Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kimberly Garrison | Stop chewing the fat and start raising the bar

LAST WEEK'S column on body-fat analysis prompted yet more questions from readers (as well as two of my editors).

Basically, they all wanted to know why their body fat levels were so high - since they exercise regularly, aren't overweight and eat moderately well - and what they could do about it.

If you're concerned about your body-fat level, there's plenty you can do to reverse it. Here are some more facts about body fat and some strategies you can implement to achieve measurable goals

What do you mean, I'm over-fat?

As I've said before, the Body Mass Index (BMI) can fail to identify individuals - even those in the healthy category of 18.5 to 24.9 - who have elevated body fat-levels. If you rely totally on the BMI, you could be at increased risk for joint problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, cancer and more. This is especially true if you carry excess visceral fat (fat around your waist).

Maintaining a healthy body-fat percentage significantly lowers your health risks, though it doesn't guarantee you won't have problems, of course.

Unfortunately, for much too long, Americans have been duped by the diet industry. We're obsessed about body weight when body fat is a more accurate measurement of good health. Body-fat analysis should become the gold standard for evaluating health and disease risk factors.

Hey, I'm in reasonable shape, aren't I?

Research also indicates that about 90 percent of Americans exercise too little to achieve measurable, meaningful health and fitness benefits. Far too many of us are busy chewing the fat at the gym as opposed to burning it.

Do you simply show up and go through the motions? Exercising and exercising effectively are two different things.

Studies show that most Americans, about 80 percent, believe they need to exercise. But knowing and doing are, again, two different things. In fact, the average health-club member goes to the club only about 92 days a year, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sports Club Association.

Sadly, that means the 10 percent of people who attempt to adopt a permanent healthy lifestyle use the health club only about 25 percent of the time.

Clearly, it is time to raise the bar.

But I do exercise!

While exercising consistently is a good habit, you must realize that the body responds to progressive change. That means you must challenge yourself with a progressive routine if you want to see continuous progress - and especially if you want to lower your body fat.

If your goal is to reduce body fat and tone up, you will need to do some cardio, improve your diet and, yes, do some strength training, too.

A strategy for improvement

Try this technique: Gradually increase your exercise intensity by means of a double progressive training system.

For example, I worked toward 12 repetitions of bicep curls with 20-pound dumbbells. Once I achieved 12 repetitions, I increased the weight load by 5 percent (to 21 pounds). When I could perform 12 repetitions with this resistance, I increased the weight to 25 pounds.

Also, I want each repetition to count, so I concentrate on my form, performing each repetition in about six seconds (2 seconds for lifting, 4 seconds for lowering). That way, I reduce momentum so I can exercise the muscle effectively by placing the demand on the negative muscle contraction.

My goal is to make every rep count!

Lifetime maintenance plan

As far as exercise maintenance is concerned, I believe that whatever it took for you to get into shape is what is required to maintain your fitness and health.

However, most people reach their goals and slowly start slacking, doing less and less while taking their hard-earned results for granted.

This is a no-no - especially for women, who average about a 5-pound loss of muscle each decade until menopause, when it speeds up to a whopping 7 pounds of muscle loss per decade.

All that fat can really wreak havoc on your health and figure, even if you still wear the same size and weigh the same amount.

In other words, by her mid-40s, the typical woman who is at her "ideal" weight could have lost between 15 to 20 pounds of metabolically active muscle and replaced it with fat. To make matters worse, dieting without exercise can lead to 25 percent to 28 percent muscle loss, according to the International Journal of Obesity.

The best way to maintain fitness and muscle is to continuously raise the bar. Never give up - best your own efforts.

Who's healthier?

Between the guys and the gals below, who is healthiest based on the following information?

· John and Tom are both 6-foot-4. John weighs 200 pounds and has a body-fat level of 7 percent. Tom weighs 170 pounds, with 33 percent body fat.

· Tracy and Kelly are both 5-foot-3. Tracy weighs 140 pounds, with a body-fat level of 17 percent. Kelly weighs 110 pounds, with a 41 percent body-fat level.

The answer, of course, is the two people with the lowest body fat: John and Tracey.

And here's the answer to the problem in last week's column:

To lower her body fat level from 25 to 21, Keisha would need to lose 7 pounds.


Post a Comment

<< Home