Moving Crew

Tuesday, November 15, 2005; 11:00 AM

You need to get moving.

Let's face it, we all do to boost our chances of staying healthy and energetic, regardless of ageand athletic inclination.

The Moving Crew is not aimed at health faddists, body builders orextreme athletes. But if you're a busy householder trying to findcreative ways to squeeze in exercise, a senior looking to stay active, aworkout enthusiast whose routine's gone flat, you might find the answershere.

Having trouble finding time for that workout? Looking for a time to squeeze in a run between errands? The Crew may have some suggestions for you.

Health section editor Craig Stoltz , section contributor John Briley and Health assistant editor Susan Morse were online Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 11 a.m. ET to answer your questions. Washington Post staff writer Sally Squires is unable to join today's discussion. The Moving Crew is online every other Tuesday at 11 a.m. ET.

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The transcript follows.

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John Briley:

Alright Kids, it's official: A study reported today in the Washington Post offers strong scientific evidence that regular exercise helps people live longer. This is the logical extension of what we've been saying for two years now - that exercise has innumerable benefits for quality of life and aging nimbly - but this is the first controlled study to compare exercisers to non-exercisers, and even looks at the relative benefits of light to moderate workouts versus more intense exercise (you guessed it: the more strenuous workouts earn you extra years).

So, the question today, as it is in Moving Crew land every two weeks: How to get that exercise and keep it safe, fun, effective and sustainable? Let's find out...

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Largo, Md.: Dear Moving Crew,

You guys are the best! Just wanted to share my small piece of good news. I got up at 6 am this morning, went to the gym and was home by 7 with plenty of time to get ready for work! Yesterday I was sitting at my desk at 4:30 pm, feeling sluggish and telling myself that there was no way I'd feel any differently tomorrow (Tuesday), my day to exercise after work. Then I got the harebrained idea to do it beforehand!

When I got home at 7, my poor husband had to listen to me parading around the house boasting about how I don't have to go to the gym after work!! Now that I'm at work, that thought continues to make me smile. Whoo hoo! Here's hoping I can do it again!

John Briley: Right on, Largo! Glad to hear it. I hate to admit it, but there is a real smug sense of victory that comes with the early workout. But, for everyone out there, the best advice is to find a time that works for you.

Keep it up!

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washingtonpost.com: A Daily Workout Could Add 4 Years to Life, Study Says (Post, Nov. 15)

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Jackson, Mich.: HI! I'm a 45-yr-old F that weighs 160 and 5/2IN.Tall. I've started a 1388 calorie diet (I'm new at this) and started a 30 min. easy-to-moderate routine on stationary bike. Does this sound like a good way to start out if I need to lose 30/40 pounds, also about wearing the lycra exergear shorts and tummy wrap by york while exercising, will these garmets help in weight reduction?

Craig Stoltz: Good morning, Jackson, thanks for joining us from my favorite place to vacation. (All right, it's where my in-laws live, but I really like it anyhow.)

So far, so good. Three guiding thoughts:

1. Do not let yourself lose more than a pound per week. I know, I know, you're impatient for results. But many studies show (I'm channeling Lean Plate Club Tsarina Sally Squires here, whose chat follows us at 1 p.m. today) that weight that comes off too quickly bounces right back on. Seriously, abide by this: one pound a week. In 10 weeks, you'll be loving it; in 20 weeks, you'll amaze yourself.

2. To get by with 1388 calories (sounds about right, but everybody has a give-or-take range of a couple hundred), you'll need to eat lots of fruit and vegetables to keep yourself eating and full: load up on mini carrots! Sliced apples! Etc.

3. The garments are of no value whatsoever in terms of weight loss, toning, etc. If they make you feel or look good, fine, but trust me, they have absolutely no value whatsoever.

As you get in better shape, try to add a one-minute sprint while you're riding the bike every five minutes or so. It's fun and revs your metabolism.

Let us know how it goes, will you, Jackson?

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White Plains, Md.: Hi Craig: I really enjoy your column and chats. Would you by chance know of a recumbant bicycle workout which would include sprints similar to the treadmill? I go to the gym each day, and like to vary my workout. The bike I use at the gym has a hill workout and other choices. Thanks again for a great column.

Craig Stoltz: Hi, WhiteP, and welcome to our rumpus room.

Two ways to go about this:

1. Choose the hill workout; it will increase resistance for a period, then let you recover for a period, then increase the resistance again. This is built-in interval training, and a great way to turn up the intensity of your workouts. Start out at lower intensity (i.e., choose 5 out of 20 at the start, then move up to 6,7, etc. as you can). If you start out too intense, you may hurt or discourage yourself.

