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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Carb Info

I've been eating whole wheat bread for most of my life. This week, while reading Dr. Andrew Weil's Eating Well for Optimum Health, I came across some information that surprised me: if it doesn't say whole grain, "whole wheat" versions of everything from regular sandwich bread, buns, rolls, etc. aren't really any better than their bleached white versions in regard to how our bodies digest and process them! "Simple carbs" like processed flour of any color, digest quickly and are easily made into glucose by the body. Unfortunately, this causes a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash - leaving most people feeling at the least hungry quicker, and sometimes ill. Worse, this may be a contributing factor to diseases like diabetes, and insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). In the past, I've advised people, like most dietitians do, to get more of their carbohydrates from complex rather than simple sources. Dr. Weil makes some recommendations that make it easier to wade through the information and make smarter choices about the carbohydrates we eat: (paraphrased from the book, which I highly recommend reading)

-Get as many of your carbs as possible from unprocessed foods. Crackers, cookies, cakes, chips, etc. - anything with a long shelf life that doesn't need to be refrigerated - generally are low in fiber and nutrients, high in sodium and "bad" fats, and full of simple carbohydrates.
-Try to get some low glycemic index foods with most meals, like whole grains, veggies, beans or temperate fruits like apples, berries and cherries (not tropical fruit like pineapple and mango).
-Reduce the blood-sugar impact of simpler carbs by eating them with other food, especially those which include fiber and acid (like lemon juice), which slow digestion.
-Replace white and whole wheat bread with "dense, chewy, grain" breads.
-Eat pasta al dente, (cooked for less time and firmer). Longer cooking breaks down the carbohydrates for quicker digestion and more of an effect on blood sugar.
-Eat smaller, younger waxy potatoes instead of big "floury" ones.
-Basmati and brown rice are better choices than white or sticky rice.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Snack Ideas

For people trying to eat healthier and / or lose weight, a big question is often what to snack on. Snacks are important - they keep our metabolism reved, our blood sugar stable and our stomachs satisfied so we don't fall on our next meal like ravening wolves and overeat. The best snacks provide a mix of protein, complex and simple carbohydrates and some fat, without loading us up on calories.

The 100-calorie packs that are so popular, while low in calories, are made up almost entirely of simple carbs, causing a spike and dip in blood sugar and leaving us hungry half an hour later. Plain fruit, while a little longer-lasting because of its fiber and water content, presents a similar problem.

So, what to do? Below are some healthy snack ideas that fit the above criteria. Calories are approximate and will vary depending on the brand of ingredient you choose, unless the brand is specified.

* 1/2 whole wheat bagel with 1 tbsp cream cheese (175 calories)
* Cottage Doubles cottage cheese with fruit topping (130 calories)
* 1 apple, sliced, with 1 tbsp peanut butter (175 calories)
* 4 Triscuit wheat crackers with 1 slice of deli cheese cut in quarters (160 calories)
* Yoplait Light Thick & Creamy yogurt (100 calories)
* 1/2 whole wheat pita with 2 tbsp hummus (154 calories)
* 1/2 peanut butter & jelly sandwhich with whole grain bread, 1 tsp reduced-sugar jelly and 1 tbsp peanut butter (250 calories)
* 1/4 cup mixed nuts and unsweetened dried fruit (150 calories)
* 1 container Fage Greek Total 2% fat yogurt, 2 tsp honey (173 calories)
* 6 whole wheat crackers spread with a mix of tuna (the kind that comes packed in water), pickle relish and lite mayo (200 calories)
* 8 oz. of Bolthouse Farms Perfectly Protein Vanilla Chai Tea with Soy Protein (160 calories)
* Frozen yogurt pops (127 calories)
* 2 rice cakes spread with hummus and sliced tomatoes (135 calories)
* 1 cup chopped raw broccoli and baby carrots with 1/4 cup hummus (170 calories)
* 1/2 cup low fat vanilla yogurt with 1/4 cup frozen mixed berries (120 calories)
* 1 Mission 6" low carb tortilla with 2 slices of turkey, spinach, sliced cucumber and balsamic vinegar (140 calories)

If you have ideas or favorites, put them in comments. I'd love to hear them!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bonus Activity Points

If you're trying to lose weight, a good tool is simply increasing the number of calories you tend to burn throughout the day by cultivating specific habits. Small things add up, and with little effort can make a big difference. Here are some ideas:

-Whenever possible, stand rather than sit. Or walk around rather than stand still. For example, when waiting for the bus, talking on the phone, reading the paper or a book, or even watching tv (try just getting up during commercials and walking around).

