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Exercise and Fitness Tips to Improve Your Health

Get answers to your questions about exercise, and tips for getting the most from your workouts.

Q. Should I hold off on weight training until I lose weight?

Absolutely not. Lifting weights will not only help you lose weight, but maintain the loss. Here's why:

  • Muscle keeps your metabolism revved up, burning calories, fat, and glucose (sugar).
  • When you lose weight, up to 25% of the loss may come from muscle, resulting in a slower metabolism. Weight lifting will help preserve or rebuild any muscle you lose by dieting.
  • Muscle helps you with aerobic exercise. The stronger you are, the better you will be at any aerobic activity.
  • Weight training improves your body's muscle-to-fat ratio (you end up with less body fat and more muscle), which improves both your health and your fitness level.
  • Gaining muscle will help you look better as you define and tone your physique.
  • Building strength helps you feel good about yourself. Although the scale may show a slight weight gain when you start lifting weights (usually five pounds or less), you probably won't look heavier because the gain is in muscle, and your clothes may even fit more loosely.

Q. How much exercise should I do?

In addition to the National Academies’ Institute of Medicine’s recommendation of 60 minutes of daily exercise to prevent weight gain, there are two other major U.S. guidelines for how much physical activity you need:

  • The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a five- to 10-minute warm-up and then 30 to 45 minutes of continuous aerobic activity (such as swimming, biking, walking, dancing, or jogging) three to five times a week, with a stretch and cool down period in the last five to 10 minutes. The ACSM also recommends weight training: at least one set (eight to 12 repetitions) each of eight to 10 different exercises, targeting the body's major muscle groups.
  • The surgeon general recommends accumulating 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (hard enough to leave you feeling "warm and slightly out of breath") on most, if not all, days of the week. You can do it in two bouts of 15 minutes, three bouts of 10 minutes, or one bout of 30 minutes. This recommendation emphasizes incorporating activity into your daily life -- walking instead of taking the bus, parking your car farther from the mall and walking across the parking lot, taking stairs instead of the elevator, and washing your car by hand.

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