2. You can program your own sprints, by setting the machine on plain-vanilla (flat "road") for, say, 30 minutes. After 5 minutes of easy warm up, increase the resistance one point for 30 seconds; recover. Once you're feeling good again, turn the resistance up 2 points for 30 seconds, then recover. You're heart will be doing just what it's supposed to be doing--sustaining a high workload then recovering.

Godspeed, White Plains! Let us know how it works.

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St. Albans, W.Va.: Is it possible for middle-aged folks, particularly women, to get a good, muscle-building weight work out using free weights in their basement with dumbbells alone once they advance beyond the beginner stage? 48-year-old female here who injured her neck at the gym last year, have been taking it slow with dumbbells and an adjustable bench at home for the last four months, but am progressing to the point where I'm interested in anything that will give greater strength and muscle gains. Yet I fear barbells, having never used them before. Do they truly give an advantage over dumbbells? Aren't they inherently less safe for home use (don't think the 12-year-old daughter would prove to be much of a spotter). I thought I just wanted to get fit, but now I want to get ripped. Can I do that just doing dumbbells (I find there aren't enought back exercises for dumbbells)? Inquiring minds want to know.

John Briley: Hello St. Albans - Dumbbells alone? Hmmm. Maybe, but you're probably better off combining them with one or more of the following: resistance band, medicine ball, stability ball, and/or exercises using your own body weight (push-ups, pull-ups, crunches and more).

Here's the key: Work the larger muscles and muscle groups first: Chest, upper back, quads, glutes, abs, then move to the smaller muscles (bicep, tricep, calf, hamstring, etc.).

You can do the chest work on a bench (if you're real serious, find one that allows incline positioning), and even some of the back work: one knee on bench, supporting hand on bench, lifting dumbbell with other hand, like you're lifting a suitcase). Quad work you can do with the stability ball and/or resistance band. In fact, a resistance band, used properly, provides a huge range of exercises for all muscle groups, and can be manipulated to challenge you and build muscle mass.

Medicine ball great for functional strength training: plyomyetric exercises like standing w/feet shoulder-width apart, bending at the knees and raising the ball from the floor next to one foot to a point high in the air on the other side of your body. Just one example; there are many more.

And if you've ever done push-ups to failure, you know how taxing those can be. Doing two to three sets three times a week will build chest and core muscles.

Most of these units are inexpensive and come with suggested exercises. So yes, you can do it without barbells. Just be smart, methodical and dedicated, and drop back in with specific questions on any given piece of gear.

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Oakton, Va.: Is playing 18 holes of golf considered good exercise? If I walked the 18 holes, I'm sure it would qualify, but what if I use a power cart?

I know my body is a little sore the next morning, but its largely due to the use of large core muscles (balance) and shoulders (actual swing), so I know I'm buring calories, but cardiovascular-wise I suppose its lacking. Have there been any studies on this?

Craig Stoltz: Ah, Oakton, thanks for raising the subject of my favorite pasttime. I recently recommended a brand of new golf clubs to Briley, but he's too cowardly to take them out on the course with me and use them.

Using a calculator at caloriesperhour.com, I find that (if you weigh 150 lbs) you burn 900 calories if you play 18 holes using a cart (I assume four hours elapsed).

9 holes (2 hours, 15 minutes) pulling clubs in a pull-cart burns 658 calories.

Carry your clubs (brag: I do) for nine holes and burn 689 calories.

Carry your clubs for 18 and. . .hey, even I don't do that.

(I'll bet Briley does.)

I once wore my heart-rate monitors during 18 holes in a riding cart and found I was in the low part of my cardio training zone about half the time. So that's decent cardio vascular exercise.

To reduce pain afterwards, do a few slow stretches *after* your round, drink plenty of water (or beer--har!) and, in your copious spare time, do core training exercises with a stablilty ball and medicine ball. That'll prepare those muscles for the fast turning and spine-angling that even a lousy golf swing like mine requires.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I've been sick and missed the past week and a half of working out. I'm not completely healthy, but am getting close and am wondering at what point it's good to get back to the gym again. I don't want to get myself sick again, but I also worry that sitting around like a lump isn't helping things.

John Briley: Hey SilSpg - The classic rule - which I read again in a reputable magazine this week - is that it's OK to workout if you have head-cold symptoms but that you should take it easy if the symptoms are below your neck (e.g. lower respiratory, or flu-like muscle aches).

When you do start back, take it a little slow. You don't have to totally wimp out, but don't crush your body thinking you make up 10 days in one session. It takes a fair amount of energy for our bodies to fight off viruses, infections, etc., so leave yourself some energy to complete the recovery.

