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The best reasons to work out

Toned legs and a flat stomach aren’t the only benefits of working out. According to a research review in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, regular exercise can help cut your risk of more than 20 illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.

‘Exercise is essential for losing and maintaining weight loss,’ says sports scientist Nick Morgan, ‘but the other benefits are just as important.’ Here’s what exercise does to keep you healthy, happy and alive!

Brain

Staying active cuts your risk of dementia and age-related memory loss by increasing the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that makes memories. A 40,000-person Norwegian study found that those who engage in regular activity of any intensity are less likely to develop symptoms of depression.

Breasts

Brisk walking for as little as one and a quarter hours every week can help reduce oestrogen levels in the body, which may lower your breast cancer risk by 18 per cent!

Bones

Bone-thinning osteoporosis now affects around one in three women in the UK, according to the latest research. Taking part in a 45-minute Step aerobics class, three times a week, will help boost bone density, especially in your spine, legs and heels. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also reports that heavy resistance training may increase bone mass, as it places strain on the bones of the joint you are working.

Appetite

Intense exercise can reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite, while raising levels of the peptide YY, which lowers appetite. A study in the journal Appetite also found that a brisk 15-minute walk decreased chocolate cravings by 12 per cent.

Heart

Not only will exercise add about four years to your life, it can also lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number that measures your blood pressure while the heart is beating) by as much as five to 10mmHg (millimetres of mercury). This is as good as some blood pressure medications. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

Pancreas

Lifting weights and upping your lean muscle mass could lower your insulin resistance, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. For every 10 per cent increase in muscle mass, the risk of pre-diabetes should drop by 12 per cent.

Gut

Three to five weekly workouts of 20-60 minutes of vigorous activity is an effective treatment for IBS, according to a Swedish study. Demanding workouts improve bowel movements, and relieve gas and constipation.

Sex drive

Around 20 minutes of cardio exercise gets your body aroused faster and more intensely for a bit of rough and tumble. Not only that, lifting weights can also cause testosterone surges, and women with more testosterone tend to be more aroused and enjoy sex more. 

What’s your fitness age?

Muscle Manifesto: 5 Principles Of The Lifting Life

In the world of iron, there are no achievements that comes without great sacrifice and exertion. It takes the deepest kind of commitment, self-knowledge, and hard work to wholeheartedly pursue peak fitness, supreme athletic performance, and to transform the human physique into an arresting sculpture hewn in adamantine muscle. Pursuing your iron goals can be the most gratifying experience you have, but it can also be a lonely business.

“You’re born alone, you often train alone, you go onstage to compete alone, and you die alone,” says Twinlab Fuel Team Militia member Ronnie Milo, an accomplished bodybuilding competitor.

But Milo and his thousands of peers in the Militia around the globe also believe to their rock-hard cores that “alone time” is no excuse to become isolated. They know they can achieve more together, as long as they are united by the right ideals. Strong principles, they know, transcend any specific goals or geography and can make anyone, anywhere better and more capable to move any weight.

These are the five principles making up the Fuel Team Militia Manifesto. They’re not for the flighty or smug. They’re for strong men and women who want to be as strong as they look, and live as strong as they lift.

Meet the Militia

Ronnie Milo

Occupation:
Sales rep, Twinlab
Athletic Goal:
Competitive bodybuilder

“I want to be proportionate, work on my weak spots, and make sure I give 100 percent in the gym.”

Jason Wheat

Occupation:
Firefighter, Florida
Athletic Goal:
Powerlifter, coming back from pec injury

“My goal is to compete in powerlifting again.”

Chris Thompson

Occupation: VP of Sports Nutrition, Twinlab
Athletic Goal:
Ripped physique

“I just want to be as strong, hard, and lean as I can be.”

1 Together, Stronger

The Militia is dedicated to bringing together competitive athletes, powerlifters, meatheads, newbies, and physique junkies of all ages from all backgrounds and walks of life. No matter where or how you train, they believe that you can benefit from being in a supportive, inclusive community dedicated to training at the highest level.

“The Fuel Team Militia is for everyone who is dedicated to getting stronger, being better at what they do, or is interested in the fit lifestyle,” says powerlifter and Militia Field General Jason Wheat. “We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”

“We get together as a group to do gym invasions; we inspire each other, cheer for each other, and motivate each other toward our goals.”

