Monday, September 3, 2007

Hit those weights

2 Sep 2007, ST

Want to shave off those excess kilos and stay lean? Then strength training is important, experts say

ATLANTA - Amy Jones used to think of a strenuous workout as a long run on the treadmill. Then she joined her husband at a gym he belongs to that stresses Olympic-style weightlifting and other strength moves over cardio.

Within a few sessions, she was hooked. 'I'm more toned, I have more energy and more endurance,' she said. 'I've turned fat into muscle, and my clothes fit better.'

Almost 40 years after Dr Kenneth Cooper coined the term 'aerobics', a concept that would later spawn a generation of spandex-clad cardio junkies, some trainers are steering their clients away from traditional cardio-intensive workouts and towards mostly strength moves.

The reasons: Many exercises that are good for the heart are hard on the joints. And cardio training without muscle conditioning leads to loss of muscle and bone density as well as fat, experts say.

Even Dr Cooper now believes strength training is important.

Some people - those fighting ageing and those with injuries - benefit from more time on muscle conditioning than cardiovascular exercise, he said in an interview from his Texas clinic.

He cites Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, a one-time cardio king who shifted to more intense weight training. (Aikman said through a spokesman he does not think cardio is overrated, but he cut back on his daily 6km runs because he didn't want to further tax his body. He said he dropped body fat when he made the change.)

Dr Cooper does not believe cardio is a bad habit to be kicked. 'If you go strictly muscular-skeletal conditioning, it's a major mistake,' he said. 'You'll wear out.'

But Jim Karas, author of The Cardio-Free Diet, believes cardio workouts overstress the body and work against those trying to lose weight.

Karas, who helped newscaster Diane Sawyer get svelte, experienced a revelation in the 1980s when he was an aerobics instructor. He saw shocking amounts of excess flesh, even on those who came to class religiously.

Then he looked in the sparsely populated weight room. 'Everyone was so lean,' he said in an interview from his Chicago studio.

He changed his approach and found he and his clients could keep weight off more easily with strength training rather than aerobics.

Karas walks most everywhere - a form of cardiovascular exercise, he acknowledged, adding that he encourages clients to take the stairs instead of lifts and park further away to build activity into daily life.

'My whole goal is I just want people to stop pounding their bodies,' he said. 'When people hear 'exercise', I want them to think of strength training.'



Finding the right balance

CARDIO and strength training each has its place in a fit lifestyle. Experts disagree on just how much of each a person needs.

J. Andrew Doyle, an associate professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University, says flexibility is a third component of a balanced workout.

Here?s what Dr Kenneth Cooper, the Texas doctor who coined the term 'aerobics' in the late 1960s, advises.

When you're in your 30s: 80 per cent aerobics/20 per cent muscular conditioning.

When you're in your 40s: 70 per cent aerobics/30 per cent muscular conditioning.

When you're in your 50s: 60 per cent aerobics/40 per cent muscular conditioning.

When you're in your 60s: 55 per cent aerobics/45 per cent muscular conditioning Dr Cooper, 76, suggests that some younger athletes need to shift away from cardio because of injuries. 'If your body starts breaking down, listen to it.'


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