-Stand and sit up straight. Roll your shoulders back and take full, deep breaths. Keep your head up and alert instead of looking down at the ground. Good posture is better for your entire body, keeps you burning more ambient calories, and as a bonus makes you appear more confident and attractive instantly.

-Alter a bad mood quickly by busting out a few jumping jacks or taking a quick walk. Research has proven that such physical resets can help alter emotional states, plus you'll be blasting calories while you're picking yourself up.

-Communicate in person. Instead of emailing or phoning at work, if the other person's desk is just in the other room, walk over and talk. You'll spend the same amount or less time than you would sending several emails back and forth answering and asking questions, and studies have shown productivity goes up when people with desk jobs get out of their chairs once an hour or so.

-Walk purposefully whenever you walk. Like good posture, this has the bonus of making you instantly look better and more confident. You'll probably get compliments, or at least comments, if you're doing this right. Walk with you head up, shoulders back, stomach pulled in, and don't just shuffle along. Stride. Take long steps and let your arms swing freely.

- Take the stairs. Walk up the escalator. Attempt to use your body rather than mechanical means as much as possible to move yourself from place to place, especially when the places are within the same building.

This stuff works. Studies have shown that slimmer people move and engage their muscles more constantly all day long than overweight people, not just when they are working out. You may not see dramatic weight loss from adopting these habits, but if nothing else they will help maintain a healthy metabolism and prevent future weight gain. The more inactive you have been in the past and the more you commit to using your body all day long, the more change you will see as a result. Good luck!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Body Fat Percentage, Body Mass Index, and What It All Means

Most of us now understand that the our weight alone doesn't tell the full story about our health or fitness. Neither, frankly, does body mass index (BMI) or body fat percentage, but these are additional pieces that can help us put the puzzle together. Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion about what these numbers are and what they mean, so here is an attempt to clear them up.

First off, BMI and body fat percentage are different things! BMI is a set of numbers used to estimate the body composition of average, non-active people based on their height, weight and gender (as compared to a large data set of people of the same height and weight). You can get an estimation of your BMI here. A BMI of 18.5 or lower is considered underweight, over 18.5 to under 25 is considered "normal," 25 and over is considered overweight and a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese. The problem with BMI is that it is based on averages and not on your individual makeup. A very muscular athlete, for example, would probably be classified as overweight according to BMI. Muscle weighs more than fat, after all. If you begin an exercise program and begin developing muscle and losing fat, the scale might not budge, and neither will your BMI since it is based on your weight and height. Frustrating!! What will change, besides the image in the mirror, the fit of your clothes, and the way you feel, is your body fat percentage.

Your body fat percentage is how much of your body is made up of fat, including the essential fat that you need to survive and function. It can be measured in several ways, with the most accurate being hydrostatic (underwater) weighing, which is done in a medical facility and somewhat impractical for repeated measurements. Other methods include circumference measurements (using a tape measure), skinfold measurements with a caliper, and bioelectrical impedance, in which a small electrical current is sent through the body - muscle conducts electricity better than fat since it holds more water (but this method varies depending on the hydration level of the subject). The easiest method is probably bioelectrical impedence and a variety of scales are now available for home use that include this function. Whatever method you choose, note that you should measure under similar conditions each time. Drink plenty of water before measuring, measure before exercise and measure at the same time of day if possible. Try not to measure every day since daily fluctuations are not as meaningful as weekly or monthly patterns of gain or loss.

According to the American Council on Exercise, the following ranges of body fat percentage have been classified under these categories. Women have higher fat percentage needs for reproductive and hormonal functions.

