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Fitness Frequently Asked Questions

Have a fitness question? Your question might have already been answered by one of our experts.

Question:

While doing chest presses on a bench, I felt something snap in my back, causing an initial shooting pain replaced by a constant dull ache after the 48 hour icing period. It is still subject to spasms and tension in my back, shoulder and hip. It causes a notable restriction on my neck and shoulder blade on the offending side. Any idea what I may have damaged and what stretches might work it back out?

Back painI'm sorry to hear about your injury. This could be any number of things from strained or torn muscle tissue, ligament/tendon damage or nerve impingement. My advice to you is that if this pain and discomfort have lasted more than 48 hours, to see your personal physician, an orthopedic surgeon, a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist, a certified athletic trainer (ATC) or a very well recommended sports medicine Chiropractor or physical therapist. Get well soon and take it easy until then!

Question:

I am trying to lose weight and recently went to a place filled with trampolines with my kids and I jumped for about 30 minutes. They are going to start offering aerobics classes and I would love to take them. My question is, how many calories do I burn when I jump and do minor tricks like land on my back and pop up, and other simple tricks over and over. I am 5' 10 and I weigh 175-lb., and I jump hard -- meaning I break into a sweat with in a few minutes and am jumping for exercise.

Two women jumpingWay to go on your journey to find fun, new ways to exercise! Keep it up! The energy cost of jumping, stepping, tumbling on a trampoline, expressed in metabolic units (ml of oxygen consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute), is equal to 3.5 METs ( 1 MET = 3.5 ml O2 per Kg per min). Since you weigh 175 lbs or ~80Kg your estimated caloric cost of 30 minutes of trampoline ~= 150 Kcal. Trampolining is equivalent to a brisk walk in terms of energy cost. Since you are recruiting your large muscle groups to do this activity, 30 minutes of this, five-or-more days per week allows you to meet the physical activity and health recommendations issued by the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General. Keep up the good work and enjoy your active living!

Question:

I work out every other day with 40-lb. weights for 45 minutes and walk 45 minutes daily. I'm trying to lose weight and shape up, will this work?

Woman walkingI am excited to hear that you are interested in using exercise to assist you in your goals of losing weight and "shaping up". Any time we increase activity while maintaining or decreasing our caloric intake, we should see weight loss. It is important to remember though, we also gain muscle, which weighs twice the amount that fat weighs - so we cannot consider just our weight as a good measure for success. You are doing a great job of getting started with your current plan. Walking 45 minutes a day is a great choice of regular cardiovascular exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine would recommend that you enjoy 30 minutes of activity about every day of the week. Strength training assists in increasing our lean muscle mass and toning and firming -- and then possible metabolic rate increase. The weight amount to use would depend completely on the muscle you are currently strengthening and toning. For general fitness, I would recommend a comfortable weight that allows you to do 12 to 15 repetitions for two or three sets. I wish you all of the best. You are doing a great job! Keep it up!

Question:

I’m doing weight training and cardio at the same time, but I’m doing cardio on my off days. Will this affect my muscle building efforts? My goal is to lose weight and get my body in shape.

Congratulations on being active and making an effort to improve your cardio-respiratory fitness, muscle strength and endurance. You have identified three of the five essential health-related components of physical fitness: cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition (ratio of lean body weight to fat weight). The two activities you have chosen to pursue actually complement one another and will enhance your efforts in improving your body composition by decreasing fat weight and increasing muscle mass through increased caloric expenditure by both your weight training and cardio activities.

Woman lifting weightsThe minimal amount of endurance activity should be either moderate activity (e.g., brisk walking) for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, five days per week, or more vigorous activity (e.g., jogging/running, cycling, swimming, etc.) for 20 minutes per session on three-or-more days per week. For the purpose of the prevention of weight gain – moderate activities should be increased to 60 minutes per day and vigorous activities to 40 minutes. Mixing the two modes of activity will not have any negative effect on the fitness gains from either activity. Keep up the good work!

Question:

What exercise machines are good if I want to protect my knees and lower back?