When Militia members hold a gym invasion, it’s about strong lifters joining together to push each other to their limits. That could mean helping a teenager new to training hit his or her first 135-pound squat, or cheering on beasts like Milo and Wheat as they squat so many plates that you need a calculator to do the math.

The only thing that matters: Each guy gives his everything to push himself and his brothers, every rep, every set, every time they step into the gym.

2 No Ego

Every lifter was once a beginner. To get better, faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years. But when you don’t even know what you don’t know about training, it can be intimidating as hell to work up the nerve to ask someone bigger and stronger than you to take time out of their training routine to help you out. The Militia firmly believes in breaking down these walls.

“There’s a stereotype that guys who like to train are just big, dumb, and egotistical,” says Militia member Chris Thompson. “We want to change the way the world looks at guys like us and create a paradigm shift so that the biggest, baddest guys in the gym will also be the coolest, most helpful, and encouraging guys in the gym.”

To get better and faster in your training it helps to draw on the wisdom, knowledge, and experience of guys who have been banging iron for years.

To do that, Militia members like Thompson, Milo, and Wheat go out of the way to be a resource for other people in the gym, whatever experience level, size, or shape they might be.

“It’s a ‘pay it forward’ kind of deal,” says Milo. “I had older, more experienced guys help me out when I was younger, and in the Militia we feel it’s really important that we be there for other guys, too. I make a point of saying hello to everybody at the gym and making people feel comfortable asking questions.”

3 Sacrifice Is Mandatory

“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs.”

While the Militia welcomes people training toward any goal from anywhere on the spectrum of strength and fitness, sacrifice is mandatory. Without it, Militia members know, nothing great can be achieved at any level of training.

“If it was easy to be huge or have six-pack abs, then everyone would be huge with six-pack abs,” says Wheat. “I don’t always want to get up at 6 in the morning to do fasted cardio, but sometimes that’s what you have to do to get the results that you want.”

Wheat works on a search and rescue squad based out of a firehouse, and like everyone else, temptations abound at work for him in the form of sweets and treats. “When you have Girl Scout cookies in front of you, you have to think about not letting your Militia brothers down and eat chicken and broccoli instead,” he says.

All those cliches you’ve heard about how results taste better than any treat are popular for a reason: They’re true. Refuse to sacrifice and you sacrifice your chance to be great.

4 Commit to Consistency

Sacrifice goes hand-in-hand with another Militia guiding principle: consistency. “The key to success is consistency,” says Thompson. “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes consistent. Perfect practice makes perfect. Being a Militia member means you strive to get closer to perfect practice through consistency, and you help your Militia brothers to be consistent, too. You see a kid squatting with poor form and help him do it right and help him get on the right path.”

Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life. Put another way, it means living how you lift, embodying consistency and dedication to greatness in how you carry yourself, how you interact with others at the gym, the training you do, and in your diet, too, no matter how tough it might be.

Being in the Militia means being a teacher and a leader for your fellow members, but just as importantly, for anyone else you encounter in the weight room or in your life.

Thompson’s job as a Twinlab executive means he frequently travels for meeting and business. But even on the road, he sticks to the same macros at every meal—45 grams of clean protein, 40 grams of carbs from fruits or vegetables, and 17 grams of healthy fats. When he’s hungry or has to do fasted cardio, he’ll reach for a packet of Pro Series MVP Fuel to stay sharp.

It’s a routine Milo knows well, too. “People think I just train and sleep all day,” he says, “but I have a job in sales, and I’m in planes, cars, or face-to-face with accounts. We do what we need to do.” For him, that often includes packing a day’s worth of meals in his car and eating in parking lots between appointments. It means booking hotels near grocery stores on the road so he has access to healthy, clean food.

“There have been times when I’ve made cream of rice using a hotel room coffee maker,” he admits. It’s a total commitment to consistency, but once you make it and accept it, it stops being a challenge and becomes a simple expression of your lifestyle.

5 Compete and Encourage

Milo and Wheat recently made a two-hour road trip from their home base in Orlando to Jacksonville for a gym invasion with other Militia members. “We had 18 guys there training together,” says Wheat. “We were mixing it up, pushing each other. One of the guys there was 140 pounds when he started training with the Militia—now he’s 160 pounds.”

