All these can be done either with a subscription at a gym or workout center, at a community center, or for those who prefer privacy, at home, with some equipment (not even mandatory). Keeping up with an exercise regimen is tough. It is the wagon off which one is likely to fall before ANYTHING ELSE. Thus, it is crucial that you find the magic combination that you can enjoy and will not mind coming back to, even if it may not seem like the "traditionally" recommended way of burning calories.
The ideal is that you can work up your aerobic exercise to the point where you can get your heart rate up. There are different sorts of exercise, each with its different benefits. For example, running burns a lot of calories, but is not always good for one's joints. Brisk walking is wonderful, and you can get a pedometer to measure how many steps you are going and to build this up gradually. Plus, you can engage in a conversation with a friend (human or four-legged!). Swimming is terrific for the back and for an all-over body workout, as it poses no strain on joints.
For aerobic exercise on machines, the treadmill is a good start to exercise, because it simulates the very natural walking motion. You can adjust incline and speed, or use different types of programs available on different machines. One of the best benefits of walking or treadmill exercise is that it is "weight-bearing." This is particularly good for women, to prevent loss of bone mass (see strength-training).
The elliptical machine is one of the most efficient for burning calories, with little impact on the joints. Beware if you have had back problems (e.g. herniated disk issues), as the motion of the elliptical trainer can exacerbate the problem.
Strength training or weights
There are many who cannot be bothered with weight training, believing that they can burn more calories doing aerobic exercise. Additionally, toning and muscle building or the conversion of fat to muscle, can result in a more discouraging readout on the scale, simply because muscle weighs more than fat! HOWEVER, muscle also burns more calories than other tissue and what this means is that you use up more calories even when you are sleeping, if you happen to be more toned.
The other benefit of strength training is that you gradually re-proportion your body. The weight-training is also good for warding off loss of bone mass, and eventually, the ills of osteoporosis.
It is best to embark on a strength training program with a professional at a gym. Once you know what to do, you can gradually build up your endurance and strength, using what is called proper "form." Those who know about it can do a certain amount at a home gym.
For supplementary reading: http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/exercise/weight_training/benefits.htm
Pilates is a type of training that strengthens the core of one's body, and combines strength with flexibility. Many who stick with the discipline find that their muscles are lengthened, and they are more toned. Again, this is best done is a class situation at a facility, with qualified instructors. Look at the pilates website for more information.
Yoga has been around for thousands of years, and promotes flexibility and also mental calmness together with the physical discipline. It can aid in sleep, in stress relief, and even in the symptoms for menopause.
There are some who enjoy classes, and find that the act of having signed up for the classes (which will meet at regularly scheduled times) forces them to go off to the gym. There are others who like to exercise independently, or with just one companion. Certain types of exercise are best in classes e.g. aerobics (which will provide a mixture of real aerobic activity to get your heart pumping, plus stretching and toning exercises), water aerobics (excellent for those who have to be careful not to impact their joints) which may also use different levels of weights, and, as mentioned above, Pilates.
Home or Away?
Again, some prefer to exercise at a gym. Check out community centers, some of which have quite wonderful facilities, where you can "get the job done." Others prefer to have some equipment at home e.g. a treadmill, perhaps a stationary upright or recumbent bike, and, if they room, even a single-piece weight machine (such as those seen in certain hotels). Others may choose a combination. Variety is important. So is the entertainment built into your exercise, which will help pass the time. It is worth being organized initially, to make sure you can see the TV set while you are on your stationary bike at home, or have the DVD hooked up. Or if you enjoy walking outdoors, you may want to listen to music on your iPod, or even an audio book.
A word about those TV ads you see for some abdominal machine etc. etc. Be careful about impulse buying. In the end, there is no better way for abdominal work at home then situps, with knees bent, or even to get an exercise video that targets abs. Those resistance bands are not so reliable and many of the machines look better on the TV screen than in reality.
The simple message is this: Every little bit helps. Every step you take (baby step) sure beats doing nothing. And, in combination with changes you make in your eating patterns, you CAN lose that flab. Slowly does it, and the rewards are a healthier, happier you!
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