Woman on ellipticalOverall I would recommend a low-impact exercise machine to decrease risk to the knees and lower back. If you have a medically diagnosed injury or degeneration to the back and or knees, I would suggest you check with your doctor for any contraindications for exercise. Some of the lower impact cardio machines I would recommend to lower risk for knees and lower back are the stationary bike, rowing machine, recumbent stepper, a cross-country ski machine or an elliptical trainer. In some cases a treadmill may be appropriate also. Remember for healthy adults, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends a frequency of three to five times a week and intensity levels of 60-80% heart rate maximum for about 20-60 minutes. Start out slowly and gradually progress to these recommendations.

Question:

I'm a 29 year-old male, 6ft., 180-lbs. I am currently working out with weights three times a week and doing cardio two times a week for 30-40 minutes, burning 400-500 calories each time. Even though I started noticing muscle gain, I still have a lot of fat to lose off the abs. I am currently on weightlifting supplements (protein, creatine, etc.), and on a good diet (vegetables, fruit, grilled fish, lots of water). I need to lose fat off the abs (and mainly love handles) since I am going for a summer vacation. I want to look leaner and shredded. What is it that you recommend me doing to get the best out of my workout routine? I am also open to try weight loss products, provided they are safe and will deliver good results.

Man lifting weightsHere is your Exercise Rx: Cardio Mode: Not sure what your favorite cardio is, but I suggest you do something that works arms and legs at least a couple times per week such as (Elliptical, Schwinn AirDyne, Concept II Rowing machine, Cross Country Ski Machine, etc.) Try not to do the same thing all the time. Frequency: four to five times per week. Intensity: Light to moderate intensity (if you can not maintain a conversation you are going too fast and mainly utilizing carbohydrates for your fuel source.) Time: 30 minutes up to 60 a couple days if you have time.

Weights: Hit all major muscle groups two to three times per week. Remember, your legs and back are your largest muscle groups and will burn the most calories and stimulate your metabolism the most. Pick one or two exercises for each area and something for each leg group.

Chest/Back/Shoulders/Arms/Legs (glutes, quads, hams, calves) and Abdominals: one to two sets of 8-12 repetitions. Nutrition: Make sure you are eating breakfast. This will increase metabolism by about 10%. Don't skip meals. Get something from each food group at most meals. Make sure to get some protein at each meal. You don't need more than about 20-25 grams of protein at one feeding. Balance and moderation are the keys. Try to eat dinner by 6 p.m. if possible. Dr. Ken Cooper recommends 70% of your calorie intake by 1 pm. The old saying is eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch and a pauper for dinner. Lighter meals in the evening mean less extra calories going into the night. If you have a large meal, you are most likely storing much of it as fat on your abdominal area. Limit alcohol. Remember, consistency is the key. You did not put the extra weight around your waist in one day, so you won’t get it off in one day. If you try to, you will lose water and muscle weight, which will slow your metabolism down. Keep calories up, and increase overall cardiovascular activity and weights. Keep up the great work!

Question:

I've recently started an 800-meter training routine which involves quite a bit of long distance running. I do quite a bit of strength training and I am a fast sprinter. I'm worried that if I run too much long distance it will hamper my strength-training progress and hurt my sprinting speed. Can I prevent this?

RunnerFirst, I want to establish – that I am not a “professional runner”. Someone of that stature would be able to better establish a training regimen for you that would perhaps not compromise your speed and strength. I am not sure from your email if you are training with someone at this time or if you are training for the 800 meter on your own. Although I am not the most experienced in this area, I can provide you with a basic knowledge of some things that will hopefully benefit you in your efforts and understanding as you train for the 800 meter.

There is a reason body builders are rarely marathon runners and vice versa. All of our bodies are compromised of two primary skeletal muscle types. They are called slow twitch (used in endurance sports) and fast twitch (used in body building). Although we all have each type – we are all different and the amount of each muscle type we have is different. Also, training methods utilize and promote development of each type as well. So a distance run will utilize slow twitch and a sprint would utilize fast twitch and as you continue to train that area will be developed. There are also different energy systems used for distance running and sprinting, and strength training as well. So training a certain area will begin to condition that system to become more efficient. I am not sure of your long term goals, but many times our training for a certain event calls us to focus on one area more than another. This can be difficult for us when we are satisfied with where we are.

From your email, you sound very happy with your current sprinting and strength capabilities. Depending on the length of training time for the 800 meter those may or may not be compromised. It is important to remember, after you accomplish this goal, if you decide to initiate your sprinting and strength training again – I would believe you would be able to recover those capabilities and train those areas to your satisfaction again. Always remember – your body is an amazingly resilient thing. It is far more capable of training and retraining than we ever realize. Best of luck in the 800 meter!

