Why Tracking Waist Circumference Should Feature in Any Weight Loss Program

This article was contributed by Lisa Ball.

When your aim is weight loss, seeing the pounds come off when you get on the scales each week is usually the focus. However, having a set of bathroom scales, it can be a temptation to weigh yourself more frequently; it is not uncommon for people to step on them daily. Doing so can be futile to your efforts though. Rarely would you see any significant loss of fat mass from one day to the next and owing to differences in fluid balance from day-to-day, your weight fluctuates for this reason. Seeing your weight creep up by half a pound from the previous day can be enough to dishearten anyone, making you question whether the changes you have made to your diet and activity levels have been worth it. While the answer to this is that they have been absolutely worth it, as you’re in it for the long haul to change your lifestyle for the better for good, this can be hard to see when you are fixated on the scales. This is just one reason why measuring waist circumference is beneficial when your sights are set on weight loss.

Abdominal fat and chronic disease risk

Losing pounds is only part of the story; losing inches is the other. Not only does loss of inches round your waist improve your appearance, but doing so offers significant benefits to your health. There is a wealth of evidence that supports the fact that the amount of fat stored around the abdomen is an indicator of someone’s risk of obesity related diseases; people with an “apple shape” are more at risk than those with a “pear shape” who store more of their fat around their hips and thighs. Type 2 diabetes, raised blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, not to mention mortality, are all higher in the presence of abdominal obesity. The Nurses’ Health Study, which involved more than 44,000 participants, showed that after 16 years those who had a waist circumference of at least 35 inches were twice as likely to die from heart disease or cancer as those with a measurement of less than 28 inches. This research also demonstrated that this held when their body mass index was the same and even when participants had what would be classed as a healthy BMI (less than 25Kg/m2), they were more likely to have died from heart disease if their waist circumference was larger. The risk was three times higher in healthy weight women with a waist measurement greater than 35 inches.

Metabolic differences of fat

So what is it about abdominal fat that makes it so detrimental to health? The answer lies in the fact that the fat around the abdomen is metabolically different to that deposited on the hips, thighs or elsewhere in the body. Abdominal fat is more metabolically active, so releases hormones and inflammatory agents which have a negative impact on levels of harmful LDL cholesterol, triglycerides (another type of fat which is detrimental to the health of the heart and circulation), blood sugars and blood pressure. Therefore not only are over a third of Americans now obese, but the majority also have abdominal obesity, explaining why heart disease remains the number one killer and why rates of type 2 diabetes are soaring. While the complications of diabetes, which include blindness, nerve damage and erectile dysfunction, can be managed with treatment, if left unchecked they can significantly impair quality of life. Seeking to lower waist circumference as part of any weight management program can, however, help to prevent the co-morbidities associated with obesity.

Aiming to reduce waist circumference

According to the American Heart Association, women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches and men with a measurement greater than 40 inches are at increased risk of health problems. Aiming to bring your waist circumference below these cut off points is therefore the ideal situation. However, if your starting measurement is way off the mark, it is important to take a realistic approach. Just as you might set yourself small goals of aiming to lose a pound of weight a week, apply the same rule when it comes to losing inches from your waist. As with weight, people lose inches at difference rates; measure your waist weekly or fortnightly and set a feasible target based on your own loss.

Improve Running Performance with a Strong Core

While watching the Olympic runners this summer, I was impressed by their overall strength, muscle development, and amazing abs. As they propelled themselves forward, their legs moved almost independently below a stable center that had minimal movement. There was very little power wasted through side-to-side, up-and-down, or back-and-forth motion. Comparing their incredibly efficient and elegant form with that of the amateur runner, what are the Olympians doing differently? At least one of the main differences is the development of a high level of core stability through strengthening of the primary core muscles.

Primary Core Muscles

The primary core muscles that stabilize the pelvis and lumbar spine are:

Obliques: These muscles rotate your torso and help support your center during movement.

Rectus Abdominis: The ‘six-pack’ muscles that flex or curl the trunk of the body and run vertically down the abdomen.

Transversus Abdominis: The deepest of the abdominal muscles, which wrap horizontally around your center, provide support during movement.

Psoas Major & Iliacus: These are the hip flexor muscles, which lift the thigh toward the abdomen and limit excess motion of the hip joint.

Erector Spinae: This is a group of muscle pairs that run vertically the length of your back near the spine. These muscles support the spine and allow it to extend backwards.

The repeated pounding of running can cause lower back pain, particularly when you have weak abdominal or lower back muscles. Strengthening all the core muscles can help runners avoid this problem, and also can improve their running efficiency.

