WHY EXERCISE WORKS !
Exercise works on so many levels, it's worth understanding why. Right now, your body is probably not working at peak fat-burning efficiency - just a guess, of course! You could well have perfected the art of fat-storing thought. The KEY to turning this around is to RAISE YOUR METABOLIC RATE.
Everyone has a 'basal metabolic rate (BMR)'. This is the measure of how many calories your body needs in order to maintain its vital functions when you are doing nothing. Efficiency is based on how much muscle you have in your body - that is, skeletal muscle in your arms and legs, not organ muscle like your heart and intestines. Muscles contain special components called mitochondria, which are responsible for converting calories to heat and water. This is why you get hot and sweaty when you exercise - which makes it worth doing!
Working your muscles against some form of resistance causes more amino acids to collect in the muscle cells, making them denser rather than larger. Denser muscles contain more mitochondria so they burn up more calories. Therefore the more muscle you have, the more more you can eat without gaining weight. [Please remember - muscles are heavy, so if you're in the process of developing muscles and burning off fat, you will initially gain weight rather then loose it BUT you WILL loose inches - Ms B] Fat uses very few calories, so the more fat you have the slower your metabolic rate will be. Clearly then, it is in your best interest to lose the fat and gain more muscle.
Strength, Suppleness & Stamina
These are the 3 different ways to be fit - the 3 S's. You really need a bit of each for optimum fitness.
You acquire strength by increasing your muscle power throught working with weights [Note : the weight of your own body is a 'weight' - Ms B], OR against resistance by using machines in the gym. NO, you will not develop bulging muscles from basic resistance training. The more toned your muscles, the more shapely you will looks - as apposed to flabby - BUT working on the machines to the exclusion of all other exercise will not get rid of fat.
Suppleness - being able to reach for the biscuit tin without putting your back out - will not burn fat on its own. However, it is an essential part of general fitness. Your body was made to move, so some bending and stretching is vitally important to keep you joints flexible and your muscles long and lean. Yoga, Pilates, t'ai chi and DANCE all achieve this and are useful for giving you a 'body awareness' [Note : that's when we look at ourselves in the mirror while performing a movement and notice a spare tire popping out somewhere - Ms B] that will help to keep you on track food-wise. After a lovely stretch session you are unlikely to come home and dive into a bag of chips.
The only type of exercise that burns up the fat and increases your stamina is AEROBIC EXERCISE, which is fast walking or jogging, cycling, rowing or DANCE.
Aerobic means 'with oxygen'. Fat burns in the presence of oxygen. Continuous body movements makes you breathe harder so more oxygen enters your bloodstream. This engages your muscles to use stored carbohydrate called glycogen as energy. Once all the glycogen is used up, you body looks for another source of energy. It can't break down your muscle tissue because you are using it at the moment, so it turns to the fat. Your fat cells are designed to store fat and release it when it is needed for energy.
Once your lipolytic (fat burning) enzymes have been stimulated enough by exercise to grudgingly release a little bit of fat into your bloodstream, this gets directed towards your muscles. There it is grabbed by the mitochondria in the muscle cells and burned up as heat & energy. [Note : i hope you're following all this - Ms B]
Hence, the more muscle yo have, the more fat you will burn. Exercise increases the amount of muscle, which in turn increases the efficiency of fat-burning mitochondria in the muscle cells. This also make your heart stronger while increasing the efficiency and capacity of your lungs.
Isn't exercise GREAT ?!?!?!?!?!?!
The Feel Good Factor
Exercise can lift depression and make you feel better about yourself because of chemical hormones called endorphins which are released in the bloodstream. Endorphins act on the brain rather like morphine, which explains why you don't feel any aches and pains while you are actually doing the exercise - it's the following day when you may feel a bit stiff and achy.
However, for all that to happen, you must be doing continuous - not vigorous - movement. People who don't exercise assume that aerobic exercise is frantic movement that you do until you collapse [Go on, admit that you did, yes? - Ms B] It's just the opposite, in fact. Vigorous exercise such as tennis, football and squash are known as 'anaerobic' (without oxygen). Although it tones the muscles and stimulates the metabolism, it doesn't produce the steady and continuous increase in the heart rate and breathing rate, so it won't burn fat in the same way.
The minute you get out of breath, you are no longer burning fat - you have gone beyond what is alarmingly knows as your 'cardio-endurance' level. This simply means that if you are puffing and panting and red in the face, you are 'without oxygen' and should slow down a bit to 'catch your breath'. Therefore, to burn fat, the exercise you do shouldn't be too fast or too slow, but moderate & continuous.
[This is why I created Cardio Dance, to supplement your regular dance classes and is known as 'conditioning class' - Ms B]
How Much Exercise do I Need?
You NEED a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each time for your workout to be effective. It takes that long for your heart rate to gradually increase and stabilize at the higher rate for the duration of the exercise until you cool down. This is what increases your metabolic rate to burn up the food you eat rather then storing it as fat. When you rev up your metabolism, it stays in that raised state for several hours after you have put your trainers away and got on with your life. You need 30 continuous minutes to achieve the necessary physiological effect that will keep your metabolism chugging away for the rest of the day. For this to happen you need a concentrated, regular programme of exercise.
You need to focus on exercise that uses the large group of muscles with minimal strain on any ligaments, bones and joints. The more muscles used, the greater the number of calories burned; the lower the perceived exertion, the longer and harder you can keep going. The best fat-burning exercise allows you to either - burn a lot of calories in a short time, or to ensure that the movements are easy enough on the body to keep burning calories over a longer period.