At one-and-a-half weeks, I assume you've seen a doctor? If not, and you still aren't improving, I suggest you do that. Good luck. Being sick is a major drag, but staying sick because you push yourself back into play too early is even worse.

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Woodbridge, Va.: This is not a question, but a comment. I was delighted to read about the erg...the rowing machine. Like many gyms, they remained unused until we started rowing classes, similar to spinning classes. The classes are mostly attended by members of our local rowing club but more and more gym members are trying them out.

Craig Stoltz: Gracias mucho, Woodbridge. Many rowers coming out to share their enthusiasm this morning. . .

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Swimming for exercise?: Does anyone know anything about the public pools in Arlington? I know several high schools have them, but I'm looking for opinions about how clean, nice, crowded, heated, etc they are. I need to find a great pool-- after back surgery, swimming is the best exercise!

Craig Stoltz: Let's turn this over to our vast listening audience. Anyone?

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Washington, D.C.: I am surrounded by three women who say they want to commit to an exercise program but never do. My aunt is 70, my mom is 60 (just coming off a broken ankle), and my wife is 22. I try to encourage them to find an activity that they like doing, but all they talk about is this fad or that fad. How can I help them focus?

John Briley: This one is always tough. One strategy is to create environments where they can have fun getting some exercise without feeling defeated or intimidated. Example of what not to do: I recall taking a girlfriend mountain biking, assuming (logically, I thought) that she loved the outdoors and was in decent shape. But the trail was tough and, even though I tried to slow down and wait for her frequently, she hated it (felt totally overwhelmed) and probably hasn't gone back to the sport since.

But enough about me: Not sure who else you have in your family as a potential resource, but consider starting up a FRIENDLY Thanksgiving soccer game, or even just a walk in the park before the big meal, or a mellow bike ride. No matter what you do, or how good you are at the sport du jour, take it slow and ease them into the activity gently. Show them it can fun, not just drudgery, and that it can be done in a group.

Also, since you have that age gap, try to get your wife into activities with you (or with her friends), absent the older crew, since her fitness level and potential will almost certainly be different from that of your mom and aunt. Maybe light jogging or brisk walking along the Tow Path on the C&O Canal? Great time of year for that, and such an amazing resource so close to D.C.

Then think of things the two older women could do - yoga class, pilates, walking between museums and monuments downtown.

Remember - it's gotta be fun and something they can access regularly. You know them well, of course, so you decide whether they'd like something competitive or not.

Good luck!

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Early Workout: I just started working out in the morning too. I'm on day 2 of this new routine. I have 2 questions. First, does working out in the morning really increase metabolism all day long? And second, is it better to do cardio, then weights, or the opposite. I am a 23 year old female, 5'4" and about 140 lbs.

Craig Stoltz: Hi Early,

Hey, day 2 is a key time that tests your commitment and energy. This is some of the toughest time. Will you join us again in two weeks and let us know if you're still at it? Perhaps we and other creweurs can help.

1. Working out with some degree of intensity does raise your metabolism, and it does persist for many hours (I've read 8, 12 and 20). Doing it in the morning lets your reap those benefits, like energy and a body that will process food efficiently, all day long. A rev at night may keep you awake, you won't enjoy the other benefits.

2. As with most workouts, what works best is the one you stick with most happily and regularly. But, if it doesn't matter to you, let me share my thinking on this. I've done it both ways, and I find cardio first offers the advantage of providing an excellent warmup of the rest of your body--you get loose all over. I always do 10 minutes of warmup before lifting no matter what, but I find that when I do 20-25 minutes of intervals first I'm *really* loose afterward.

The only problem with doing cardio first that I'm aware of is that it parts of your body, or your entire body, may not perform as well in the strength training effort. Since I'm no body builder or competitive lifter--I strictly do functional exercises--this doesn't matter much to me. If you really want to focus on your shoulders, chest, butt, whatever, however, then it may be more valuable to warm up for 10 minutes, do your strength training, then do your cardio. Or simply do cardio on a separate day, if your schedule permits several sessions during the week.

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Pregnant woman with sore Achilles tendon: Hello,

I just wanted to let you know that it was my shoes that led to the sore tendon. I switch shoes and took it easy for a few days, and now I'm in no discomfort. Just wanted to let you know!

John Briley: Excellent! Glad you're back in action!

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Falls Church, Va.: I swam in most of the arlington HS pools while in HS on the swim team. They are perfectly fine for working out. I always find indoor pools to be heavier on the chlorine than outdoor ones. But they all have showers and bathrooms. They may not be luxury, but they are clean -- or at least were at the beginning of the meets. I don't know what part of Arlington you are in, but Providence Rec Center (which is in Fairfax Co.) has a really great pool.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks for crossing county lines, Fairfax!

