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FAQ about exercise and health

Exercise Health

Written by:
Birgitte Nymann ( www.nymanns.dk )
Author, speaker and educator within Exercise, health, nutrition and motivation. Concept – and seminar developer at Pro Academy, Denmark. Educated and trained in sport from University of Copenhagen.

Abdominal workouts will not make the layer of fat disappear, but your abdomen can easily be visibly reduced if the abdominal muscles are exercised correctly. If the inner part of the abdominal muscles is not exercised correctly, your abdomen will sag. You cannot slim down at specific points, that is, you cannot focus on exercising specific areas and reduce the layer of fat there. Fat can be "removed" by doing fitness training and eating less than you burn off.

Why do you put on weight when you start exercising?

It is often seen that you put on weight in the beginning when you start exercising. And it can be demotivating if one of your exercise goals is to lose weight. If your weight is increased it is seldom because you put on fat, but far more often because you accumulate more carbohydrates (sugar) in your body in the beginning. For each gram of sugar you accumulate three grams of water. That can mean a total weight increase of one kilo. In addition, more water can be accumulated because your muscles are exercised and get a little "worn". When your muscles are sore it will increase fluid accumulation. Also, your body will start producing more blood very quickly to meet the increased exercise requirements. And you may quickly put on 1-2 litres of blood if you go from inactive to active. Only after about 6-8 weeks of regular exercising will your muscles start developing due to the increased loads. If you do hard workout, you may put on quite a few kilos of muscle mass over the following weeks and months. If you exercise moderately, the muscle build-up will usually stop after 3-4 months. If you exercise lightly, the muscle build-up will stop again quite soon, and the muscle mass will be maintained through exercising.

Why do you put on weight when you stop smoking?

Smoking supplies your body with so much nicotine that the energy metabolism is increased by 10-20%. If you smoke 15 cigarettes or the like per day, it will increase your basic metabolism by an average of about 10% per day. When you stop smoking, you often put on 10-20 kilos but that is no reason for not stopping smoking because healthwise, it is much better to weigh 10-20 kilos too much than to smoke and weigh less. However, a non-existing supply of nicotine resulting from smoking cessation will, at the most, account for a weight increase of 3 kilos. An increased calorie intake will account for the rest. When cigarettes are given up you often replace them by sweets and chocolate to get the effect of "having something in your mouth". If you are able to refrain from that and go for a walk every evening instead of watching tv, you will not put on weight when you stop smoking.

Is it better to exercise in the morning or in the evening?

You should choose to exercise at the time of day when you feel like exercising. Some people find that exercising in the morning on an empty stomach increases fat burning, but if you are not "an early riser", you probably will not exercise as hard and efficiently as when you are "awake", and you therefore waste some of your time. Measurable differences in fat burning on an empty stomach and in the morning, as opposed to other times of the day, are microscopic, so you should invest your time for exercising when you think best. That will produce by far the best result.

Do you get big muscles from eating big steaks?

You do not get big muscles from eating big steaks - no matter how big the steaks are or how often you eat them. What makes your muscles bigger is doing workout - especially heavy workout - and then eating steaks. Steaks and other sources of protein provide building blocks for your body and for the building up of muscles, if you have trained your muscles to be susceptible to development.

Why do men lose weight more easily than women?

the waist. The reason is that fat stored on the abdomen is released to the bloodstream more easily and thus burned more easily. However, that also increases the risk of developing heart diseases - making it considerably unhealthier to have fat stored on your abdomen than on your posterior.

Why do I often feel cold just after exercising?

When you get cold, even feel cold or get goose bumps at the end of an exercise session or after, you are dehydrated, that is, your body requires water. During exercising, heat from your working muscles is transported by the aid of water to your skin where it is transformed into sweat. If there is too little fluid in your body, it will start "economising" on the water so that less water and blood will be transported to your skin. The skin then feels less warm. Another economising mechanism consists in the sweat glands in your skin contracting, producing the small bumps on your skin called goose bumps. What is seen in your skin are the small muscles and when they are contracted, your skin will give off less water. That is why you get goose bumps when you need water. One or both signs often indicate dehydration, unless the air is cold where you exercise. That may also be the reason why you get cold.

How much should you drink when exercising?