At the end of the workout, Milo and Wheat and other members took turns deadlifting, and when 405 was loaded on the bar, their 160-pound friend stepped up and said he wanted a shot at it. “He’d never pulled 405 before,” says Milo. “But we told him to visualize lifting it, to picture himself doing it.”

He stepped to the bar, pulled—and locked it out. “We were giving him so much encouragement, the whole gym came over and started cheering for him,” says Wheat. “And then he picked it up again and pulled one more rep.”

Competition doesn’t have to happen on a stage, and it doesn’t need a medal to legitimize it. This slender lifter was competing with the iron, with the athletes around him, and most importantly, with every former version of himself who had ever set foot in that weight room. The competition never stops, because there are always bigger mountains of iron to move.

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5 Sneaky Ways To Burn Calories Outside The Gym

You probably associate calorie burning with training, but you burn calories 24/7, even while you sleep. Granted, the gym is your most intense burst of calorie expenditure, but we’re talking one hour of training versus 23 hours of non-training. You can benefit from a much smarter approach to burning more during the other 96 percent of your day.

The calories burned outside the gym matter just as much for health benefits and long-term weight maintenance as the calories burned within the gym walls. Even frequent exercisers are often quite sedentary when not training. Additionally, studies show that people grossly overestimate the amount of calories burned from their workout.

We live on a 24-hour clock. Each hour affords you an opportunity to burn fat; that gives you all the more reason to incorporate small bouts of activity and, of course, the following five calorie-burning strategies into your daily routine!

1 Swap Your Morning Bowl Of Oatmeal For An Omelette

When you swap your bowl of oatmeal for a 3-egg omelette with vegetables (spinach and bell peppers, anyone?), you do your taste buds a favor. You also affect the way your body metabolizes the food constituents. Thanks to a little something called the thermic effect of food, the different macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) each require varying amounts of energy expenditure from the body to metabolize.

The metabolic pathway for protein digestion is rather complex, and as a result, the body spends slightly more calories metabolizing, say, a bolus of chicken than a chunk of sweet potato. In this case, the protein from eggs has a higher thermic effect—which could boost your calorie burn by an additional 40-50 calories.

So the next time you wake up in the morning, hankering for some grub, pass on the oats and say yes to a heaping pile of eggs and vegetables. With improved satiety levels, this small change to your breakfast could even make waves in your dietary choices throughout the day.

2 Move Throughout the Work Day

Look around your office. Chances are you see your co-workers hunched over, eyes glued to the monitor, scarfing down their lunch at their desk. While this habit is common, it shouldn’t be typical. Take back your precious lunchtime and repurpose it for the good of calorie-burning!

I’m not asking you to do anything drastic like run a couple miles (although you very well could), but your lunch time could be better served as “you” time, as a time to de-stress, and as time for a quick jaunt around the office. Forty-five minutes of light walking will take off 200-300 calories. What’s more, you’ll feel more focused and refreshed by the time you return to your desk.

“Lunch time could be better served as ‘you’ time, as a time to de-stress, and as time for a quick jaunt around the office.”

Maybe you want to dedicate lunch hour to, you know, eating lunch. There’s no rule that your walk must occur during lunch time. So grab your co-workers at any time and push for a quick stroll around the office building. Any excuse to get up and move, such as walking to speak to a co-worker, getting a glass of water from the break room, or going to use the photocopier, will also prove beneficial to your long-term health and help increase the total daily calories burned. Think of it this way: If you burn 20-25 calories for merely five minutes of movement, you can accumulate up to a net calorie burn of 160-200 calories over an 8-hour work day.

3 Stand While You Work

“Sitting doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as standing does.”

Modern society has created an entire culture that revolves around sitting: sitting at your desk eight hours per day, sitting in the car for your commute, sitting at home on the couch, sitting at the dinner table, sitting in the Jacuzzi &mdashyou get the picture.

Sitting doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as standing does. Then there’s the research on too much sitting. It shows a negative correlation with weakened gluteal (butt) muscles, which have been linked to poor hip function and chronic low-back pain. According to a study published by the “American College of Sports Medicine,” this extended sitting may increase your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality from various health-degrading causes.