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Washington, D.C.: I just have a comment. I've observed that most people view exercise as this thing they have to do to lose weight. IMO, exercise should be viewed as something you do because you like it, it makes you feel better and gets you into shape. The weight loss will follow. Slowly, incorporate the activity into your daily life. Try riding to work, or to the grocery store everyday. Variation in the exercise regimen will help you prolong it.

Craig Stoltz: Testify, Brother [or Sister]!

You've got it dead-right. Thinking of weight loss as a consequence of a healthy, active lifestyle really reorients your brain. In a good way.

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washingtonpost.com: Today's Moving Crew Column: Rowing Against the Current of Fitness Habits (Post, Nov. 15)

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Alexandria, Va.: Do you think doing a 20-minute pilates routine each morning will do anything? (In addition to my cardio/strenght workouts 3-4 times a week in the evenings.) Just wondering if I'm getting up early for nothing!

John Briley: Perhaps we should be asking YOU that question Arlington. How do you feel after class? Refreshed? Tired (in a good way - y'know, muscles a little worn out, sweating a bit)? No change from when you woke up? More limber? Energized and ready to face the day's challenges?

So it depends on the routine. A well-done Pilates routine in which you concentrates on doing each move correctly should help keep you flexible, get some blood flowing and improve balance and core stability. If you loaf through it or pause every 3 minutes to focus on the TV, it can be a waste of time.

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Brookeville, Md.: I am so glad that you wrote about the benefits of rowing. It is a great life-long exercise. I have found that most people who try it (rowing the ergometer) either love it or hate it/find it very boring. A lot of people like to be able to read a book or magazine while exercising.

The down side of your article is that more people will want to try it and the fitness club to which I belong has only two ergometers. And one of them has had a broken monitor for months.

I highly recommend the Concept 2 website ( http://www.concept2.com/05/default.asp?bhcp=1 ) The company is very supportive and encouraging.

John Briley: Thanks Brookeville! Lots of good vibes from the rowing community on today's column, and yours truly has even added it to his cardio menu. Count me among those who love it.

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Washington, D.C.: So I manage to get in a fair amount of cardio exercise in a week. And do more intensive training on the weekends: a lot of it has to do with having running clothes almost always on hand. The problem? I am exhausted! I can sleep an easy 14 hours on weekends. I know I am not pushing my boundaries in the sports sense, but is my body telling me something else?

Susan Morse: Hi Washington,

Exhausted, huh? Well, it could be you're just needing some R & R after a typical Washington work week.... or yeah, your body might just be sending you a message that something's amiss. Before you blame the cardio or consider either cutting back or upping the pace, might not be a bad idea to get a check-up--just to play it safe.

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Washington, D.C.: I calculated my target heart rate with the Karvonen Formula that you gave last week and I get a very different number than from the 220-age formula that is used on the machines at the gym. I have to tell the machine I'm 15 years younger to get the right target heart rate. Is this safe?

Craig Stoltz: Hey, good work, Washington; it really is work it to use the Karvonen formula (note: That's *not* the *Kevorkian* formula, which is less beneficial to your exercise regime, let us say).

If you are not uncomfortable at 80 percent of your Karvonen-adjusted max heart rate--if you don't feel lightheaded, or as if your heart is about to do an Alien exploding from your torso--stick with the K number. [Sports fans: The Karvonen formula takes into account your resting heart rate, so it is more tailored to your individual fitness level than the usual 220-minus-your-age formula.]

Enjoy being 15 years younger physically! Unless that makes you like 10 years old. That would be a little weird.

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Annapolis, Md.: I appreciated your rowing article today, but I think you should let readers know the web for concept 2 and for row2k, and don't be so flip about rowing on the open water which I did this morning for seven miles. If you are near the Potomac or the Anacostia or the Chesapeake there are many fabulous rowing opportunities with clubs or on your own with new and used shells. The machine is only by back up when the Bay freezes over. Expand your article by going to the next step and write about those of us who row on the water and these other web sites and sources of boats.

washingtonpost.com: Rowing Against the Current of Fitness Habits (Post, Nov. 15)

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, Annapolis. [Boy, rowers are a touchy group!]

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New York: Is it possible to gain mass and definition at the same time? Similarly, is it possible to lose fat and gain mass at the same time? How would I go about gaining mass? I am 6'0 185, 30 years old.

Craig Stoltz: Hey, NY: Let me deliver the conventional wisdom that comes from the body building/getting-really-ripped world. (of which I am not a citizen. Did I mention I have a bit of a gut on me?)

Essentially, the crowd that follows this stuff says it's a two-stage process, that if you try to build up and slim down you're sending your body mixed signals and will accomplish neither as well as you'd like.

