Categorized as: Running

Dumbbells Are a Girl’s Best Friend?

Some women tend to stick to a particular fitness routine that usually does not include lifting weights like dumbbells or kettlebells. Why? There is a perception one may become “big and bulky” or resemble The Hulk. This is not necessarily the case; in fact, women lack a certain balance of hormones, testosterone and growth hormones, to put on muscle mass the way men do. By differing in hormone levels, women are naturally more lean and feminine.

It would take a long-term commitment while consistently pushing yourself to do more than recreational workouts. In addition, it’s also going to take a big nutrition push.

Maintaining a fit and strong body allows your muscles to better support you throughout the day. Muscle mass helps you prevent and avoid serious back pain, have stronger bones, and improve your posture, balance and coordination. Lifting weights has several advantages to your overall body health and strength. In this post I’ll explain why all women should seriously adopt weightlifting into their fitness routines.

You Should Use Dumbbells Because:

It Burns Calories…Fast.

Lifting high level of weight can burn up to 500 calories an hour. Additionally, this also raises your metabolism for several hours after your workout. Many see the best results when they work-out a variety of muscles and minimize their rest time between sets. Ultimately, what you eat is the most important thing when it comes to weight loss. Weight training when paired with a healthy diet is the most effective method for dropping pounds.

Many people are looking for new equipment that takes up less space but has all the benefits of a traditional dumbbell. If you live in a small apartment or simply just don’t have the space, a few pairs of dumbbells are a space-saver that can be stored under the bed, or in the closet.

 Gain Muscle…Ditch the Bulk

In many cases, weightlifting does not cause a woman to “get bulky”. In fact, it allows them to tone their body by becoming leaner. The muscles you workout have stronger and thicker fibers. What does that mean? It means it enhances performance in endurance sports such as rowing, cycling, or running.

Steve Commando explains the importance of muscles in the blog post “Why Women Should Lift Weights.” While explaining why muscle is functional he explains “Got kids? Then, chances are, you’ve had to do your fair share of lifting, carrying and squatting. Ever moved house[s]? How did it feel to move the TV or big cumbersome pieces of furniture? Do you buckle under the weight of the weekly groceries?” I feel this is a perfect explanation of how often women rely on our muscles to conduct daily routines. By focusing on improving muscle strength, you can make daily challenges easier.

Prevent Injuries

Protect your bones and prevent injuries as you age by weightlifting. Starting with dumbbells is a perfect way to slowly increasing strength and allowing you move forward. Today, more women are at risk of developing Osteoarthritis (OA) making it important that women incorporate strength training into their fitness routines. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Studies show that weakness of the muscles surrounding the knee is associated with OA, especially in women, and makes the pain and stiffness worse after onset. Strengthening exercises for thigh muscles are important in reducing the risk.” Maintaining strong muscles through weight training can also potentially decrease your chances of certain diseases. These diseases may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Heart Disease

Strength training such as lifting dumbbells is important for cardiac health because heart disease risk is lower when the body is leaner. Many people feel self-confident as a result from their efforts. Some believe this plays a significant role in reducing symptoms of depression which has a strong impact on their overall quality of life. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “One 12-month study conducted on postmenopausal women at Tufts University demonstrated 1% gains in hip and spine bone density, 75% increases in strength and 13% increases in dynamic balance with just two days per week of progressive strength training. The control group had losses in bone, strength, and balance. Strength training programs can also have a profound effect on reducing risk for falls, which translates to fewer fractures.” Researchers have found that diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness in older adults. Lifting weights and strength training is found to have dramatically improved glucose control in a way that is comparable to taking diabetes medication.

Improves Posture & Coordination

Many people feel they have no real control over their posture and are unsure of how to correct years of neglect. Your posture comes from a variety of muscles surrounding your spine and strength of your mid-line. Many women focus on their efforts on their stomach area. Perhaps you want to be “bikini ready,” but in order to achieve a neutral spine and good posture, it’s important to develop all of these areas equally.

It’s a fact that as people age, bones become relatively fragile. Having poor balance and could contribute to fractures or broken bones. A seemingly minor fall can actually become severe. These fractures can result in disability and, in some cases, can be fatal. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Strengthening exercises, when done properly and through the full range of motion, increase a person’s flexibility and balance, which decrease the likelihood and severity of falls. One study in New Zealand conducted with women 80 years of age and older showed a 40% reduction in falls with simple strength and balance training.” Fitness Town carries a large variety of equipment designed for specific injuries and rehabilitation.

