In one Austin State University study, people who warmed up with light leg extensions and squats were able to squat with 8. Their lower bodies were also The same thing happens with your muscles and tendons. Preface your workout with carbs You might think of carbo-loading as something you do to run a better marathon. But eating carbs before your workout can also help you during those intervals, according to research published in Sports Medicine.
So even if you like your morning workouts, make sure to eat some toast or oatmeal before you head out of the door. For instance, in one study from Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse , people who performed a minute interval workout with exercises including pushups, burpees, squats and lunges burned an average of 15 calories per minute—nearly twice as many as during long runs. Rest one minute, then repeat for a total of four rounds. And that goes for every night of the week.
Without appropriate sleep, symptoms of over-training, including fitness plateaus, set in. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every single night. Watch this explainer video on whether you really need eight hours of sleep every night or not:. Indulge in a massage That post-workout massage does more than just feel good. According to research from McMaster University in Canada, it influences genes in your muscle cells to decrease inflammation and increase their number of mitochondria, which help power exercise and recovery.
Drink chocolate milk A recent Journal of Exercise Physiology study found that cyclists who drank low-fat chocolate milk after their workouts recovered just as well as those who drank commercial recovery beverages.
The protein stimulates muscle repair, while carbohydrates replete your energy stores and even help protein get into your muscles, says Carlson-Phillips. After high-intensity or long duration workouts, try drinking a glass as soon after your workout as you can. In a East Tennessee State University study , exercisers who performed both deep and full squats reaped greater fitness gains than those who performed only deep squats.
But in the long term, even a small effect is not to be sniffed at, says Timmons. There is no doubt that cycling is a great workout — both building muscles in the legs and improving cardiovascular fitness. What's more, cycling is low- impact, which means it's easier on the joints than running. Studies in countries where commuting by bike is common show just how good regular cycling can be. Another study found that Chinese women who cycled to work were less likely to die from all forms of cancer than those who didn't. So far, it's not clear whether things are different in the UK, which might be because the Danish and Chinese cycle so much.
The Danes average three hours a week and the Chinese women almost six. A large study in Norfolk found that commuters spent only an hour a week on their bikes in total. That said, even in the UK, people who commute by bike do seem to do more overall moderate to intense physical activity than those who don't, which means cyclists do not reduce the amount of exercise they do the rest of the time to compensate.
Of course, because each participant is in control of their own resistance dial, it's clear some people might be feigning the intensity to which they follow the class. But the opportunity to go hard, which might not be possible on the roads especially in cities, could be beneficial. One study of cyclists in Denmark found that to get significant reduction in all-cause mortality and coronary heart disease, you need to cycle vigorously, rather than slowly.
Measuring people as they do spinning classes suggests it could.
This is the case even though overall activity during the class is moderate, including the downhills or the cooldown periods, because there are extensive periods during a spinning class where when the intensity is so high that it could even be considered a useful way to increase the fitness off athletes off-season. One study of 20 healthy students for instance measured their VO2max — a common measure of physical fitness which involves measuring the maximum volume of oxygen that your body consumes while you exercise at maximum capacity. After measuring this on a treadmill, the students had their VO2 and heart rate measured during two spinning classes.
The researchers were astonished at the intensities reached during significant portions of the class. They concluded that despite the overall moderate intensity of the class, spinning had to be categorised as a high intensity activity. Yes, but not if you are totally unfit — as well as the potential for spinning to really boost physical fitness through these high intensity bursts, the authors also warn that there could be associated risks: for instance heart attacks, especially for those who are not used to exercising at such high intensities, or who are already at risk of cardiovascular disease.
They are certainly on to something — running is cheap and easy and probably one of the easiest ways to burn calories and lose weight. But it's not for everyone — running is high impact and puts a massive strain on joints.
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This is one of the biggest misconceptions with physical exercise, says Easton — the idea that to get the best results you need to run at lower intensities, or at a heart rate that is often termed your "fat burning zone". While it's true that exercising at light intensities uses fat as the dominant source of energy, the overall energy requirement is substantially smaller, so you are burning far fewer calories than you would be if you were exercising at higher intensity, Easton says. Rather than thinking about fat burning zones, "people should think more about calories in and calories out," says Timmons.
