- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

New Year's resolution? Check. Pounds and pounds of metal weights to clang well into said new year? Check.
But how often should one jerk, heave and press those weights to get stronger, buffer and more fit? Fitness experts give various answers.
Conventional wisdom in the fitness community can change as often as a forecaster's snowfall predictions. Some truths remain constant, says Yaz Boyum, one of the top professional female body builders in the world and a personal trainer in the District.
The average adult should work out three times a week to achieve a general state of wellness, Ms. Boyum says, echoing a view similar to that of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Those workouts should be a blend of cardiovascular and weight-bearing exercises.
"For good health and maintenance, we're talking three days a week. It can be broken up into different kinds of training," she says.
That simple knowledge isn't on everyone's lips.
"In general, people are often influenced by too many external factors: friends, magazines, tips you hear on certain news networks," Ms. Boyum says. "They have a hard time discerning what's adequate."
The ACSM recommends that those with sedentary lifestyles exercise three to five days a week for 20 to 60 minutes, making sure to warm up about five to 10 minutes beforehand. For the more physically fit, those numbers can ramp up to 60 minutes during a fitness session. The ACSM, as well as any reputable fitness expert, would caution fitness seekers to consult a physician before embarking upon a new regimen.
Not everyone is content to work out just three days a week.
Exercises such as running or spinning, the latter an intense program based on cycling, can be done on back-to-back days, Ms. Boyum says. Though the legs are initiating the movements in these exercises, the movements do not break down muscle tissue like weight exercises do, she explains. Weight training literally breaks muscle fibers, which then repair, often stronger and bigger than before.
A few fitness specialists balk at the notion of working out three to five times a week. Adam Zickerman, author of the just-released "Power of 10: The Once a Week, Slow-motion Fitness Revolution," argues that people may be working out much more than necessary.
Mr. Zickerman says his exercise philosophy stems from the Nautilus principles begun in the 1970s, espousing high-intensity, low-volume workouts.
He also understands, he says, that as people age, their bodies can handle less and less of the wear and tear weights cause. Explosive-type movements are to blame in many workout-related injuries, he says, so his system is slower, safer and just as effective.
"Each repetition is slow, and the muscle does the work the whole way through," he says. "The body reacts to the intensity. It fatigues the muscles to the deepest level possible, as safely as possible.
"Even a 70-year-old woman can work out intensely without hurting her bones," he says.
The method involves pushing each exercise as far as possible, then forcing the weight for about 10 more seconds, even if it cannot be moved another inch.
The book famously promotes a one-day-a-week regimen, but Mr. Zickerman says such information isn't cast in stone. Some people's bodies bounce back more quickly, and they can perform his exercises twice a week for optimum benefit.
His plan won't leave its practitioners bulging with muscle.
"I've been doing it for seven years, and I'm not a bulky guy," says Mr. Zickerman, who runs gyms in New York City and Long Island and plans to expand to Seattle, Dallas and possibly St. Louis.
His exercise system can be conducted with both free weights and machines, but his studios use specially designed equipment that allows for smooth, slow movements.
A representative of the ACSM said the group would not take a stance on Mr. Zickerman's workout method, but William J. Kraemer, professor of exercise physiology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., says "superslow" programs can be an alternative for those already in tip-top shape.
"It's well-known in resistance-training sciences that one day a week, at best, provides a maintenance," Mr. Kraemer says. For those who have never worked out before, doing so once a week is a healthy start.
"If you're out of shape, you can do anything and get some sort of benefit," he adds.
That said, the best way to make progress in a fitness regimen is to increase the frequency of the workouts, he says.
Research on superslow training is just beginning to emerge, he says, and the initial results indicate that conventional modes of training are better at stimulating the body's metabolic and cardiovascular rates.
Still, variation makes for an effective workout, so a dollop of slow, intense weight lifting can be part of an effective routine, he says.
"Every program can have a role," he says.
General fitness guidelines can be helpful to some, but not to those who have never so much as felt a barbell's cold steel.
Brenda Loube, president of Corporate Fitness Works in Montgomery Village, says sedentary adults must start very slowly before reaching an exercise peak of three to five days a week.
"Most people don't know how to start an exercise program … frequency, intensity, the whole progression is complicated for the average person," says Ms. Loube, whose company manages fitness centers for businesses.
The formal personal trainer says people should be working toward exercising in some capacity for 30 minutes every day, even if it means parking the car farther away from the office to instigate some extra walking time.
"That's the goal," she says. "The average American doesn't do anything."
People should assess their own health and medical conditions before starting a program. If they haven't been active in years, she says, they can start by walking in small but expanding increments.
"You have to get the body acclimated to physical activity," she says, suggesting a 10-minute walk twice a week as a starting point for someone new to exercise.
Once a fitness pattern is established, Ms. Loube recommends adding a variety of exercise routines into the mix. Jogging every day, she warns, puts a person's joints and muscles at risk over time. A better plan would be to jog one day, use an elliptical machine the next and follow that with a swim, she recommends. The body responds to a variety of exercises better than just one, and that also prevents wear and tear on the body.
"It's all about variety and common sense," she says.
Seniors and children have their own special needs when it comes to working out, Ms. Boyum says.
Children's exercise should mean an abundance of cardiovascular play, with little time left for heavy lifting. A youngster's bones are still growing, she says, and aren't prepared for the kind of intense workout weights supply.
Seniors must be cautious when exercising because their bones aren't as strong as they once were, she says, and they may have problems with arthritis and joint instability. That said, if seniors have been keeping to a regular fitness regimen, they can work out as frequently as their younger peers. Recovery times for weight training may be slightly longer, though.
One exercise myth Ms. Boyum happily shatters is the notion that the body's abdominal muscles should be worked every day for maximum benefit.
Three days a week is plenty, she says. Besides, the abdominal muscles stabilize the body during many unrelated weight-training movements, such as triceps push-downs, so other exercises indirectly work them.
No matter the exercise plan, experts agree that workout enthusiasts should regularly shake up whatever program they follow.
Jim Bunnell, general manager of Sports Club/LA in Northwest, says fitness experts advise people to modify their workout every six, eight or 12 weeks. The key, he says, is to listen to your body. Fitness routines should be changed "when it becomes a job, or [if] you're not feeling the benefits mentally," he says. That boost to one's mental state is one of the best benefits of exercise.
The rules of frequency should be set aside if a person's body starts balking at the workload. Shon Turner, fitness manager of Sports Club/LA, says if a person's muscles are particularly sore, he or she should take an extra day's rest for the muscles to complete their repair.
Ms. Loube says that no matter the system, an occasional respite from workouts can provide a physical and mental breather for the dedicated.
"If we have taken a break, the excitement of getting back is even greater," she says. "Our body does need time to rejuvenate itself. It could be a week off or a few days."
Ms. Loube says no matter which exercise philosophy is espoused, the "whole idea is to do something. Our bodies were made to move. Our systems really benefit from that."

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