The next time you talk on the phone or pore over stacks of paper at your desk, do it while standing rather than sitting on your rump. This simple change allows you to be more vivacious on the phone and more fidgety in general, thus allowing you to burn up to an additional 300 calories over the course of a day.

4 Take the Stairs

The prospect of climbing several flights of stairs can be daunting, but it’s a great way to burn more calories. If you’re fortunate enough to work in a multi-story building, climbing stairs should be a simple and effective addition to your daily routine. If not, always opt to take the stairs rather than the elevator whenever you can.

You’ll burn anywhere between 4 and 7 calories per flight of stairs you take, depending on their length and your body weight. You can even make it more difficult by getting lower, pretending to do step-ups, and come up slowly to make sure your glutes are firing.

5 Drink More Green Tea

The health benefits of green tea are well documented. In addition to kicking your metabolism awake, green tea contains polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties that can bolster the fight against cellular damage. Some cellular damage is necessary, of course, but rampant cell destruction is a bad thing and, in the worst cases, may even promote to cancer growth.

“Consuming green tea slightly lifts the overall 24-hour energy expenditure and increases rates of fat oxidation throughout the body.”

Rather than downing another cup of coffee or an energy drink, go for the green tea bags. You’ll probably have fewer people to fend off in the break room. The green tea will still provide a modest dose of caffeine for those morning pick-me-ups; the caffeine content of green tea rivals that of a 6 oz. cup of coffee, and gives a nice metabolic boost.

A study published in the “American Society for Clinical Nutrition” shows that consuming green tea slightly lifts the overall 24-hour energy expenditure and increases rates of fat oxidation throughout the body. What this means for you is more efficient fat burning and a higher metabolism for the rest of the day. All you have to do is raise that cup to your lips!

As you can see, it’s possible to raise your non-workout calorie burning without dramatically disrupting your daily habits. Noticeable change can come from small, yet consistent changes. All these little tweaks to your daily routine and diet will pile on quickly to ignite a sizeable calorie inferno and advance the achievement of your weight-loss goals.

REFERENCES

  1. Chantre, P. et al. (1999). Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-hour energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. American Society for Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 70, no. 6.
  2. Church, T.S. et al. (2009). Sitting Time And Mortality From All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, And Cancer. American College Of Sports Medicine. Vol. 41, No. 5. Pp. 998-1005.


About The Author

I’ve been working in the field of exercise science for the last 8 years. I’ve written a number of online and print articles.

Family And Fitness: How James Grage Combines The Two

When it comes to reasons for missing the gym, family often floats to the top of the list. Think for a moment about the conversations you’ve had with friends or co-workers about fitness. When trying to rationalize why they can’t find the time to train, and recounting all the commitments they have, family tends to play a key role. They might say they don’t want to take quality time away from their spouse or kids to focus on themselves, and that they can’t be that selfish. What they need to know is that focusing on fitness won’t hurt—and will likely even improve—connections with their loved ones.

Need proof? Look no further than James Grage, co-founder of BPI Sports. With a wife, two kids, and an ever-growing business, he can’t be as mono-focused on training as he was in his 20s, but that doesn’t mean he can’t train at all. They key is learning how to strike a balance between training, nutrition, fitness, and the rest of your life. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

“I see a lot of people who have similar obligations really struggle when it comes to finding a balance,” says Grage. “They feel like ultimately something suffers. But it doesn’t have to. Fitness isn’t just something we do in our house—it’s our way of life.”

Wanting to devote as much time as possible to your family is admirable, but don’t use it as an excuse to relish in your unhealthy ways. Commit to fitness, get your family involved, and lead by example. Not sure where to start? Follow these Grage-approved steps.

1 Reframe Your Mindset

Before you make any physical changes, you need to change your mindset. If you keep thinking your moves toward a healthier, fitness-focused lifestyle are a burden to your family, you’ll undoubtedly fall off the wagon. No one wants to better themselves at another’s expense—especially not at the expense of loved ones. Remind yourself that that’s not what you’re doing. You’re creating a healthy change for everyone. Get excited. Making healthy habits something fun that everyone can enjoy is crucial to the success and longevity of your new lifestyle. It’s not an obligation; it’s an opportunity.

“Making healthy habits something fun that everyone can enjoy is crucial to the success and longevity of your new lifestyle.”