Description: Women Men
Essential fat 10–12% 2–4%
Athletes 14–20% 6–13%
Fitness 21–24% 14–17%
Acceptable 25–31% 18–25%
Overweight 32-41% 26-37%
Obese 42%+ 38%+

Keep in mind that these numbers are not the only numbers out there - there are other professional opinions. Also, if you are classified as overweight or obese, this is not the end of the world nor something to browbeat yourself about - it is just a number, another tool to use in assessing and improving your health. If it makes you crazy, set it aside and focus on being active and eating well. This is, after all, the point!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Change your 'tude to change your life

Humans are made to move. Our bodies are amazingly put together to allow us to run, jump, dance and play - all the things you see small kids doing all the time. What is it that happens to us as we get older that makes us stop taking joy in in the ways our bodies can move and start seeing movement as a chore? The cues we receive are myriad - from our parents telling us to sit still, to our teachers expecting us to be quiet in the classroom, to our first desk jobs, to a sudden shift in messages from everywhere as we get older that movement isn't about FUN - it's about being FIT, and that we should all feel BAD about not doing enough of it. I don't know about you, but guilt trips tend to take any possible fun out of something I'm doing and make it positively grueling. But these are the messages we receive as we move through our lives as Americans, and it's no wonder so many of us end up with exercise continually on the bottom of our to-do list, constantly feeling lousy about it, with health problems piling up because of it.


You knew how to do it when you were small. There wasn't any complication to it - your body was new and it felt good to move. Moving wasn't about health or looks or guilt. It was just fun. Now, you have the habits and the aches and pains and the attitudes of an adult. You're probably going to be a little hard to convince at first. But - would you rather keep your current attitude that exercise is a difficult, annoying chore and hate every minute of it, if you ever manage to make it a habit? Or would you rather try and get some joy from it if you're going to try and do it anyway?

So. How to start working on making movement a fun thing again when it sounds like anything but?

- Take cues from your kids. If you don't have kids, you probably know some. Kids love it when adults are willing to play with them - but you have to actually play. Run around, roll around, dance, jump, crawl, play! If your kids are already caught up in the video game or computer's maws, tell them you're going outside. Bring squirt guns, or balls and mitts, or a frisbee, or sleds if it's winter, and a determination to have fun!

- Let the dog take you for a walk. Don't just take the shortest route possible and go back inside - let the pup have an adventure and share the excitement.

- Indulge your silly side! If you're in a good mood and feel like skipping down the sidewalk, or dancing to a song you like, or running up a hill and striking a king-of-the-mountain pose, do it!

- Use your imagination! Yes, you're a dignified adult, but that doesn't mean your imagination has dried up and died. Sometimes, when I'm running laps on the track, I'm actually Batgirl chasing criminals. It's much more interesting than running in circles on a track, and it gets me done faster. Yes, it makes me a total nerd, but I'm a total nerd who can run for miles.

- Pair exercise with things you like. Listen to music that makes you want to move and use it to energize you. Work out in front of your favorite tv show. Put a comedy skit in your ipod and laugh through your routine.

- Take a fun class. There are all kinds: Zumba is latin dance aerobics. Drums Alive lets you beat on stability balls with drumsticks. Hip Hop Abs is pretty much what it sounds like. My own Sunday Kickstart class is largely spent giggling. If you're uncertain, bring a friend so you'll both be in the same boat.

Whatever you do, it has to be something that works for you. The more you focus on having fun, the less of a chore exercise will be, and the easier it will be to make it a permanent part of your life. You might be sore and tired at first, but remember, consistency is the key to getting rid of these symptoms. As they exit stage left, you can have even more fun!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Simple Things: Eating Healthier

Eating healthier can be a daunting task. It's hard to know where to start. Like most things, it's easier to take small steps, one at a time, and shift behaviors until you have a new set of habits insetad of trying to overhaul everything at once, becoming overwhelmed, giving up; lather, rinse, repeat. Below is a list of small steps you can take in order to begin shifting toward a healthier way of eating over time. Try one (an easy-sounding one, even!), get the hang of it, and once it becomes comfortable (a couple of weeks or a month), try another.

- Figure out what portion sizes are and start using them. This page is an excellent resource: it contains pictures of many foods next to common objects for size comparison. Most Americans vastly overestimate the amount of food that they can reasonably eat at a time. Check the food pyramid for guidelines on how many servings of each food group you should be getting on a daily basis, but mostly, start being mindful of how much food you are taking in.

- Slow down. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to report to your brain that you are full, but most of us eat much faster than this. Try chewing your food thoroughly, savoring the flavors and putting the fork down between bites in order to give your "full" indicator more time to kick in.

- Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time instead of grabbing them on the go. If you're always getting a candy bar from the vending machine at the office mid-afternoon, for example, try bringing some nuts and dried fruit from home to satisfy your hunger instead. If you're too hungry to think about cooking when you get home and always end up grabbing takeout, think about putting something in a crockpot in the morning so it's waiting for you. This will not only save you calories, but usually money as well.