Question:

I'm doing three-day weight training. I was wondering whether it's ok to swim on my rest days. My workout is as follows Monday - Chest, Shoulders, Forearms, Abs; Tuesday - Rest (Planning to swim - is that ok?); Wednesday - Back, Triceps, Abs; Thursday - Rest (Planning to swim - is that ok?); Friday - Legs, Biceps, Forearms, Abs. Please tell me if this is ok?

SwimmerYour plan of integrating swimming into your overall fitness program is great! Your resistance exercise days are spaced well, since your plan calls for more low-moderate resistance and higher repetition. Doing an aerobic activity such as swimming on the alternate days is a very good balance, because you are recruiting different muscle groups or a different pattern of recruitment between the two modes (types) of activities. This should allow for appropriate rest and restoration. Keep up the good work!

Question:

According to the BMI index, I am extremely obese. I am too heavy to walk, so where do I start?

SwimmersSince you are too heavy to walk, I would suggest you try a recumbent bike or water aerobics, both of which are easy on your joints and can give you a good workout. I would also suggest you focus on your eating habits, if you aren't already doing so. It will make a tremendous difference. Once you lose some of your weight, you can try other exercises. Strength training will also help you lose your weight by increasing your lean muscle, which helps speed up your metabolism.

Question:

I just purchased a membership to a new gym. I haven't worked out since the summer and I would like to know what a good starting routine would be. Can you provide me with a workout plan?

Working out at the gymWithout knowing more about your background, goals, limitations (if any), how much time and effort you want to put into your program, I really can't provide you with a specific program. However, there is great information here on the GetFit web site about starting a new exercise program. Also, I would suggest that you get a personal trainer to get started with a program that you can do on your own with periodic checks from the trainer.

Question:

Can using a stationary bike get me the same results on my lower body as squats? I have a tough time with squats and have very little muscle mass in my legs, they are thin and slender.

Stationary bikeSorry, but using a stationary bike will not have the same results as doing squats.  Just because you don't have much muscle mass in your lower body doesn't mean you can't do squats, just use lighter weights until you get stronger. If you want to increase strength in your legs, use a weight that brings you to temporary muscle failure within 8-12 repetitions. If you want to focus on endurance, try using a lighter weight that you can do 15-25 times. Doing two to three sets will help get quicker results, but will take longer to do and will take more energy, so be sure you don't over do it. Be patient and challenge yourself.  It would be a good idea if you tracked your workouts so you can make sure you are progressing. Don't be afraid to try other leg exercises, such as leg presses, lunges and step ups on a bench. And don't stop using the recumbent bike; it's great for your lower body and as part of your cardiovascular exercise. Try changing the amount of resistance on the bike every other minute or so to challenge yourself.

Question:

I am trying to lose weight, but I want to gain muscle, too. Should I lose the weight before I try to gain muscle? And, is it good to drink protein/whey shakes while I am trying to lose weight?

Weigh yourselfIn order to maximize your weight loss,you should try to gain muscle while trying to reduce your body fat percentage. Building lean muscle will help speed your metabolism. The quicker your metabolism, the more weight you'll lose. So, if you're not already doing so,you need to incorporate strength training into your program. Make sure you do the exercises correctly and that you progress properly.

As for protein/whey shakes, it all comes down to how you are eating. If you are getting plenty of protein through your normal diet, then you could do without them. If you are doing a lot of strength training, then it wouldn't hurt to add them to your diet. Remember, it all comes down to how many calories you are consuming on a daily basis. If you want to lose weight, then you need to be burning off more calories than you are consuming. You reduce these daily calories through exercise and a reduction of food calories. Make sure you are consuming quality calories and don't back off too much on your calories. Cutting calories too much will actually slow your metabolism down and you won't have the energy to get through your workouts or to repair your body.

Question:

Is it more beneficial to do one hour of cardio or one half hour, two times at different times of the day? We are assuming it is the same cardio activity in each scenario. Do both have the same benefits?

RunnerBoth would burn the same amount of calories, as long as the intensity levels are the same. But keep in mind; if you want to run in a race or perform a physical activity that lasts for an hour or longer period of time, it is best to build your endurance for the longer program by performing the same activity in one sitting instead of splitting up the cardio.

