Published Fitness Facts

Muscle is what gives tone and shape to your body and helps you look great in a bathing suit. But there’s endless confusion about it. People always want to know: Does muscle weigh more than fat? How much should you put on? What’s the best way to do it?

As you might have guessed just from a cursory observation at the gym, not everyone puts on muscle at the same rate. While some people seem to just look at a dumbbell and their biceps grow, other people known as “hard gainers” have to work doubly hard for every improvement.

These individual variations have a lot to do with a person’s genetic distribution of muscle fiber types. There are two basic types of muscle: Type 1 fibers and Type 2 fibers. Type 1 fibers (predominant in marathon runners and also known as “slow twitch”) are red muscle and dense with blood vessels, which carry tons of oxygen and can therefore sustain aerobic activity. The Type 2 fibers are called “fast twitch” and they’re made for short, intense bursts of energy, such as lifting weights rather than running a 10K.

The Type 2 muscles are the ones that grow, so when you’re lifting weights you’re basically training those muscles. The more you have of them to begin with, the easier it is to put on muscle mass. It’s probably no accident that marathoners become marathoners or power lifters become power lifters — each picks a sport that makes the most of the type of muscle fiber that’s predominant in their bodies.

So what does this mean for you, the average person wanting to tone and shape up? The best way to gain more muscle is by doing an activity that makes those Type 2 fibers grow, and that means weight training. The weight training can be in the form of actual weights (dumbbells, weight machines), or by using resistance bands or even your own body weight (push ups, pull ups). But the key is to push your muscles to the point of fatigue — the point when you can’t lift anymore. When that happens, tiny tears occur in the muscle, and when they repair themselves during the time you rest, they build new muscle and get bigger.

How much strength training it takes to put on muscle is varies enormously from person to person. Most experts recommend starting with enough weight so that you can only do 8 to12 repetitions. If you can’t quite do 8, then you need to use less weight. Do two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions three times a week. Coupled with the right diet, you’ll be on your way to a taut body.

Diet is also key to putting on muscle. One of the biggest myths is that protein by itself will make your muscles grow. Eating protein is like putting gas in your car. Your car won’t run without it — but merely putting gas in the tank doesn’t make the car take off. You have to turn on the ignition and put your foot on the gas pedal. It’s the same with muscle. Weight training is the gas pedal — it’s the impetus for making your muscles grow. Protein provides the fuel for them to repair themselves after a workout and get stronger.

Many women fear that weight training will make them bulky. If you train with weights, however, you’re not going to look like the women who compete in bodybuilding contests. Those women train for a living, not just an hour every other day. Not to mention that many of them are often are chemically assisted. A woman doesn’t normally make enough testosterone to get that big, so rest assured, strength training will make you strong, toned and shapely, not huge.

Another great thing about building muscle is that it can actually help you lose body fat. Why? Because calories and fat are primarily burned in little power centers of the muscle cell called mitochondria. The more muscle you have, the more of these fat burning factories your body has, so putting on muscle is actually one of your best weapons in the battle of the bulge.

And one more thing: Muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat. (Remember, a pound of feathers and a pound of bricks both weigh a pound.) But muscle is more dense than fat. It looks tighter, firmer, and healthier on your body than the same number of pounds of fat.

Fitness Myths: Separate Fact From Fiction
More on this in Health & Fitness

Aerobic exercise: What 30 minutes a day can do for your body
Exercise regularly: A healthy habit for healthy aging
Medical Encyclopedia

You’ve probably heard of fad diets — for instance, eating nothing but grapefruit for a month to lose 10 pounds. The fitness world has plenty of fads, too. Even the most fitness-savvy can be duped by fitness fiction. When the media reports misleading information, it can spread like wildfire before being disputed by fitness experts. Trouble is, once a rumor gets out, it’s hard to squelch.

Following outdated or unproven fitness advice may keep you from getting the maximum benefit from your fitness routine. You may even do yourself more harm than good. Here’s a look at some common misconceptions.

Fitness fibs

Go for the burn. Remember that saying, “No pain, no gain”? Not true. Exercise shouldn’t hurt. A little muscle soreness when you do something new isn’t unusual, but soreness doesn’t equal pain. You don’t need to make your muscles burn to know they’re working. If it hurts, stop doing it.

