK and then the US version. I guess the programs are designed to be interesting and to engage us. But half way through these programs I began to feel saddened by the way these participants are treated and more importantly what others watching the show are learning from it. 

There is a real danger that many reality fitness and weight loss shows are too concerned with creating dramatic television rather than portraying a sensible and attentive approach to health and fitness. In fact from watching these shows most people who may be looking to lose weight and get fit themselves may be led to assume that fitness is nothing less than tortuous and that unless you're in excruciating pain, it just won't work. So are these shows simply putting people off exercise altogether?

A report in the American Journal of Health found that subjects who watched the show Biggest Loser were not only less inclined to exercise after watching but also reported enjoying exercise less too. There are many similar shows that focus on rapid weight loss in extreme conditions and this format seems to have taken over leading most people to assume that this is the accepted and indeed normal way of losing weight and getting in shape.

The idea that exercise must be tortuous to be worthwhile is enough to put anyone off. It seems that these shows revel in maximum weight loss in the shortest possible time - something that most experts know is not the best way to lose weight. The competition between the trainers seems to fuel the desire for their team to be beasted into submission. How can this be a healthy portrayal of getting fit and losing weight. We all know that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is slower weight loss of a few pounds a week and not pushing so hard that we injure ourselves or make ourselves sick.

But of course a program about a group of people getting in shape sensibly and lose a few punds a week simply doesn't make good television, so we are left with shows that seem to sell, regardless of the message they are giving out to their audience.