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Q. I’ve heard that lifting weights is an important part of an exercise program when you’re trying to lose weight. But how does weight lifting help with weight loss, isn’t it really just a matter of calories in versus calories out? It seems like maybe I should focus my time and energy on cardiovascular exercise.

A. As a result of weight lifting you are increasing lean muscle mass which directly impacts your body composition as well as resting metabolic rate. An increase in lean muscle mass is associated with an increase resting metabolic rate (RMR) because muscle burns more calories than fat. Increasing RMR increases the efficiency in which your body burns calories at rest in order to maintain vital body processes and accounts for 65-75% of your total daily caloric expenditure.

Q. I can't afford a gym membership so I decided to walk for exercise. I had awful foot pain and found out I have a bad case of plantar fasciatis in my left foot. The foot doctor recommends swimming and biking. Living in RI that isn't possible right now. What can I do to exercise and lose weight and not hurt my foot for little to no cost. Help, I am tired being overweight and tired!

A. I would suggest some type of physical therapy for the plantar fasciitis. After the pain subsides, seek a reputable shoe dealer for a proper fitting, as this could be a cause of the problem as well. A home exercise program consisting of both cardiovascular activity as well as resistance training will benefit you as well. Equipment (such as dumb bells, resistance bands, ankle weights and stationary bikes) can be purchased as yard sales and thrift stores in order to keep the cost down, another option is to use objects around the house as resistance training tools (examples: cans of soup; empty gallons of milk filled with water or sand, or a laundry basket filled with objects)or even your own body weight. It is also important to stretch daily, with focus on your ankles and calves, which will help alleviate some of the soreness caused by the plantar fasciitis.

Q. Is it true that the older a woman gets, the harder it is to keep weight off? I am very active but notice that it is harder for me to keep the weight down. I will be 45 in July and this part year I have put on 20 pounds and can not seem to lose it. I exercise and I am always on the go training with search and rescue. Any advice would be appreciated.

A. As you age, your body's metabolism slows down. This can be offset by doing resistance exercises such as weight lifting. Weight lifting increases lean muscle mass which directly impacts your body composition as well as resting metabolic rate. An increase in lean muscle mass is directly related to an increase resting metabolic rate (RMR) because muscle burns more calories than fat. Increasing RMR increases the efficiency in which your body burns calories at rest in order to maintain vital body processes and accounts for 65-75% of your total daily caloric expenditure.

Q. I started in November at a gym on the machines to strengthen my back due to arthritis. I can't use the treadmill because of previous foot problems. When I go on the bike I get terrible foot cramps after a few minutes. What due you suggest for cardio other than the treadmill that would not cramp my feet?

A. I would recommend cardiovascular conditioning of swimming, taking an aqua-aerobics classes or even just walking in the shallow end of the pool for 30-60 minutes, either continuously or intermittently. In addition to cardiovascular activity it would be beneficial to begin a resistance training program. A well rounded resistance training program should be done 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days, consisting of 1-2 sets of 10-12 repetitions of 8-10 exercises. It would be recommended to keep the weight light in order to maintain proper body mechanics while strengthening your whole body and not just the problem area.

For programming options and further education regarding arthritis and exercise visit the Arthritis Foundation website at http://www.arthritis.org

Q. What is the best exercise for weight loss?

A. In order to achieve weight loss, a successful exercise program should consist of both cardiovascular activity and resistance training.

Cardiovascular activity utilizes large muscle groups in a rhythmic motion and should be done 5-7 days a week for 30-60 minutes while working at a moderate intensity (generally 65% to 85% of your age predicted max heart rate *). At the beginning it is important to focus on duration, rather than intensity, in order to optimize caloric expenditure, (per the American College of Sports Medicine, daily caloric expenditure from physical activity should be more than 300 kcals). It is important to find a cardiovascular exercise that you enjoy doing because it will help you stick with the activity. The best exercise to help you lose weight should be an exercise you like doing. Great exercises that get your heart pumping and burning calories include: running, jogging, swimming, biking, aerobics classes, cross-country skiing, and jumping rope. Helpful hint: Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation.

Resistance training should be done 2-3 days per week on non-consecutive days. A well rounded program consists of 1-2 sets of 10-12 repetitions. You should be performing 8-10 exercises for the major muscle groups. It is suggested that you start with machines rather than free weights in order to develop proper body mechanics and get a feel for the movements. It is also helpful to remember that by the end of your second set of exercises, if your muscles do not feel slightly fatigued it may be time to increase the weight.
Helpful hint: Maintain a normal breathing pattern, holding your breath can increase your blood pressure.

Weight loss is a benefit of exercise, but there are other benefits as well, including increased energy, increase in metabolism, and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes. By incorporating physical activity into your daily routine you are making a choice to change your lifestyle.

*Age Predicted Max Heart Rate 220-age
** Prior to engaging in an exercise program it is important to obtain medical clearance from your physician.

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