Aerobic exercise is all that matters. Not true. In fact, a good, balanced exercise program includes flexibility training (stretching) and strength training.

Women who strength train will bulk up. Your goal isn’t to become a bodybuilder — you just want to improve your strength and muscle tone. But you don’t want the bulky look of pumped-up muscles. Don’t worry. Women generally don’t have enough testosterone — the hormone that can develop bulky muscles in men — to make that happen.

Exercise has to be strenuous to be beneficial. You don’t have to push yourself to extremes to get the benefits of exercise. In fact, if you exercise excessively, you run the risk of overtraining. Alternate hard workout days with easier ones. And don’t forget to rest. Take two to three days off or perform less intense exercise — for example, walk instead of jog or run — to recuperate from especially difficult activities.

Going to a gym is the only way to get fit. Not so. Any movement is good. You can fit a considerable amount of physical activity into your life by doing things you enjoy. Dance, ride a bike or take a brisk walk on a nature trail. Plan a home workout using a fitness tape. Lift some hand weights or water jugs while you watch your favorite TV show. It all counts. And if you’re short of time, break it down. Walk for 10 minutes, three times a day, and you’ll get the health benefits of a 30-minute walk each day.

Abdominal exercises will flatten your stomach. Sorry. Abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups (crunches), are important for strengthening those muscles and improving posture. But muscle is muscle and fat is fat. If you have excess fat in your abdomen, you won’t be able to see the muscles, no matter how many crunches you do. There’s no such thing as spot reducing — losing weight in one specially designated area. To lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. In short, strive for a healthy weight.

Aerobic exercise will help you lose weight by speeding up your metabolism. Not entirely true. Your metabolism — the rate at which you burn calories — does speed up during your workout and may remain elevated for a short time afterward. But it doesn’t stay that way all day. You won’t more efficiently burn the calories from a double cheeseburger, fries and milkshake later that evening. However, if you add strength training to your aerobic workout, you’ll build calorie-burning muscle, which will magnify your metabolic benefits over the long term.

Exercise makes you hungry. Fortunately, the opposite can be true. Intense exercise actually can suppress your appetite, at least for a while. Exercise also helps you control your appetite by making you more aware of how your body feels. You can focus on giving your body only what it needs — not more than it needs.

You can eat whatever you want if you exercise enough. Not true. If you eat more calories than you burn off in a day, you’ll gain weight. A good fitness regimen includes a sensible balance between getting enough exercise and eating right.

Exercise keeps you up all night. As long as you don’t exercise within three to four hours of your bedtime, the opposite is true. Exercise contributes to a more restful sleep and makes you more alert in your daily life.

By using hand and ankle weights while you jog, you can do strength training and aerobic conditioning at the same time. If you want aerobic exercise, then jog. If you want strength, then use resistance exercises. Don’t combine them. The momentum that weights generate when you perform aerobic activities can stress tissue and lead to joint and muscle problems.

The sure bet

No magic pill or miracle-working exercise device will help you with your fitness goals. The truth is you have to be dedicated, and that takes hard work. Be wary of gimmicks or fads.
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From :

Weight Training May Add Years

Muscular fitness does more than keep a person looking good. According to recent research from The Cooper Institute, individuals with moderate and high levels of muscular fitness are at a lower risk for mortality—regardless of their cardiorespiratory fitness level.

Participating in the study were 9,105 men and women, ages 20 to 82, who had completed at least one medical exam at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. To determine low, moderate and high levels of muscular fitness, researchers looked at measures of upper and lower body strength and abdominal muscular endurance.

Age, total cholesterol and triglycerides were lower in men and women in the high muscular fitness category than those in the low or moderate categories. Those in the high muscular fitness group were less likely to be current smokers and had better cardiovascular fitness profiles compared to those in the low or moderate groups. In addition, those with high levels of strength had better functional capacity and were healthier overall.

A pleasant surprise: Individuals with moderate muscular fitness had a mortality risk similar to those with higher muscular fitness, said Shannon FitzGerald, Ph.D., lead author of the paper, which was published in Journal of Physical Activity and Health. More studies are necessary to confirm this finding, she said.

According to FitzGerald, resistance training programs designed to improve muscular fitness are important in order to lower the risk for deaths from all causes.