One study this year followed amateur marathon runners taking part in the Quebec City marathon as they trained and took part in the race, and followed up afterwards. In more than half of the runners — especially those who were less fit and who had done less training — there were substantial decreases in heart function after the race. The good news is that the damage was short lived, and heart function bounced back to normal, but the authors did caution that it shows the importance of proper training. It's very unlikely you'll drop dead during a marathon — around 0.
But this short-term heart damage could be a red flag to more sustained damage if this cycle is repeated over a number of years.
And even if you aren't keeling over during the race, some argue that running excessively — for instance taking part in marathons — can undo some of the cardiovascular benefits of regular running, for instance through increased calcium plaque build up in the heart, which increases the risk of coronary heart disease. O'Keefe likens regular vigorous exercise to a potent drug — if you don't take enough, you won't be getting the optimum effects.
And like a drug, he warns that an overdose could do serious harm to the body. Perhaps, but the biggest benefits are seen when people go from being unfit to being moderately fit. At higher fitness levels, you don't see the same benefits in longevity and disease risk reduction. And although vigorous is good, you don't need to go overboard. A study of 20, people in Denmark over years found that those who ran lived on average for six years longer than those who did not.
And the biggest benefits came from running between one hour and two and a half hours a week, over two or three sessions, at a comfortable pace where you felt out of breath, but not too breathless. O'Keefe thinks this could be because long periods of vigorous physical activity, over an hour or two, puts too much strain on heart muscle, causing it to stretch and tear, which — over years and decades — can lead to stiffening and scarring.
Indeed, one study found higher levels of fibrosis, or scarring, in the heart muscle of competitive endurance athletes aged 50 or over, compared to others of the same age. For the best health benefits, O'Keefe suggests moderate intensity running, in small doses — of about 30 to 50 minutes at a time. If you must run a marathon, just do one or two, tick the box, and return to more moderate levels of training. How much you get out of it will obviously depend on the intensity of the swim.
Some strokes like front crawl are more taxing. Yes, if you are feeling the strain of your workout you could do worse than take a load off in the water. One of the biggest health benefits of swimming is that it's non-weight bearing, which means you won't be putting any strain on muscles and joints. Sadly, that same effect might be your downfall if you want to swim to lose weight, because you aren't lifting your own body weight as you are with running, which makes for a comparatively easier workout.
In fact, the more fat a person carries, the more buoyant they are which means that unlike exercising under the full force of gravity, lean people actually work harder when they swim than those carrying a spare tyre. That is another potential pitfall: swimming can stoke the appetite more than other forms of exercise. Long distance running, for instance, seems to regulate appetite hormones and decrease hunger , at least for a while after exercise, despite all the energy that has been used. But this is not the case with swimming.
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This is the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger. Walking on the other hand did not have the same effect: "It didn't make any difference to ghrelin or to people's hunger. But swimming is different. Easton found that people felt hungrier after swimming than after other forms of vigorous exercise.
Actually, despite feeling hungrier, people still seem to resist. And anyway, says Easton, perhaps the hunger stems from swimming being an unexpectedly tough workout. Devotees of Bikram — a series of 26 intense postures practiced repeatedly for 90 minutes in a sauna-like humid room heated to about 40C — claim far reaching benefits, from toning and weight loss, to increased flexibility, endurance and stamina, as well as emotional and psychological effects.
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The classes tend to be expensive, and are usually performed in a little more than ones underwear. But there can be adverse effects, such as dehydration and heat stroke. Given its recent rise in popularity, there has been relatively little research into the physiological effects until recently. The first peer-reviewed study on Bikram led by Brian Tracy at Colorado State University in , found that it led to substantial improvements in balance and a moderate increase in leg muscle strength. But despite the gruelling challenge of Bikram, there is little evidence that it burns more calories than other exercise.
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