Question:

How many days of cardio should I do per week and for how long to lose 1.5 lbs. of fat each week? Also, how many weight-training sessions should I perform, and should I do a circuit or train specific parts?

Runner on treadmill

In order to lose 1.5 pounds per week,you will need to burn off 5,250 calories (3,500 calories for 1 pound). Your weight and intensity level will dictate how many calories you will burn each time you do your cardio. On average, let's say you burn 400 calories per cardio workout. If you strength train, you can probably burn off another 300 or so. So, if you workout five times per week (doing both cardio and strength training),you will burn off about 3,500 calories (700 calories x 5 days). The rest of the calories you need to burn off for the week (1,750 or 250 per day), need to come from a reduction of calories in your diet. If you need to consume 2,000 calories per day to maintain your present weight, then you need to consume 1,750 per day. Do this and you should meet your goal of 1.5 pounds per week. 

For strength workouts, it is totally up to you and depends on how much time you have for your workout. I would do one routine for about six to eight weeks, then I would switch to the other for about the same time period. This will keep you from getting bored and will challenge your muscles differently. There are many different ways to keep your workouts different (repetitions, tempo, rest time, sets, etc.), so don't be afraid to try new things.

Question:

I am 68 and have not done any physical activity for several years. I want to start walking but, I have questions:  1) Do I need a pedometer?  2) How many steps would I need for a goal per day?  3) Which pedometer is reliable and affordable for Senior citizens on a limited budget?

PedometerFirst of all, congratulations on your commitment to getting fit. You won't believe how much better you are going to feel. Make sure you stay consistent. Start off slowly, but make sure you do your best to challenge yourself each time you walk once you give yourself a short "break-in" period. Now, in answer to your questions...

  1. No, you don't really need a pedometer, but it helps. You can mark off a course, say one mile, and you can walk that distance.
  2. If you do use a pedometer, roughly 10,000 steps equals two miles, so base your distance using that figure.
  3. Any pedometer will do. Expect to pay anywhere from $20 - $75 for one. The more "bells and whistles" you get, the more you'll pay. Some have a heart rate monitor, which helps keep you within your target heart rate during your walk, but it will be the more expensive one. Good luck with your program and don't be afraid to try out some resistance/strength training, which will greatly improve your level of fitness and help with your walking. Consult a personal trainer for specifics.
Question:

I am 56 years old and concerned about the "underarm flabbiness" that is coming. I have problems with my right shoulder, so some exercises I have tried make that worse. Do you have an exercise that might help the flab, but not hurt the shoulder (I have had rotator cuff surgery)?

Tricep ExercisesThere are several exercises for your triceps (muscle on back of arm) that can be performed that don't require too much range of motion in your shoulder.  I don't know what kind of equipment you have available to use, but try these:

  1. Tricep Pushdowns
  2. Reverse Tricep Pushdowns
  3. Tricep Kickbacks

I would HIGHLY suggest you consult a personal trainer who can show you the specifics of each of the above exercises. You also need to rehab that shoulder so you can perform other exercises for the rest of your body. Until that happens, it's going to take you a long time to lose that flab under your arm. An elliptical rider would be a great exercise for you to do that would help both your shoulder and your triceps. Make sure you do your best to eat properly, too. Healthy eating and exercise combined makes a big difference!

Question:

I go to the gym five to six times per week. I always do at least 30-60 minutes of cardio and work my abs and lower back. As far as resistance training, I would like a more structured approach. What muscle groups can I work together on a five-day schedule in order to get them all in, but not fatigue others?

Workout equipmentTry out the following schedule:

  • Monday & Thursday - Back, biceps, core
  • Tuesday & Friday - Chest, triceps, core
  • Wednesday - Legs, shoulders, core
  • Saturday & Sunday - Recovery

This is just one way of doing it; there are many other ways of mixing it up.

Question:

What are some good activities to do in the winter time when it is cold outside?

YogaWhile it is more of a challenge to be active during the colder months, it can be done. First, there are several shows on television that you can exercise along with. Some specialize in yoga, Pilates, step classes and kick boxing, to name a few. If you can’t find anything in your local TV listings, you can go to your local library to borrow a DVD or exercise tape. They usually have a good selection. If you don’t have, or it’s not practical for you to buy or use someone’s indoor exercise equipment -- like a treadmill -- you can always jump rope. Remember, exercise doesn’t have to be complicated, anything that gets you up and moving and increases your heart rate counts. Always remember that if you haven’t exercised in any length of time, or if you have some type of illness, you must get permission from your health care provider before you begin any exercise program.