They normally say, build up first, then slim down. This means you'll have to live with being a bulky dude for a while, then having to switch from mostly strength training to mostly cardio with maintainance strength work.

For building up: fewer reps, higher weights, take your sweet time between sets, work as close to failure as you can. Segregate upper and lower body workouts diligently, so you're not taxing the same muscles too much on consecutive workouts. Take days off. Do cardio one or two days a week, 20-25 minutes max.

For slimming down: functional strength training with lower weights, higher reps; do exercises as a circuit to keep your hr elevated, with as little rest between as possible. Do that twice a week, cardio--with intervals!--three days a week.

Man, I'm tired just typing that.

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: Hi-

I've been having a hard time finding time to exercise. As a result, my bust has expanded (and waist and hips...). Are there any good home exercises to help slim down? THANKS!

Susan Morse: Hey Brooklyn,

Ah, the time problem. That's what it all comes down to, doesn't it. I like the way they dealt with this problem in Antigua, Guatemala, where I just spent some time studying. Every day you walk from your house to school and back, or from your house to the center of town and back, oh, maybe 4 or 5 times a day. It's not "exercise"; it's transportation, but sure does the trick. Hey, come to think of it, you could do the same thing in Brooklyn for lots of things, I bet. Amazing how walking at a good clip will burn off calories and get the heart pumping. ... Stuck inside? Try exercises with stretch bands or one of those inflata-balls, both readily available on line for under $30.

Let us know what works.

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Arlington, Va.: What do you both do regularly for work-outs? Thanks!

Craig Stoltz: [briefly consider: exaggerate to impress, or truth to build credibility?]

[truth, of course!]

I work our 4 or 5 days a week; I go to a gym that costs too much before work nearly every day. I do 10 min. warmup plus functional strength two days a week; 20 minutes cardio (intervals) plus core work two days a week. If I have a fifth day it's all cardio and stretching.

Since I've regained the ability to run (my knees, on stronger legs, can handle a treadmill now) I usually run, though I alternate with elliptical and, rarely, bike or rower. I suck at rowing. I usually go for a bike ride or hike, plus 9 holes of golf or driving range, most weekends.

I still got a belly on me. I'm an enthusiastic eater.

Et tu, Senator Briely?

John Briley: My routine varies from week to week, depending (literally) on the weather: If I get a pleasant weekend day, or rare daylight free time during the week, I will mountain bike or play tennis (a so-so workout) or play ultimate frisbee (a great cardio blast, delivered in intervals because I am usually chasing younger people around the field). Tuesday nights I play full-court basketball (indoors) - another great cardio workout.

When the weather is dreary and discourages above-mentioned sports (too wet, e.g.), I still run outside at least one day a week, often two and occasionally three (when I can't do the other sports).

Then I try to get in the gym at least twice a week. Like Craig, some cardio warmup, then plyometric exercises - like hopping over obstacles and medicine ball moves - followed by weight lifting (a mix of free weights and the Free Motion cable units, which are fabulous), then core work and stretching. Sounds like a lot, but I can be out of there in 50 minutes when I'm in a hurry.

I also have at home a stability ball, medicine ball and sorely underused yoga mat. When I'm desperate for exercise, I will break out one or more of these toys and co-opt the living room.

I am a huge proponent of playing sports for fun. That's what motivates me to keep up my fitness in between: I hate losing and I don't wanna get hurt. There are leagues and pick-up games for all skill levels in many sports around this area. Good luck and have fun!

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re: pools in Arlington: I recommend going to all three pools to find out which one you like best. They have different qualities. Also, they are older, but do provide the basicx. They offer different classes through the county (water aerobics etc) as well as standard lane swimming outside of school practice times. Check the county Web site for more info, this link is directly to the pools

Susan Morse: Thanks for the feedback!

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40-something and out of shape: OK, this is bad, but perhaps looking to change my ways. I have belonged to the YMCA downtown for 6 years but haven't been in 4 years. I'm healthy in terms of BP, cholesteral, etc., 6'2", 205lbs.

OK, so I want to start working out so I can live longer, where do I turn to in order to get started?

Craig Stoltz: 40something: You know that elevated track they have at that Y? [I was a member in the last century, when I was young and poor enough to qualify for the discounted rate. Geez, I hope they still have that elevated track.] Use the walking lanes, get a heart-rate monitor and start slow. Watch yourself progress as the weeks go by, becoming better able to sustain a higher hr. If your knees can handle it, mix in brief episodes (30 seconds, 1 minute) of jogging to get your heart used to beating harder still.

I believe the downtown Y has fitlinxx units on their cardio and strength machines, which essentially let you track, automagically, your time spent/progress/results. That tracking function can be very motivating. My guess is if you start with a couple of machines and start to track your progress, you'll get hooked.

