To Your Health
June, 2010 (Vol. 04, Issue 06)
Are You Swimsuit Ready?
By Dr. Perry Nickelston
The dreaded swimsuit season is upon us. It's time to see just how much our bodies have changed over the course of a long winter, which can be an eye-opening experience. The fitness industry knows how traumatic this can be for you; that's why every year there are countless new books, diets, videos, and magazines dispensing advice on how to get in shape for summer. Unfortunately, most of these "great" ideas involve quick-fix starvation diets and equipment-intensive workouts that are often difficult to follow. Inevitably, the weight comes back (with a few extra pounds added) because these quick-fix programs lower your metabolic set point, making your body more prone to storing body fat. And that's the last thing you want to do! So, what's the answer? Well, it's really quite simple and boils down to one simple word: MOVEMENT!
Maximize Your Metabolism
The more you move, the more muscles you use, the more calories you burn and the more fat you lose. It's called the metabolic afterburn effect. This is when your metabolic set point remains increased for up to 24 hours post-exercise. That means you actually continue burning more calories long after your exercise is over. The more muscles you use during an exercise movement, the faster you can get into shape. But not all movements are created equal. For example, walking on the treadmill, bike riding, or doing yoga are all forms of exercise, but one requires more muscle movements than the others, thus stimulating a greater "afterburn effect."
Can you guess which one? Yoga. Yes, it's yoga. You get more "bang for your buck," so to speak. Why? Well, think about it in terms of movement. The secret to effective exercise is more muscle movement in less time. How could you not like that scenario? "Hold on a second," you say. "Bike riding also uses a lot of muscle movement." Yes, it does. However, the movements are usually isolated to only one direction; what we call uni-directional. We want multi-directional movement for optimum results. To understand this concept, let's take a closer look at movement.
Move in All Directions
Athletic movement is first and foremost about human movement. Human movement is based on planes of motion. There is a sagittal plane (forward and backward), a frontal plane (side to side) and a transverse plane (horizontal). The short and simple way to move more is to go through all three planes of motion during exercise. In order to build fitness performance and skill, it's essential to establish a good foundation of movement. Let's go back to the yoga example. Think about how much bending, twisting, rotating and holding you do during an average yoga session. That's a lot of movement and a lot of muscle toning. Combine this with proper nutrition and aerobic activity, and you have a recipe for success.
Burn Calories and Fat
What better way to commune with nature and the great outdoors, than by doing high-intensity training involving body-weight exercises and "animal" movements? (By animal movements, I mean movements that mimic movements animals make, as illustrated in the sample workout below.) This type of exercise is the most efficient at working all the muscles of your body in minimal time while burning lots of calories. This shape-up program is based on optimizing movement to increase your metabolic set point. We do this by utilizing the Tabata Method. Named after Izumi Tabata, PhD, a former researcher at Japan's National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, this protocol alternates between 30 seconds of intense exercise and 20 seconds of rest. Studies show that you burn just as much fat as moderate aerobic workouts done for 45 minutes and keep your metabolism elevated for hours after you're finished.. One round of Tabata takes 12 to 14 minutes, including the warm-up and cooldown. (Don't be discouraged if you have a difficult time doing this workout at first; it gets easier with time.)