Weight Management & Sleep Improvement

Weight lifting can be considered as crucial to weight control; because individuals who have
more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. The higher the metabolism rate, the faster your body’s muscle tissues will consume calories.

Alternatively, people who exercise regularly are more likely to increase their sleep quality. You may find yourself falling asleep more quickly, sleeping deeply, awaken less often, and sleeping longer.

Too many women leave weight lifting to the boys; yet, it’s exactly what they should be doing. Let’s face it, strength is the new sexy for your body’s appearance and overall health. So get out your dusty dumbbells you have kicking around or find more options to mix up your weekly workouts to boost your health, trim down and firm up without the bulk.

Author: Marissa Jesko

Marissa Jesko is currently the marketing assistant for Fitness Town based in British Columbia and we thank Marissa for her contribution to our blog!


What is the Best Way to Lose Body (belly) Fat?

This is probably one of the most popular questions we get day in and day out, month in and month out – you get the point! There is not one “best way” to lose fat. Each person responds differently to different training programs and different scenarios, however personal trainers can apply different principles and techniques when designing their clients’ programs.
Exercises that incorporate multiple muscle groups and are weight bearing (functional training) burn more calories per minute and are therefore better suited for fat loss than non-weight-bearing activities such as yoga and walking that do not use many muscles.
It is often assumed and maybe a myth that low-intensity exercises such as yoga and walking are good for burning fat. However, since the number of calories used per minute is much greater at a moderate to high intensity exercises than at a lower intensity exercises, the total number of fat calories expended during a moderate- to high-intensity workout is much greater than it is during a low- intensity workout of the same duration!
Much of the fat from adipose tissue (which is primarily used during exercise) is lost in the hours following exercise. The amount of fat lost after a workout depends on the exercise intensity during the workout. Interval training (exercise at a moderate to high intensity with short rests in between sets) is a great way to decrease overall body fat.
Both strength training (weights, machines) and endurance/aerobic training (running) have been shown to decrease body fat percentage, however aerobic training (swimming, walking, running) have a greater impact on fat loss than strength training alone but a combination of endurance and strength training results in more fat loss than either exercise done alone.
Overweight does not necessarily equal unhealthy. There are actually plenty of overweight people who are in excellent health! However it’s the fat in the abdominal cavity, the belly fat, that causes the biggest issues. If you have a lot of excess fat around your waistline, even if you’re not very heavy or overweight then you should take some steps to get rid of it.
There are actually a few proven strategies that have been shown to target the fat in the belly area more than other areas of the body.
My top 5 (evidence-based) ways to lose belly fat:

1. Don’t Eat (added) Sugar and Avoid Sugar-Sweetened Beverages!
Added sugar in anything is extremely unhealthy! Sugar is half glucose, half fructose… and fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount. When you eat a lot of refined sugar, the liver gets flooded with fructose, and is forced to turn it all into fat. Studies have shown that excess sugar, mostly due to the large amounts of fructose can lead to increased accumulation of fat in the belly Liquid sugar (soda pop) is even worse in this regard. Liquid calories do not make you full in the same way as eating something, so when you drink sugar-sweetened beverages, you end up eating way more total calories then what you would eat! An alarming thing is studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages are linked to a 60% increased risk of obesity in children – so please remember this the next time your child asks for a pop!

2. Eating More Protein Helps to Reduce Belly Fat!
Protein is the most important macronutrient when it comes to losing weight – bar none! It has been shown to reduce food cravings by up to 60% and boost your metabolism by 80-100 calories per day, as well you eat up to 400-500 fewer calories per day!! If your goal is to lose weight or “belly fat” then adding protein to your meals is the single most effective change you can do. Not only will protein help you lose weight but it can also help you avoid re-gaining the weight you have lost if you ever decide to abandon your weight loss efforts!