How much you should drink when exercising to cover you body's fluid requirements depends on many factors. The nature of the activity is decisive. Jogging, cycling, aerobic, rowing, cross-country skiing and similar activities require lots of energy for moving, which makes you sweat a lot and lose a lot of fluid that has to be replaced in your body so that it can work at its best. Activities such as yoga, workout and some kinds of dancing are not as energy-demanding and consequently produce considerably less sweat. During and after such activities, you therefore do not need to drink that much. The rate of stomach evacuation, that is, the rate by which water gets from your stomach to your intestines where it is absorbed in your bloodstream, is 2½ dl per 15 minutes. This means that at maximum 2½ dl of water can be moved from your stomach to your intestines per quarter of an hour of exercising - no matter how hard you exercise. It is therefore not useful to drink more than 2½ dl per 15 minutes, it will just make the water slosh around in your stomach and possibly make you uncomfortable. Some activities such as jogging can, however, easily make you lose 2-3 l of water per hour, depending on the temperature and how fast you jog, and it is not possible to keep up with replacing the loss. To ensure an optimum hydration of your body during activity, you need to drink enough during the hours preceding exercising. If you are in deficiency already before jogging, for instance, your performance will be considerably reduced. The rate of stomach evacuation can be further reduced if nutrients such as salts and sugar are added to the water. So, if you are going to exercise long you should consider whether the most important thing to do is to drink as much water as possible or whether you should also get some salt and sugar so that you will not risk getting a sugar level that is too low.

Do you eat more when you eat fast?

If you belong to those whose motto is: "I must hurry to eat before I am full", then you probably also belong to those who eat too fast. Eating too fast has some adverse effects: It takes a little time for your stomach to register that food has entered it so the feeling of satiety is delayed when you eat fast. You therefore often eat more than you would otherwise have done before you feel that you have had enough to eat. If you eat too fast, even though you do not eat more than you need, your food is not chewed thoroughly enough. That makes heavy demands on the digestion in your stomach and intestines, which may result in a puffed out stomach and shooting pains in your abdominal region.

How do I increase my metabolism?

Many people explain their weight increase by saying that their metabolism is low, but that condition is actually established with very few people who may use it as an excuse for their weight increase. Metabolism is two things: The basic metabolism being the amount of energy needed to keep your body alive when lying still, and the energy metabolism being the amount of energy needed for moving. It is difficult to increase the basic metabolism, but it can be done by increasing your muscle mass and eating coarse food. By comparison it is far easier to increase the energy metabolism by moving more. Any extra moving counts in the energy score and the more energy you use, the more you can eat without putting on weight, or the more you will lose weight if you keep eating the same amount of food.

Does exercising once a week do any good?

All exercising is worth your while. 5 minutes a week is better than no minutes etc. But if you want a marked fitness improvement you need to put a strain on your body regularly and for a long period of time. As a precautionary measure against diseases, it is recommended that you exercise 30 minutes a day. But that is light exercising only. If you want to achieve real fitness improvement, more energy or a considerable weight loss etc., it is recommended that you exercise 2-3 times a week in addition to your daily routines: going to work, going down to shop, using the stairs, biking to the baker's etc. What is most important is to remember that any exercise is worth your while - and that having time only once a week is no excuse. Exercising once a week compared to none is a 100% improvement so of course it is worth your while!

Can you exercise when you have a temperature?

In principle you can do whatever you feel like. But it is not good for your body to exercise when you have a temperature. You develop a temperature when your body's thermostat does not work properly. When you exercise, your working muscles produce heat that has to be transported from the muscles in order for them to work at their best. If you exercise when you have a temperature, the heat cannot as easily be transported from your muscles, and you risk doing more damage than good to your body. It corresponds to go on driving a car where the cooling system does not work. The car will end up breaking down.

No pain no gain - does it have to hurt to do good?

No pain no gain. This is often the motto of exercise freaks, but it is not the whole truth. It does not have to hurt to do good, but on the other hand, it does not have to be easy to be good. Exercising feeling pain or just below your pain threshold can give a poor result below what was to be expected from your efforts, because you risk getting overload injuries in the long run. When your muscles are completely acidified and aching, the nervous system does not work properly, and you will therefore not be able to do your movements 100% correctly. And exercising performed incorrectly produces a poor result of your exercising and at the same time, repeated, incorrect movements may cause injuries that are difficult to get rid of. However, the question is to exercise as hard as possible performing the correct technique. That is, you should stop making a movement when you feel that you are not doing it quite right. Take a break and then strain your muscles again. That will ensure you the best result in the long run.

Do you have to exercise at least half an hour to start losing weight?

Any exercising is useful when it comes to losing weight, but it is true that the longer you make your exercising sessions, the higher will the fat-burning rate be relative to the total energy consumption. But less is also very fine if you do not have the time to exercise half an hour every time. Any exercising counts.

Is low-intensive exercising preferable for slimming purposes?
That low-intensive exercising should increase fat burning is a great misunderstanding. Fat burning being great at low intensity only works in theory, not in practice. The lower your pulse is when exercising, the higher the fat-burning rate, and the harder you exercise, the lower the fat-burning rate, but when you work hard you use considerably more energy than when you work lightly. And even if the fat burning expressed in percentages of the total energy consumption is lower than when you work lightly, the amount of fat used is more or less the same if you work for the same length of time. After hard work, post-exercise fat burning is also greater and even more calories are used, whereas post-exercise fat burning is very low or nil after low-intensive work. All in all it therefore pays off better in the long run if you exercise hard rather than lightly. If you have not done any exercise for a long time, though, you should start lightly, primarily to avoid overload and to be able to keep going for a while.

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