Anyone have ideas for 40-something?

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Farifax, Va.: Hello everyone, I am a 26-yr-old female weighing in at 247 lbs. I have been exercising for the last three weeks with the following routine -- 1 hr water aerobics class on monday, 1/2hr on the elliptical followed with 1/2 hr on weight machines on Tuesday, 1 hr turbo cardio kickboxing class on Wednesday, and the same gym routine as done on tuesday is repeated on Thursday. I take several 20min walks on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I have been eating very healthfully, but as yet have seen no results on the scales. What gives? I am feeling my muscles more through the fat, but have yet to see a change in the way my clothes fit, etc. Any help would be appreciated.

Craig Stoltz: Fairfax, give it time! You're doing fantastic things for your health, and your brain. As we said earlier, weight loss will be an [eventual] consequence of a healthy lifestyle. Stick with the healthy lifestyle and the payoff will come. [There are a few people with metabolic conditions for whom this is not true, but for most folks it is.]

As you spend more time exercising, give yourself brief bursts of energy expenditure just out of your comfort zone (i.e., 30 seconds of *really brisk* walking once or twice during a 20-minute walk). As you get in better shape, choose shorter, intenser workouts, which rev your metabolism more than slow, long ones.

Please let us know how it goes. My hunch is you're going to have lost a lot of pounds by spring.

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Alexandria, Va.: Throughout high school I was a runner, then in college I hit the weight room pretty hard (1.5-2 hrs/day) for my first year. Now I'm a little more bulkier than I would like. Any advice on how to lean down? Would getting on the bike or just extensive running help?

John Briley: More cardio, less strength training, smart diet. But you don't want to cut strength training completely, so do two days a week, focusing on large muscle groups (chest, glutes, quads, core, back), and do more reps, lower weight to maintain strength.

The bike is good, but I find I have to work at a higher perceived-rate-of-exertion when pedaling to get my heart rate up than I do when running. But if i crank out intervals - bike, treadmill, rowing machine or elliptical - I can do it.

With running especially, do be careful going from little/none to "extensive," because it might aggravate your knees, or shins, or feet. Start with something manageable (depending on your fitness, that might be three miles) and build up from there. Intervals are a great way to get high-intensity, calorie-burning exercise in a short time window.

I am not a diet expert, but for starters go low on the heavy dairy (cheeses, half-n-half, ice cream) and all saturated fats and fried foods. Good: brown rice, broccoli, salmon, grapefruit, salads, almonds, blueberries...

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Brookeville, Md.: Brookeville here again. (If you allow more than one comment.) The on-the-water rower who wrote in has an excellent point in that you certainly can't get the beauty of nature around you and the sound of the water unless rowing on water. However, for most of us it is often more convenient to row the erg. Also, you don't have to worry about running into anything or flipping the boat! I would definitely say that rowing on the water provides the knowledge of good rowing form. When you are on the water with that oar in your hands, you don't want to bend your knees too soon or you will knock the heck out of your knees.

John Briley: Thanks Brookeville. Muiltiple comments encouraged - we're a community here, and welcome the participation.

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Maximum Heart Rate Question: Hi - I have a question about maximum heart rate and exercise. Is there any danger to exercising above the target heart rate range? Like the individual who has a heart rate "younger" than would be expected for her/his age, I usually comfortably exercise for 45 minutes to an hour (running or spinning) at a heart rate of 185-197 (I'm a 28 year old female). This puts me out of my target heart rate range by all accounts, but I feel fine (I've worn a heart rate monitor for years and my heart rate always seems to be unusually high during exercise - and it's usually 65-72 bpm while resting). Am I harming myself with my exercise?

Thanks - love the chats.

Craig Stoltz: MHRQ: As long as you're comfortable, go for it. Do try the Kevornen formula (see previous question for link), which may provide a more personally tailored Max Heart Rate for you. But even if the math doesn't work, stick with what your body tells you. Compared to a heart rate monitor (or a chat guy), your body is a genius.

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Ashburn, Va.: I'm going to be having major surgery next week and will be in the hospital for a week. I'm worried that being stuck in bed (with short walks I'm sure) will be hard on my joints. Any suggestions from the peanut gallery on stretching and moving after surgery to shake off the anesthesia and to keep my body from becoming creaky?

John Briley: I have no experience here, Ashburn, but will say it certainly depends on the type of surgery. Your doctor (hopefully) can suggest some moves particular to your operation. I'd hate to tell you to do leg lifts (e.g.) when you're headed into leg surgery!

Vast generalization: Wiggle toes, roll neck and take the little walks to keep blood moving around your body.