3. Cut (refined) Carbs From Your Diet!
Carbohydrate restriction is a very effective way to lose fat! Simply put when people cut carbs, their appetite goes down and over time studies have now shown that low-carb diets lead to 2-3 times more weight loss than low-fat diets. Just avoiding the refined carbs (white breads, pastas, etc) should be sufficient, especially if you keep your protein high. There are also numerous studies comparing low-carb and low-fat diets, showing that low-carb diets specifically target the fat in the belly and around the organs and liver which obviously is very important (see above).
4. Eat Foods High in Fiber!
It is often claimed that eating plenty of fiber can help with weight loss. This is very true, however it’s important to keep in mind that not all fiber is created equal! Viscous fibers (fibers that bind water and form a thick gel that “sits” in the gut) can have an effect on your weight loss.
This gel can dramatically slow down the movement of food through your stomach and slow down the digestion and absorption of nutrients which results in a feeling of fullness and reduced appetite. By just adding an additional 10 – 14 grams of fiber per day to your diet you may decrease your calorie intake up to 10% which could lead to 5lbs lost over a few months! As well eating an extra 10 grams of soluble fiber per day may lead to reducing harmful “belly fat”. The best way to get more fiber in your diet is to eat a lot of plant foods like vegetables and fruit. Many different beans or legumes are also a good source, as well as some cereals like oats (without the added sugar!).

5. Aerobic Exercise is (very) Effective at Reducing Belly Fat!
Aerobic exercise is important for various reasons and obviously there is a ton of health benefits linked to aerobic exercise, however it may be the best for reducing “belly fat!” However… keep in mind that I’m not talking about abdominal exercises here. Spot reduction (losing fat in one spot) or doing endless amount of sit-ups is not possible and will not make you lose fat from the belly. Aerobic exercise has been shown to cause major reductions in belly fat in numerous studies. (see above)

The Top 10 Fitness Trends of 2016

1. Wearable technology: Introduced just a few years ago, wearable technology includes fitness trackers, smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices. Examples include fitness and activity trackers like those from Misfit, Garmin, Jawbone, and Fitbit.

2. Body weight training: Typical body weight training programs use minimal equipment, which makes it a very inexpensive way to exercise effectively. Most people think of body weight training as being limited to push-ups and pull-ups, but it can be much more than that. Body weight training is a trend to watch for the future.

3. High-intensity interval training (HIIT): High-intensity interval training typically involves short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a short period of rest or recovery and typically lasts 30-60minutes to perform.) Despite the warnings by some health and fitness professionals of potentially increased injury rates using high-intensity interval training, this form of exercise remains popular in gyms all over the world.

4. Strength training: Strength training remains popular in all sectors of the health and fitness industry and for many different kinds of clients.  Today, however, there are many other individuals (men and women, young and old, children, and patients with a stable chronic disease) whose main focus is on using weight training to improve or maintain strength.

5. Educated, certified, and experienced fitness professionals: This is a trend that continues now that there are accreditations offered by national third-party accrediting organizations for health and fitness and clinical exercise program professional. As the economy continues to grow and as the market for fitness professionals becomes even more crowded and more competitive, interest in some degree of regulation either from within the industry or from external sources (i.e., government) seems to be expanding.

6. Personal training: As more professional personal trainers are educated and become certified (see trend no. 5), they are increasingly more accessible in all sectors of the health and fitness industry. Personal training has been in a top 10 trend for the past 9 years and will continue to be a vital part of the health and fitness industry.

7. Functional fitness: Replicating actual physical activities someone might do as a function of his or her daily routine, functional fitness is defined as using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to enhance someone’s ability to perform activities of daily living.

8. Fitness programs for older adults: The highly active older adult (the athletic old) can be targeted by commercial and community-based organizations to participate in more rigorous exercise programs including strength training and team sports. The “baby boom generation” is now aging into retirement, and because they may have more discretionary money than their younger counterparts, fitness clubs should capitalize on this exponentially growing market. Fitness programs for older adults will remain a strong trend for 2016.

9. Exercise and weight loss: The combination of exercise and weight loss is a trend toward incorporating weight loss programs that emphasize caloric restriction with a sensible exercise program.The combination of exercise and diet is essential for weight loss maintenance and can improve compliance to caloric restriction diets and in particular weight loss programs. Most of the well-publicized diet plans integrate exercise in addition to the daily routine of providing prepared meals to their clients.

10. Yoga: Yoga comes in a variety of forms, including Power Yoga, Yogalates, and Bikram Yoga (the one done in hot and humid environments)Instructional tapes and books are abundant, as are the growing numbers of certifications for the many yoga formats. Yoga seems to reinvent and refresh itself every year, making it a more attractive form of exercise.