February 23, 2007 12:05am CST
Physical fitness is today's hot topic. And everywhere you turn you hear something new. But is it all true? The more you sweat, the more fat you burn This myth has encouraged people to work out in extreme heat or wear layers of clothes or rubber or plastic weight-loss suits in the hope of sweating fat off. Unfortunately, it's water they're losing, not fat. Fat burns when it is used as a fuel source for exercise, which doesn't happen initially. When you first begin to exercise, you burn carbohydrates or sugars. It takes about 20 minutes of easy to moderate aerobic activity before the transition from burning sugars to fat begins. (Aerobic exercise is any rhythmic and continuous activity that uses oxygen and large muscle masses of the body, such as the arms and legs. Examples are bicycle riding, jumping rope, walking, jogging, aerobic dance, and swimming.) So, to burn the flab, plan on working out at least 40 minutes. No pain, no gain Many people tend to overdo their exercise programs looking for quick results. Doing so, however, may prove to be your downfall by resulting in injury or sore muscles. Your best bet is to start any exercise program slowly and gradually increase the workout. We start people out with 15 minutes of stretching, 30 to 40 minutes of walking or walking/jogging, and end with 10 more minutes of stretching. This gives people a good beginning without the pain or injury. Electric stimulation Electric stimulation may help make a muscle contract and tone it slightly, but this technique can't take the place of exercise, and it certainly won't help you lose weight. If you want to decrease body fat, you must do aerobic exercises. Exercise increases appetite This is true for hard or intense exercise that lasts for 60 minutes or longer. Moderate exercise that is less than 60 minutes, however, will probably reduce your appetite for one to two hours. Exercise always lowers blood sugar Generally, exercise will lower blood sugar and it's best to prepare for exercise by eating before you start out. If your blood-sugar level is above 250 mg/dl, however, exercise could make it rise even higher. You can get fit in 10 minutes a week This and similar claims are common, but untrue. There are no shortcuts to getting fit. Becoming fit takes work and the general rule is 20 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week. Consistency is the key. If you miss a day or two, don't try to compensate by doing double duty -- you open yourself up to injury. If you stop working out, your muscles will turn to fat If you decrease your activity and continue to eat the same or more, you may gain back that spare tire that you worked so hard to lose. It's not, however, because your muscles turned to fat. Muscles may atrophy or lose their tone, but they won't turn to fat. Muscle is muscle and fat is fat.