Like being sick (see Q way above), your body will require alot of your energy to recuperate from this, so be patient with yourself. When my dad was in chemo last year (he's OK now, thanks), they had an exercycle in the hospital hall for use by whoever had the ability to hop on it. Again, though, get your doc's clearance before doing anything even remotely challenging.

And, of course, good luck with the surgery.

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Washington, D.C.: After building up my level, I have been running about 25 miles a week for about 4-5 months. The last few weeks my knees have been hurting a bit when I run. It can be either knee and they will hurt for a bit (not enough to stop) but do not hurt when I'm not running. Should I just accpet this as part of the being a runner package? Or is this indicitive of more pain to come?

Craig Stoltz: Oh, Washington, you bring back my bad, bad memories. It was when I hit the 20-miles-per-week level that my knees went mushy on me. This was in my reckless youth, so of course I tried to run through the pain. I did rehab, had the knee scoped (but not scraped), and (seriously) have never fully recovered. After working really, really hard at strengthening my legs without hurting my knees in the effort, some 20 years later I can now run on a treadmill for about 25 minutes without pain.

My advice:

1. Get thee to a podiatrist who specializes in orthotics for runners.

2. Get thee to a serious running store to help find a shoe that will reduce risk of harm.

3. Reduce your mileage and find an alternate form of exercise to mix with the running.

4. Go to runnersworld.com, which is [a telling fact?] loaded with information about managing runners' knee pain.

Be careful. Be smart. Be well.

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Fairfax, Va.: I have recently developed a lot of foot problems - I'm 45 years old and have arthritis in my big toe and plantar fascitis. It may be that I also have a neuroma or two, but right now that little issue has not come to the forefront. In addition to all that, I have had chondromalacia in my knees since my twenties - though I have done very well and haven't had too many problems with flare-ups. In the past bicycling has caused my knees to flare up and now I can't do the treadmill! What are some alternative exercises for cardio workout? Help!

Craig Stoltz: Yow, Fairfax, I feel at least some of your pain, but you've got a bad poker hand dealt to you.

Quickly, since we're almost out of time: Elliptical machine; swimming; try the recumbent form of an exercise bike, which is kinder to the knee; pilates and yoga; walking.

Do keep moving. The sort of problems you have can get worse with inactivity. Continue to consult your orthopedist; if he or she is not supportive of, or knowledgeable about, exercise, ask for a referal to a sports orthopedist.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I am a person who suffers from minor lower back pain when doing any lifting. Is rowing something that I should avoid or is an exercise I should take up to strengthen lower back and other muscles? Thanks!

Craig Stoltz: Silver Spring, rowing isn't a good choice now. Do core exercises with medicine ball, stablity ball and dumbbells. As you get stronger, and your back pain diminishes, you may want to give rowing a try--carefully.

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Green Bay, Wis.: Hi John and Moving Crew, just wanted to say hi. I just found this Moving Crew forum and you guys are really motivating. I have 45#'s to lose and just joined the YMCA (brand new one just opened). I go past the YMCA every night and work out before I go home. It is called no excuses unless there is a time commitment problem. If anyone has any ideas on how to get my metobolism to increase, I would really appreciate it.

Craig Stoltz: nearly out of time. But congrats on the no-excuses routine: that's how I do it. I just never let myself walk past the club, even if I feel like an old dog. Three things:

1. circuit training

2. interval based cardio

3. six small meals a day, rather than three bigger ones.

Those are the usual recommendations for building up your calorie furnace.

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Alexandria, Va.: I wanted to purchase a stair climber, but my false ceiling was too low, so I ended up with a bike. I don't feel like I burn as many calories or get as effective of a workout on the bike, but that's all I have at the moment. Any tips as to how to make a bike workout the most effective as possible for losing weight? Thank you!

Craig Stoltz: An elliptical machines doesn't require as much headroom; some places will allow trade-ins, if you want.

But: There are videos that take you through a bike workout as if you're in a spinning class. Check out collagevideo.com for reviews.

For weight loss, interval training, not steady state training, provides the biggest payoff.

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Smoke Break: I used to be a smoker, and when I quit, I really missed taking those 5-10 minute breaks. I've started taking the breaks again, but now I do some exercise instead. I do 20-30 pushup (had to work up to that number) or the same number of chair squats. I do enough to get a little winded, but not enough to break a sweat.

It really wakes me up and helps me to focus on my work. Also, at the end of the day, I've gotten a head start on my workout.

Craig Stoltz: Wow, SB, that's an inspiration: replacing smoking with something so positive like exercise. You da man [woman]!