Question:

I have a lot of what I call "back fat" What types of exercises can I do for that?

Lat pull downsI hate to tell you this, but you can't "spot reduce.” How your body loses weight is how it loses weight. Now, you can target that area by trying the following exercises for your back:

  1. Lat pull downs
  2. Seated/horizontal rows
  3. One-arm rows
  4. High rows
  5. Pull-ups or assisted pull-ups
  6. Straight-arm pull downs

Be sure you consult with a personal trainer, watch a DVD or read a book for specifics on how to properly do each of the above listed exercises. Try exercising with a weight that will allow you to do between 12-15 repetitions for each exercise. Doing one to two sets should be enough,but that will depend on how much time and effort you want to put into it.

The elliptical machine would also help target that area and work in some cardiovascular exercise.

Question:

What low-key exercise equipment can I use to strengthen my lower back without further hurting it? I broke my back almost seven years ago and have just recently joined a gym. I have started slowly on the treadmill with walking a mile and more each time with incline. I have lost over fifty pounds in the past couple of years and I have "extra fat" in places that I don't want to be there. It is mainly in my legs, butt and thighs. I need to start slow and build up to a routine. I am in constant pain everyday, but still do what I need to everyday with painkillers. What equipment is best to shape up legs, thighs and back and not hurt me in the long run?

Yoga ballFirst, I would consider using a recumbent bike for some of your cardiovascular exercise. It's great for the lower body (hips, butt and thighs) and is easier on the low back, since it's a non-impact exercise. It's very adjustable (beginner to advanced), and usually offers several different routines. You may also try the elliptical rider, as well. Again, this is a non-impact exercise, but differs in that it uses your whole body for the workout, especially your midsection. Although it takes a little getting used to, stick with it. It is weight-bearing, so it will also help maintain or increase your bone density level.

For an inexpensive piece of equipment you can invest in, try an exercise ball, sometimes called Swiss balls or flexi balls. You can find them at stores like Target, Wal-Mart or any fitness or sporting goods store. A salesperson can help you pick the right size and get a workout DVD to go along with it to learn new exercises. Do the exercises properly at all times and don't push too hard. Progress gradually and challenge yourself each workout. Also, healthy eating will help your progress.

Question:

I am 72 years old, obese and grossly out of shape. I am cutting calories to about 1,700 a day, but I need an exercise program to get started.

Working with a personal trainerYou are a great candidate for a personal trainer. He or she can design a specific program that best meets your needs and goals. It’s important to consult with your health care provider before you begin any program. Once you have the green light, make sure you incorporate both strength and cardiovascular exercises into your fitness program. Don't push yourself too hard and work up your intensities gradually. Make sure your trainer is certified and has a good reputation, and, most importantly, that your personalities are a good fit. The trainer should be able to help you with meal plans and healthy eating tips as well. Be sure you are bringing in enough calories, taking in quality food and that you’re staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.

Question:

How much exercise do you need to help with weight loss and what kinds are best? I am doing 20 minutes per day of walking, yoga and Pilates, rotating each day.

YogaThe more you put into your program, the more you'll get out of it.  The more exercise you do each week, the more calories you will burn. The more calories you burn, equals more weight loss. Everyone has demands on their time these days, but you’re doing great to find some time to exercise each day. Do as much as your schedule allows and challenge yourself each time. Strength or resistance training at least two to three times per week is also important. The following exercises are a great way to get fit:

  1. Squats (legs and butt)
  2. Lat pull downs (back, biceps, shoulders, forearms)
  3. Chest/bench press (chest, triceps, shoulders)
  4. Step ups (legs and butt)
  5. Seated/horizontal rows (back, biceps, shoulders, forearms)
  6. Chest/pectoral flyes (chest, triceps, shoulders)
  7. Ab crunches (abdominals)
  8. Hyperextensions (low back)

These are just a few of the many exercises you can try. A personal trainer or local fitness instructor could help you learn some of these exercises. Or you can buy some fitness DVDs or books, or rent them from your local library. Keep up with what you are doing, do more when you get stronger, and eat healthy meals and snacks. It takes about an hour to burn off 500 calories, but it only takes two minutes to put it back into your body with a poor meal choice.

