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Article posted: 4/29/2013 6:00 AM

Some answers to common fitness questions


I get lots of good questions about exercise and health as part of my work teaching and being actively involved in the fitness field. Here are some that are frequently asked.

I hope my answers help as you travel on your fitness journey.

1. How many calories do I need to burn to lose 1 pound of fat? We know that it takes approximately 3,500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat. Generally speaking, you would need to decrease 500 calories a day for a week to lose that pound of fat.

2. As a beginner in strength training, how do I know how much weight to begin with? If you just want to get stronger and are not dealing with rehab or issues that need to be addressed, begin with weights that you could lift 10 to 12 times without having to swing them; movements should be performed with control, not speed. If you feel you could perform many more repetitions than 12, your selected weight is too light. Different muscles will require different weights. Larger muscles such as legs, backs and chest can be worked with heavier weights than the smaller arm and shoulder muscles.

3. What is a moderate-intensity workout? Increasing your breathing and heart rate while doing at least 10 minutes of a continual activity -- brisk walking, easy jogging, water aerobics -- but not so much that you can't carry on a conversation.

4. What is abdominal breathing? Abdominal breathing encourages relaxation, which carries more oxygen into the bloodstream. When you inhale, you will be breathing from your abdomen, not your chest. If you place your hand on your abdomen, you will feel it rise every time you inhale, pause, then slowly exhale through your mouth; pretend you are blowing out a candle. The exhalation should take twice as long as the inhalation.

5. What are the muscles that we should strengthen? Muscles need to be strengthened to prevent muscle imbalances, which can cause injuries. They are four large muscles in the front of the thighs, hamstrings, three muscles in the back of the thighs, calves, buttocks, chest, shoulders, back, abdominals, front and back of upper arms.

6. What are compound exercises? They are exercises that involve more than one joint and more than one muscle group. An example would be the squat. When performing the squat, you will be dealing with multiple joints and many major muscles. Isolated exercises move through single joints and strengthen isolated muscles, as in a leg-extension machine, which strengthens the quadriceps muscle and moves through the knee joint.

7. What are some small, healthy habit changes I can make in my daily living? Move more. Get moving. Walk at least five minutes more every day; take one last walk around the perimeter of the grocery store; move around while talking on the phone; invest in a pedometer (research tells us people using pedometers take many more steps a day than those who do not use a pedometer). Make small, specific changes to develop healthy habits that could last a lifetime.

8. How do I know the correct exercise ball for my height? Douglas Brooks, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercises, says that, as a general guideline, anyone under 5 feet 10 inches should choose a 55-centimeter ball; those over 5 feet 10 should use a 65-centimeter model. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor when you are sitting on the ball.

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program.

Sally Anderson is a personal trainer.

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