2 Make Meal Prep Fun

Meal prep doesn’t have to mean hours slaving over a stove and filling up Tupperware by your lonesome. Make meal prep a family affair, and get everyone involved. When you cook meals at home, explain the importance of a balanced diet to your children.

Make sure you have as many healthy options as possible available on hand, and limit the sugary cereals and candy bars that might line your pantry and fridge—for example, trade in those brownie bites for pre-cut celery and peanut butter or air-popped popcorn. This will help you realize that clean eating is a lifestyle choice, not a short-term sacrifice. “My wife and I don’t diet,” says Grage. “That’s just a horrible word that sets people up for failure and makes all of your life-long changes sound like a short-term remedy. Instead, we just eat healthy and take care of ourselves.”

“Make meal prep a family affair, and get everyone involved.”

Even when he’s really dialing in is nutrition for a shoot, James doesn’t resort to dieting. Instead, he just thinks of it as another stage of discipline in his eating. This way, he avoids the all-too-common yo-yo dieting. “Year round I eat well, and even at 40 I’m always no more than 4 weeks out from photo-shoot shape,” Grage explains. “When I’m done with the shoot, I don’t ‘fall off a cliff’ with my program—I just go back to my maintenance plan.”

What helps him maintain his lifestyle? Family support. “The great thing about it is my whole family eats this way,” he says. “My meals don’t isolate me—they bring us all together. This way, I’m also teaching my kids healthy eating habits that last a lifetime. That’s when habits start, when you’re young.”

3 Exercise Together

While you don’t want your children positioning themselves under the squat rack or hanging around the heavy weights, it’s still possible to teach them about the importance of exercise on a regular basis. Grage always finds ways to include the most important people in his life in what he feels is the most important part of his day: his training time.

In addition to being a way to blow off stress and reinvigorate your body, exercise can be a powerful bond between you and your children. It is for James. “My 7-year-old son loves doing jumping jacks and push-ups with me,” he says. “I’ve never forced it on him. He wants to do it because in our house we make fitness fun. That’s the key to making anybody want to do anything. Make it enjoyable.”

“In addition to being a way to blow off stress and reinvigorate your body, exercise can be a powerful bond between you and your children.”

Not sure how to get your children involved? Follow these tips to get them tuned in at any age:

Pre-school: Nothing’s more motivating than your tot cheering you on. Young children can serve as motivational coaches whether you’re pushing them in their stroller around the track, or they’re stretching alongside you during your post-workout cool-down. Don’t be afraid to teach them basic bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, bodyweight squats. Take advantage of any daycare services your gym offers and talk to your little ones about why it’s so important for mom and dad to be in shape. They’ll feel more involved and excited to be a part of your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

Elementary School: Once your children are a bit older, they’ll be able to take on an even more active role in your fitness journey. Have them run with you for a few minutes or perform a few basic exercises or—if they’re bitten by the fitness bug—consider running sprints. End the day with stretching, deep breathing, and maybe a walk for a few minutes to cool down. Your encouragement and example might even pique their interest in team sports where they’ll learn about fitness, commitment, and sportsmanship.

Middle and High School: If your children are a bit older, consider taking them to the gym with you. Different gyms have different policies, but many allow teenagers to attend if accompanied by a parent. This is an opportunity to work one-on-one with your child and teach them a bit on proper form, setting goals, and possibly incorporating their training into helping them perform better at team sports. Consider setting up a rewards program to help them reach certain goals. The benefits could be greater than you realize—even positively affecting their schoolwork. According to a report by The Institute of Medicine, children who are more active have greater attention span and perform better on standardized testing than their less-active peers.

Perhaps more importantly, these changes will stick with them later on down the road. “My kids may or may not continue a health and fitness lifestyle when they’re older, but they’ll know the difference between good and bad lifestyle choices,” says James. “From there they can choose, but I believe it’ll be an easy choice for them. They don’t feel like they are missing out or deprived. As a family, we still have our indulgences. We’ll go get ice cream on the weekend or order the occasional pizza.

“At the end of the day, when it comes to getting my family excited to go do something physical, I never have to twist their arm or bribe them. They are always ready to do it. That’s the environment that my wife and I have created.”


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About The Author

Bodybuilding is the reason I am who I am today. I am more confident in myself, actually looking for the next challenge, and inspiring others.

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