Question:

I am on a beta-blocker that slows down my heart rate.  When I walk or do the treadmill, I can only get my heart rate up to 95-99 beats per minute. Am I still getting benefits for my heart even though I can not reach my target heart rate?

People on treadmillYes, you are still getting benefits from your exercise even though you are not reaching your target heart rate. What I tell all my clients, except those who are pregnant or have heart conditions, is to use the RPE scale. RPE is the rate of perceived exertion, or how hard you think the exercise was to perform. It is subjective, but works well. Each and every workout should be challenging to you. Be sure you keep track of what you are doing. Change the exercises you do to keep from getting bored and to challenge your body.  In keeping track of your workouts, if you note that an exercise was "somewhat challenging" then the next time you workout, you should do something to make it more challenging. You could increase intensity by simply going faster, further or increasing the intensity or incline setting on a fitness machine.

Question:

Like everyone, I am on a time crunch. I have about 30 minutes a day I can devote to working out. I would like to know if you have any suggestions on how I can get leaner and build muscle quickly.

Man looking at watchConsider a strength circuit workout. A strength circuit involves all muscle groups and combines your strength and cardiovascular workouts into a quick, versatile routine that can be performed in the comfort of your own home, the gym or even in a hotel room, with just minimal equipment. Circuit training is by far the best way to beat the time crunch and to see the quickest results.

A good tool to use during circuit workouts is an exertube -- which is basically a piece of tubing with handles -- and an exercise mat. You need to consult a personal trainer or check out a good fitness book or DVD to learn how to use the tube for the best benefit. All fitness levels can benefit from this type of program. Remember to challenge yourself and keep things fresh by changing up your program every 8-12 weeks or so. And don’t forget about the importance of healthy eating. You’ll see greater results from your workouts by also sticking to a healthy diet.   

Question:

Recently, I was in a car accident and I’m now in physiotherapy for my neck, arm and hip. I lost 40 pounds before the accident, but since then I haven’t exercised or walked. What would be a good exercise routine for me?

Swimmer

First, you have to get back to working out. You must stay within the limits and restrictions that your doctors/physiotherapists have prescribed, but you need to do something.  Start off easy, listen to your body, do the exercises correctly (concentrating on using good form) and commit to your program as much as your schedule allows. 

You can opt to workout in your home with a workout band, flexiball, etc., or use the equipment in your apartment complex.  If you want to join a gym, then you'll have more options to choose from and boredom won't set in as easy.  Walking, a recumbent bike and swimming are just a few of your options.  Water aerobics would be great if you don't mind the water.  Since you are physically limited in what you can do, you really need to watch your eating habits. Remember, it's taken you a while to put on the weight, so be patient and consistent with your program.  Results don't happen overnight. You've lost weight before, so you know you can do it.

Question:

I have osteoarthritis in both knees and will probably need surgery on one knee within a year. I have access to a fitness center, but no one to tell me which combination of exercises I should do. What suggestions do you have?

Woman doing crunchesFirst of all, talk to your health care provider before you begin a new exercise routine. Then, talk to a personal trainer or another professional at your fitness center to describe your medical issues, as well as any limits or restrictions you have. He or she should be able to devise a specific program that meets your needs and show you how to use the equipment properly. I'm not sure what machines your fitness center has, but make sure you work your back, chest and legs, plus don’t forget about your core muscles.

A combination of strength training and cardiovascular exercise will help increase your bone density and slow the progression of bone loss. When you have your surgery, make sure you get right on to your rehab exercises and stick with them.

Question:

My 8-year-old daughter and I need to tone up and lose some weight. She is about 20-lbs. overweight and I don't want it to get any worse. Besides walking, what else can we do together?

Woman doing pushupsKeep things positive. Tell your daughter you've decided to create a healthier lifestyle and environment, and you need her help in making it succeed. Get her input into what she likes to do and work that into your new plan. Try taking some aerobics classes together or doing a DVD a few times each week. While you are walking, make it more interesting by stopping every so often and perform a different exercise (push-ups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks, etc.) for about 30 seconds or so. If you want this to be successful, you must set a good example! You must buy healthier foods, exercise on a regular basis and establish a healthy environment. If you commit to this and get her involved for at least eight weeks, the benefits you see will be inspiration enough to keep you both going.

