New years has come and gone, most of us made our fitness resolutions, some of us met them with success while some of us have unfortunately missed the mark. With good intentions we set goals, bought exercise equipment and joined gyms. Results have not come easily for most of us, some got hurt, time is scarce, the kids are sick…
But, there is some good news on the horizon. For those of us in the fitness and wellness industry there has been some very interesting research coming out lately that will help you achieve your goals. When it comes to general fitness and weight loss, stronger is not better. What I mean is that endurance or time, has been shown more effective at stimulating weight loss and increasing the ability of muscles to stabilize. We were designed to move, most of us unfortunately do too little of that. The more consistently we move the better our overall endurance.
With regard to muscles it has been shown that the longer we move the more fit our muscles become. This equates to lighter resistance, often body weight, to create muscular endurance and stimulate our metabolism. If you suffer from back or neck pain you will be interested to know that the research is conclusive on spine exercise. Body weight exercises with long holds, up to 5-10 second contractions stimulate the stabilizers of the spine and increase their endurance. The greater the endurance of the spinal stabilizers the less chance there is for injury. What this means is that all those gimmicks on TV and machines at the gym designed to strengthen you back do not work. In fact they may actually make your back worse!. Lifting heavy weights and crunches actually increases the forces on the spine causing trauma and eventually weakness.
Cardiovascular exercise for weight loss and health is in the same category. Longer is better, the longer we keep the heart rate up the more calories we burn and this equates to weight loss. Most people train very hard but for short durations that are spread sporadically throughout the week. The key to fitness and consistent weight loss is keeping the heart rate up for prolonged periods of time 5 or more days a week. If this seems like a lot consider that taking a walk after dinner and taking the stairs whenever possible can easily add to this time.
The take home message is that harder and heavier is definitely not better, unless you are specifically training for a sport. Consistency with exercise, a healthy lifestyle, proper sleep, good foods and a proactive outlook will consistently aid in your fitness efforts.