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Raleigh, N.C.: I exercise a lot, but keep gaining weight. I eat what I think is a healthy diet -- whole grain cereal with lowfat milk for breakfast, bag lunches, reasonable dinners. I eat little fast food, fries, burgers, etc.

On the exercise front, I walk or cycle nearly every day. Typically, I cycle more than 125 miles a week (5000-7000 miles/year) and walk 2-3 miles on days when I don't ride. My cycling is strenuous, long rides (40-60 miles) on weekends and fast paced on most shorter rides. I have exercised like this for more than 5 years, yet my weight keeps creeping up.

The only diet that has worked for me is Atkins diet, but low carbs don't mix well with strenous exercise like cycling. I also developed a kidney stone after following Atkins diet for a while, and suspect it could be related.

Despite all my exercise, I weigh no less than I did 5-6 years ago when I started cycling. I'm 50 years old, 5'11" tall. My weight dropped as low as 185 a couple of years ago, but has steadily creeped back up to 195 now. I'm not concerned about my appearance because I don't look overweight, but the extra pounds really hurt my performance in cycling -- where every ounce kills you on the hills. What's going on here, and why can't I lose weight?

John Briley: Tough one, Raleigh. Sounds like your cycling is at least somewhat competitive, so I trust you are using/have used a heart rate monitor? If not, that'd be one place to start. Make sure your HR is really getting up (65% to 85% range) when cycling; that's your indication that putting energy demands on your body that will burn calories at a high rate.

The walks: Are these brisk and taxing? Are they getting your HR up? Do you avoid jogging because of pain? If possible, consider ramping the walking up to jogging - that should burn more energy.

As mentioned in a prior answer, I am not a diet expert but the basic equation (yeah, I know you already know this) is that calories expended much exceed calories consumed to lose weight. The safe gap there is around 200 to 250 calories a day. For more dietary counsel, drop in on Sally Squires Lean Plate Club chat - she knows that side of it much better than I do.

Very last thing: Do you get in the gym at all? Added strength training and mixing up your workouts is key to long-term fitness. Plus, our bodies tend to adjust to conditions, so if you have been doing the same cycling routine for years there's a chance your body has become much more efficient and thus uses far fewer calories to complete the riding than it used to.

Get in the gym twice a week, do some treadmill warm-up, throw in some plyometric exercises, weight training and stretching, and see how that treats you.

And please drop back in and let us know how you're doing.

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Mclean, Va.: Hi, I have been on a work out hiatus for many months now and am going to start back up today. I am not really overwieght, but I know I am not in good shape. What would be a good start for me?

Susan Morse: Hi McLean,

Play the tortoise, not the hare--at least for a while. First, get yourself checked out by your doc--the standard recommendation before starting any new exercise regimen. Then start slow and use your body's responses as a guide to how much to push at first: If you're too breathless to talk, take the pace down a notch. You might start with a once-daily, moderate-pace 20 minute walk. Once you can handle that comfortably, up the time 5 minutes each week. After 3 or 4 weeks, you can try adding a short jog of a minute or so after every 10 minutes of walking, if you're so inclined.

Good luck.

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Craig Stoltz: Before I go: When you folks read today's story about exercise and life span, something not to miss is the implication about "compression of morbidity." Yes, the study showed you gain gain four years, but who wants four more years if you're in a nursing home fighting bed sores? The second key finding of the study is that those who exercise live healthier longer--meaning terminal illness lasts a brief time. Most folks these days "die" over about 20 years, as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, etc. dog them until something gets them. Exercisers live healthy for, say, 18 of those 20 years. That's a key difference.

When your sofa spud friends say (as they will today) big deal, two more years, keep compression of morbidity in mind. Deferring mortality ain't so bad either.

I think.

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Vienna, Va.: Can you give me a formula for calculating calories burned? Is it some combination of heart rate, time, and weight? I'm not interested in plugging into a pre-existing formula (i.e. caloriesperhour.com) -- I want to know what variables go into those formulas.

John Briley: Hi Vienna - I think it's some guru huddled under a cloak high in Himalayas. S/he ordains this for each of us based on our philanthropic generosity in a given year.

Ok, the short answer (because we are low on time) is that it relates directly to your maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), which is expressed in milliliters of O2 consumed per kilogram of body weight per minute. That number varies person to person - and, for accuracy, requires a test on an expensive machine by a qualified medical pro - so all the gym machines estimate (fairly accurately) the energy expenditure required to complete a certain task, expressed as METs (metabolic equivalent task units).

This isn't the full dope on this, but steers toward unraveling the Great Mystery of Calorie Counting.

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John Briley: Time to go people. Thanks for joining, as always, and remember: Exercise can help you live longer. What more do you need?

We will e-see you in 2 weeks. Our email is move@washpost.com.

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