Question:

How can I improve my circulation?

Two runnersIn order to improve your circulation, you need to exercise as much as your schedule will allow. If you want to focus on improved cardiovascular circulation, then concentrate your efforts on doing cardiovascular exercises like running, aerobics or power walking. Depending on your personal limits and restrictions, choose exercises that you find enjoyable and can perform, but challenge you, too. Strength training must also be incorporated. Start off slowly, where you are, and soon you’ll see progress and can kick it up a notch. Yoga is another great exercise to increase breathing and circulation.

Question:

I am 34-year-old woman with four children and very little time to work out. Can you give me an idea of where I should begin since I have never done anything to establish an exercise routine?

People hiking

Try to find at least 15 minutes for yourself -- whether it's early in the morning, before the children wake up, sometime during the day or after they go to bed.  Make a commitment to these times so you can incorporate a quick cardio-strength circuit routine into your life. This circuit routine uses an exercise band, a mat and body-weight exercises to give you a good workout in a short amount of time. It is done in the comfort of your own home and can be adjusted to keep things interesting. It is great for any level of fitness since you are the one who decides how hard to push yourself. To find out how to start a program like this, consult a personal trainer or a good fitness book or DVD. There are also books out there that highlight exercises that you can perform with your children. This would not only set a good example, but it would also get them pointed in the right direction in terms of making fitness an integral part of their everyday life. You can also go for walks together, ride bikes or go for a swim. In addition to the exercise, make sure you and your children are eating healthy meals and snacks.

Question:

I am trying to lose weight, but I haven’t had any luck. Do you have any advice?

Lifting weightsIn order to lose weight, you must burn off more calories than you are consuming. The best way is through exercise and healthy eating. It’s important to realize that making a commitment to change your lifestyle is a great first step, but changes won’t happen overnight. Be patient and stick to it, but do keep your goals realistic. Everyone can start where they are, make small goals and set new ones each time you reach one. You can consult a personal trainer or pick up a good fitness book or DVD with exercise techniques. If it's been a while since you've worked out, or if you're seriously out of shape, talk to a health care provider before you begin.

Question:

I am out of shape and wondering what type of exercise program I should begin with?

Talking to doctorFirst, check with your health care provider to clear you to begin an exercise program. Remember that everyone can start where they are. No matter what your fitness level, everyone can exercise. Commit to a program that incorporates strength training and cardiovascular exercise. You must also commit to changing eating habits to improve your health. In order to lose weight, you need to burn off more calories than you consume. Strength training can help you gain lean muscle, which will help you increase your metabolism and store less fat.

Question:

I had heel pain and I’m now wearing orthotics. Is it ok for me to begin a walking program since I am now pain free?

Couple walkingI'm assuming you are seeing, or have seen, a podiatrist regarding your heel pain since you already have orthotics for your shoes. The best advice I can give you is to follow the recommendations of your podiatrist. Most will advise you to start off slowly, wearing your orthotics for only a few hours at a time and progress from there. I would definitely avoid high-impact exercises. Walking is a low-impact exercise and should be fine for your situation. Start by walking about 15-20 minutes and see how your feet feel the next day. If you aren’t in pain you can probably safely increase your time about 5-10 minutes each walk. Non-impact exercises such as the elliptical rider or the stationary bike are good options,too. If you've never tried water aerobics, it would be a great way to exercise without pain or impact on your feet.

Question:

I feel like my stomach is out of control! I sit at a desk all day. Do ab tightening exercises really work? And what do you suggest for the fastest results when trying to lose a hangover stomach?

Working out on yoga ballYes, abdominal exercises work, but you can’t really “spot reduce” when it comes to weight loss. If you continue to concentrate on improving your body overall, that unwanted belly fat should eventually come off. For the fastest results, you need to commit to doing three things:

1. Eat right. You must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight.

2. Commit to cardiovascular exercises for at least 30 minutes a day, five to six days a week or as much as your schedule allows.  

3. Incorporate resistance training two to three times per week, making sure you work all your major and minor muscle groups. You can work out at home or in the gym. Start off with one to two sets of 12-15 repetitions per exercise. Check out a DVD or book, or talk to a personal trainer to show you how to do the exercises correctly.

Question:

I work out six days a week. Two or three days include both cardio and weight or resistance training. How often should I aim to increase the weights I use?

