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Many articles and websites write about the importance of lean muscle mass. It is important, but why? Your muscles provide may functions: just about all body movement, from walking to nodding your head, is caused by skeletal muscle contraction. Your skeletal muscles function almost continuously to maintain your posture, making one tiny adjustment after another to keep your body upright. Skeletal muscle is also important for holding your bones in the correct position and is essential for strong, stable joints. Muscles store fuel too, and along with the liver make up most of our energy stores.
Important bit: they also play a large part in defining how much energy we need to function, hence they play a vital role in weight loss and maintenance. They are, as mentioned above, functioning continuously, therefore the more we have and the more toned they are, the more fuel we will need all day, every day. As weight loss depends on someone expending more energy than they are taking in, energy used becomes an important part of the weight loss equation; the more the merrier. Although cardio-vascular exercise will burn lots of calories when you are doing it and for a short time afterwards (depending on the intensity of exercise), it won’t increase calorie output all the time. Strength training, however, will! Increasing the tone and amount of muscle we have is like replacing A 1.2 engine in a car with a 2 litre. And that 2 litre is going all the time. It needs more fuel. Combined with sensible eating lean muscle will lead to sustained weight loss that stays off.
Correspondingly, loss of lean muscle will depress the metabolic rate – the amount of fuel we need to function. This explains why crash diets look great on the scales but don’t last. Although you will lose fat, you will also lose muscle. There is weight loss, but after the diet you now need less calories than before, so a return to normal eating will lead to unavoidable weight gain.
We also lose lean muscle as we age; from the age of 30 this can be up to 1lb a year. This explains why it gets harder to maintain weight as we get older. Our engine (lean muscle) is getting smaller, so we actually need less fuel!
The good news is that unlike most symptom of ageing, you can keep or even increase lean muscle as you get older through strength training. And as a lady you don’t have to be muscly, just toned and strong. A recent study into strength training by the University of Pittsburgh showed that adults in their 70s and 80s who did strength training had nearly the same muscle mass as someone in their 40s.
All our courses at Diets Don’t Work include strength training, and you are never too old to start. Our 50plus training gets great success too – http://www.dietsdontwork.co.uk/services/50plus-fitness
Yesterday, the 9th of January, was the day on which, statistically, 3 out of 4 people gave up on their New Year’s resolution. Here are some tips on how to stick with it this year.
1 – Be realistic. With all the good intentions in the world, if you have done no exercise for an extended period, deciding to start marathon training this week might not be realistic. Setting yourself unachievable targets is likely to lead to failure and may not be safe. Get going slowly and build it up gradually. Keep it short and often, focusing on quality (actually working really hard in exercise) rather than quantity. Build form there!
2 – Set goals. Starting with the notion of “I’m going to get fit!” is a bit vague. Have 3 goals, a short, medium and a long term one. Write them down. Now focus on the first short term goal, keeping in mind that if you achieve this first one you are already on the way to achieving the other 2! Remember, goal one needs to be challenging but achievable. Target being able to jog for a full 20 minutes non-stop for example. 4-6 weeks is a good time frame for a first short term goal.
3 – Be accountable. When you set your goals, tell your family, friends and colleagues exactly what they are. Publish them on all the social networks that you use. Not only does this round up early support, but once your secret quest is out there the pressure of everyone knowing will help to keep you on track.
4 – Enlist support. This doesn’t just mean tell everyone you know and wait for the encouragement. The support needs to be tangible and target obstacles to success. Your family are usually closest to you, so can help the most. If you have no time for exercise because you have to look after the kids, for example, get a friend to agree that as part of the quest they will babysit twice a week for 20 minutes each. If your fellow fridge users keep it packed with temptation, ask them to keep their chocolate hidden from now on.
5 – Get a partner. Batman and Robin. Morecombe and Wise. Everything is much easier with a friend. Embark on your quest with someone you know that has similar goals. You will provide each other with invaluable camaraderie, support, accountability and encouragement.
6 – Timing. The 2nd of January might not be the best time to start. Don’t put it off indefinitely, but don’t start just as a huge work project kicks off. Try to find a week when there are fewer possible obstacles and distractions.
7 – Self-congratulate. Rather than focus on the things that you may have failed to do, think about the ones you have succeeded in. Add up all your exercises sessions in a week. 10 lunges may not sound too good, but if you did them twice in each session, and did 3 short sessions, that’s 30 lunges! Much more impressive.
8 – Be persistent. It is highly unlikely that everything will go to plan. Expect setbacks, take them in your stride, and move on with what you have learned.
9 – Get professional help. It might only be for a session a week, or a few initial sessions, but by hiring a personal trainer you will actually get all of the above! Encouragement, support, someone there with you as you exercise, a professional to plan your nutrition and workouts, plus certain accountability.