Exercises for Core Stability:

Supine bent-knee raises: Lie on your back with knees bent, arms along your sides with palms on the floor, abs contracted. Keeping your knee bent, lift one knee at a time toward your chest. Hold for count of five. Return that leg to starting position. Repeat this move slowly 10 times on each leg. Focus on keeping your abs contracted and your pelvis and back stable as you move your legs.

Quadruped with arm and leg raises: Start on your hands and knees on your mat. Bracing your abdominal muscles and keeping your hips still, simultaneously raise one arm straight out in front and the opposite leg straight out behind you. Maintain a straight line along your back and hips. Hold for a count of five and slowly lower your limbs. Repeat with the other arm and leg. Repeat on each side several times, always keeping your abs in and hips still.

Bridging: Lie on your mat on your back with your arms at your sides, and knees bent, feet flat on floor near your butt. Press your heels down as you lift your hips off the floor. Squeeze your glutes tight and hold for a beat, then lower back down slowly to the floor. Repeat 5-10 times.

Prone plank: Start in a push-up position, with hands directly under your shoulders. Balance on your palms and the balls of your feet. Hold this position as long as you can, making sure your abdominal muscles are contracted and there is a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.

Side plank: Lie on your left side on your mat, with legs extended, and right foot stacked on top of the left. Support your body weight on your elbow and hip. Keeping your abs tight, raise your hips up till your body forms a straight line from head to heel. Hold for as long as you can. Repeat, then switch sides.

Perform these exercises two to three days per week to feel results. There are many other exercises that you can explore, including Pilates and yoga regimens, balance board work, and functional movement exercises. Whichever regimen you choose, you will find that strengthening your core improves your running form and performance, and reduces your chance of injury due to instability. It will also make for a more enjoyable running experience!

Guest Post by Adrian Dunn, American College of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer, Wellness Coach, and Fitness Coach for EverydayHealth.com and its calorie counter.

Staying motivated after summer

Staying Motivated to Stay in Shape After the Summer

With the cooler weather swiftly approaching again, now is a good time to think about your winter workout routine. If you’re not a big fan of the cold and snow, you may need a little extra motivation to leave your warm bed on a chilly morning to get moving. Just because we trade our bathing suits for big sweaters doesn’t mean we should hibernate and take and take a vacation from exercise.

You’ll be taking in just as many calories as during the summer, possibly even more with all the favorite winter comfort foods. Nobody needs an analyst or a psychology degree to understand how it’s easier to pass on exercising and settle in on the couch with a big mug of hot cocoa while you watch the snow fly, but you aren’t doing yourself any favors. If you’re not burning those calories off somehow, ultimately, packing on the pounds is inevitable.

Healthy Knows no Season

Your skin may notice the change in temperature, but everything inside your body still functions the same way regardless of the calendar. Working out can make you look great on the outside, but the most important part of regular exercise is the beneficial effect it has on your heart, lungs, and muscles.

When you exercise and fuel your body with proper nutrition, it can perform much more efficiently. Keeping in mind that exercise will help you live a longer, healthier life is sometimes the only motivation you need.

Preventative Maintenance

Much like a car or any other machine, your body needs regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly. If you’re prone to catching colds, you should consider exercise and a healthy diet as two of your best weapons to fight them off. If you run or do other exercise outdoors, getting out in the fresh air is always good for you, especially during the colder months when the windows are usually closed. Working up a sweat can help the body rid itself of toxins and carcinogens. In addition, the rise in body temperature may slow down different types of bacterial growth, making recovery processes more effective if you do come down with something. Not only will you keep colds at bay, you’ll also be reducing the likelihood of some potentially major health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and even cancer.

It’s Easier Mentally and Physically

The winter blues and cabin fever are other common problems many people face during the winter months. Regular exercise causes release of endorphins, which can make you feel happier and less stressed and keep depression in check.

Putting on weight over the winter is the main reason most people make New Year’s resolutions. By the time spring rolls around, they might feel the pressure with swimsuit season right around the corner. This is usually the time we shift our workouts into high gear, especially if we procrastinated for a few months.

If we instead stay motivated all winter and diligently stick with our exercise, we won’t have to make up for lost time. The vicious cycle can be broken if you keep exercise a part of your life throughout the entire year. If you have a hard time working out in the heat, autumn and winter weather could make your workout more comfortable, and getting into a yearlong exercise habit that much easier.

Try Something Fun

The change in season is also a great time to adjust your regular workout to make it more winter-friendly. There are plenty of recreational ways to stay active during the colder months. Sports such as skiing, skating, and snowboarding are some of the most popular choices. Other fun activities like sledding, building a snowman, and even a vigorous snowball fight can get your heart rate up and help you sneak in some exercise disguised as playtime.