Strength trainingIt’s a good idea to change up your fitness routine about every 8-12 weeks. This will keep both you and your body from getting bored. Increasing the number of reps and sets you perform is a great place to start. If you want more strength, concentrate your efforts on lifting heavier weights with fewer reps (3-7 reps). If you want strength and endurance benefits, go with a moderate weight with a few more reps (8-12 reps). If you want more endurance, go with a light weight that you can do (15-25 reps). Make sure you are reaching temporary muscle failure each time. The number of sets you perform depends on how much time you have available. I would suggest two to three sets for your major muscle groups and one to two sets for minor muscle groups. For best results, I would do 8-12 reps one month and then 12-15 the next month and continue this cycle, periodically changing the exercises you perform.

Question:

I want to tone and build my upper arms and shoulders. How long before I see those rounded shoulders and good sized biceps?

Here are a few things to think about:

  1. How many reps and sets are you performing for your strength workouts?
  2. How long have you been doing the same workout?
  3. How are your eating habits?

BicepsIf you're not already doing so, you must make chest exercises part of your routine, especially if you are trying to improve the appearance of your upper body (triceps and shoulders get worked along with the chest). Varying the number of reps and sets you are doing, as well as changing the order of exercises and the amount of rest time you take between sets and/or exercises can also make a difference. Make sure you challenge yourself with every cardio workout and be sure to mix it up with different workouts from time to time. This will keep your body from getting used to any one exercise and will keep you from getting bored. Vary your times and intensities on your routines and try some interval training if you want to take it up a notch. Eating right can make or break your program. Make sure you bring in the right amount of calories, eating quality foods and sticking to proper portion sizes. Also, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest.

Question:

I belong to a gym, but I can’t seem to find the time to make it there. I am struggling with my weight and it is depressing. Can you suggest some exercises for when I am at my desk or in the car?

Desk exercisesFirst of all, everyone is busy. But try to find at least 20-30 minutes you can carve out in the day for yourself, so you can commit to getting fit. Exercise helps increase the flow of naturally-occurring “feel-good” chemicals in the body, which can help with depression. You can't really do much in your car when you’re focused on the road. As for exercises you can do while at your desk, I would suggest the following, in addition to a full workout when you can find the time to work it in:

  • Seated ab builders will work your core. While sitting upright in your office chair, link you fingers behind your head. Lifting your left knee, bend and touch it with your right elbow. Then return your left foot to the floor and lift your right knee and touch it with your left elbow. Do 5-10 on each side.
  • Wall sits will work your legs and backside. Start by standing with your back against a wall, feet about hip-width apart. Then slowly slide down the wall while you walk your feet out about 10-12 inches, so that when your thighs are parallel to the ground, your knees are directly overtop of your ankles. Hold this position as long as you can, then slide back up the wall. Do this three to five times.
  • Leaning pushups will target your chest, shoulders, triceps and core. Place your hands on the edge of a desk about shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back until your arms and body form about a 90 degree angle. Keep your body in a generally straight line and lower your chest toward your desk until you reach a 90 degree bend in your elbows. Push yourself back up to the start position. Do as many reps as you can, using good form throughout the entire exercise. Make sure you don't hold your breath.
Question:

What is the best type of exercise routine for someone who doesn't have a lot of time, gets bored easily and hasn't exercised in quite some time?

Woman using a workout DVDTry working out at home using circuit training. You will need to get a resistance band and a book, DVD or VCR tape to show you the various exercises you can perform with it at home. There are great sources of information out there that can show you different exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home in a short amount of time. You can adjust the workout to keep things interesting. It is great for any level of fitness since you are the one who decides how hard to push yourself.

Question:

What is a good strength-training program that I can do without free weights or machines?

Resistance bandsIf you don't want to use free weights or machines for your strength training, I highly suggest you look into purchasing some resistance bands. Basically, these bands come in various levels or resistance (light, medium and heavy) or sometimes in levels (1, 2 or 3). For men, level two to three or medium-heavy is better, although level one or light resistance bands are good for rehabilitation exercises. When determining which band is best, consider your present level of fitness, as well as, your physical strength. Once you've decided on your band, you need to purchase either a DVD, VCR tape or a book that shows you how to properly use the band, or talk to a personal trainer. Add some core exercises and maybe a few other body weight exercises to your program and you'll be good to go.