Abandoning an exercise program just because it’s cold is never a good excuse. With the right attitude and a little willpower, anything is possible. The benefits are too many to ignore, and ultimately are the best motivation to make and maintain the commitment to exercise. If you’re the type of person that doesn’t like being cold, exercise is also a sure way to warm you up. When you’re done, you can look forward to a warm shower and a cozy sweater; but you won’t be using the sweater to hide anything.

About the Author:
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.” However, if you’d prefer to break the link, my bio is “Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing with psychologydegree.net.

The Importance of Setting The Right Fitness Goals

While every endeavor is best met with confidence, setting the right fitness goals also involves a realistic approach. If a new fitness regimen is too aggressive, especially in the early stages, resolve will suffer and inevitably deter any serious progress. The best way to map out a successful workout regimen, then, is to first assess your ability, set specific goals, establish a workout program and allow room for self-forgiveness.

Assess Your Ability

Even if you feel intimated with your limits, designate a day to officially record your results in whatever areas you are looking to improve. If you want to achieve a certain mile time, for example, run a mile and record your time as day one of your exercise log. Make sure to note any relevant circumstances in doing this that may affect your trial, such as weather, amount of sleep, and so on. Once every relevant time, amount of weight, or maximum amount of repetitions is recorded, it’s time to establish a specific set of fitness goals.

Plateaus and Diminishing Returns

There are two major principles that every motivated person should apply when setting fitness goals. First is the concept of diminishing returns. If you can already run a mile in less than seven minutes, make sure to set expected progress levels at small increments. Expecting to drop a minute in a week, for example, is unrealistic for that mile time. On the other side of the spectrum, those with mile times of 9 minutes or more should expect to improve more rapidly, although every second shaved only comes with hard work. Both groups of people are capable of reaching the same goal, but less fit individuals will initially improve at a faster rate.

Next is the infamous plateau effect. Whether it is bench press weight or a mile time, athletes often talk of “the wall” that prevents them from meeting their goals. To anticipate plateaus when setting fitness goals, give yourself more time to achieve landmarks as you increase in fitness. This will incorporate both principles and give you the time to diversify your workout with muscle confusion and cross training to break through the wall.

Realism and Self-Forgiveness

As it concerns the numbers themselves, there is no equation relating a starting point to a final goal because of the variable of motivated effort. Even the most determined, however, need to allow self-forgiveness in setting realistic fitness goals. Telling yourself that it’s okay to miss one workout or have a burger once or twice a month, for example, will prevent the psyche from forcing the body into regression mode. After an aggressive, realistic program is established, the only thing left is to put in the hard work.

This guest article was contributed by Jennifer Bell from Health Training Guide. Check out her site to learn more about medical transcription training and other exciting health careers.

Neurocognitive Decline Slowed by Exercise

Exercise provides benefits in countless ways. For some, it lessens stress and prevents obesity. For many others however, it’s after effects aren’t always physical.

A recent study from the National Academy of Sciences provides that prolonged amounts of exercise can actually promote heightened cognitive functions, particular to the brain’s hippocampus (memory center). As we age, it’s been stated that the
brain loses 1 to 2% of volume each year. The effects of this are seen in ailments like dementia.

The study was quite simple actually – 60 Americans in their late 50s to early 80s walked 3 times a week for exactly 40 minutes. Another 60 performed yoga and various toning exercises. Using MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), it was demonstrated that the hippocampus in the walkers increased by 2% in volume. This was against a controlled experiment in which it shrank by 1.4%.

According to researchers, both groups showed tremendous development on spatial memory tests. Similar results demonstrate that most effects were prevalent in the anterior hippocampus, as opposed to the posterior. The anterior typically shows the most declines during these late stages of life.

Interestingly enough, physical exercises 3-4 times a week can help with things like anxiety, sleep disorders, metabolism problems, and short-term memory and self-esteem issues.

It’s only natural that after a great workout session, we feel better about ourselves. This comes hand in hand with naturally raised levels of endorphins throughout the body. These endorphins help relieve tension and psychological distress; they trigger positive feelings in the body, similar to that of morphine. Also known as “runners high,” this feeling can give anybody a positive outlook on life, and lead to increased satisfaction. Furthermore, this promotes habits that can be viewed as exercise for the brain, or mental stimulation.

Of course, everything is connected in one way or another, but increased physical exercise always seems to yield both physical and cognitive benefits.

Jim Rollince of Gym Source, distributor of home training equipment includingtreadmills, bikes, ellipticals, home gyms and more!