- Shift toward complex carbohydrates. Carbs are not evil, but some are (much!) better for us than others. In fact, it's very important for us to get enough fiber, and can help us to maintain a healthy weight, among other things. Complex carbohydrates are the ones that takes our bodies longer to digest, like the ones in whole wheat, whole grains, oats, brown rice and vegetables. Simple carbohydrates like the refined sugars and white flour in baked goods, white bread, sweets, ice cream and "junk food," are digested quickly, dumped into the blood sugar, used up and leave us feeling hungry again quickly. Eating more complex carbohydrates and fewer simple carbs means we stay fuller longer, take in fewer calories overall, and stay more energetic and healthier.

- Revamp your drinking habits. You may be taking in far more calories in liquid form than you think. Soft drinks are some of the worst culprits at about 100 calories per cup. Even diet soft drinks are being looked at with skeptcism, as studies have shown they may make it difficult for people to lose weight despite being calorie-free. Alcoholic beverages are worse and mixed drinks can be up to 400 calories a pop when they contain sugary juices as well as the booze. Fruit juice, while it sounds healthy, takes most of the fiber out of the fruit and concentrates the sugar content, making it very expensive calorically speaking. A 16 oz. glass usually contains 200+ calories. Better beverages include teas (hot or cold)and coffee (preferably unsweetened, though a packet of sugar adds only 15-20 calories). The best drink of all is plain water.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First of all, just move more every day.

Fitness does not have to be an epic undertaking, especially if your expectations are realistic. Supermodels and actors are a) genetic anomolies, b) paid to look the way they look and spend a good amount of time and money to do it and c) costumed, airbrushed, photographed from good angles and sometimes nipped and tucked to look the way they do. For the average person with a desk job, kids, and a budget, looking like Madonna is going to be a lot harder than it is for Madonna. That doesn't mean you should get discouraged and neglect your fitness altogether in despair! American attitudes tend toward the all-or-nothing, and it is killing us. Nearly everyone can benefit from increasing their physical fitness, but many people think of it as such an enormous endeavor that they never begin. Increasing your fitness doesn't mean you have to run a marathon tomorrow, or for that matter, ever! You don't have to be an extreme fitness enthusiast to be healthier, just like you don't have to be an auto mechanic to get regular oil changes to keep your car in good working order.

One step you can take toward better health is simply to look for ways to move more than you do now on a daily basis. Government guidelines say that you should exercise for at least half an hour each day (more if you're trying to lose weight), but that doesn't mean this needs to happen all at once. A few minutes at a time will all add up. This doesm't mean there's no merit in longer workouts, but if you feel you have no time and have to start somewhere, stealing a few minutes here and there is a great way to go.

Here are some ideas:

-Take a few minutes to walk around at the office instead of sitting all day. Go over to your coworkers' desks instead of emailing. Take a 5 minute break to get up, stretch and walk around. This actually helps your productivity and mental health as well as your physical well-being.

-Use commercial breaks during your favorite shows to get up and walk up and down the stairs a few times, jog in place, stretch or do something else active for a few minutes.

-If you're at your kid's sporting event, don't just sit in the bleachers. Be up and walking around while you watch, for at least part of the time.

-If you have an exercise bike, treadmill or other piece of unused exercise equipment sitting around, make a commitment to use it for 10 minutes in the morning before you start your day. You can do it in your bathrobe, with very little fuss.

-If a song on the radio makes you feel like dancing, do it!

-Take the stairs. If you don't want to take the stairs all the way, take the stairs for a flight or two before getting on the elevator.

-Play with your kids (or someone else's!) instead of just watching them play. Let the energy of youth inspire you!

-Find ways to make spending time with friends and family active. Bowling instead of a movie; a walk in the park instead of a coffeehouse chat.

-If you're in the middle of a stressful project or bad day, take a few minutes to punch a pillow or stomp around and blow off steam. The physical release will help your mood and get you back on track.

Be creative in looking for opportunities to move your body. The more you do it on a daily basis, the better your health will be in the long run - you'll feel, look and function better than if you let those opportunities pass you by.

Monday, May 11, 2009

When (not if!) and what to eat before exercise

I've seen it in almost everyone I work with at some point or another. They have no energy; they can't lift as much as they normally do; they can't keep moving; they feel like crap for no good reason. Depending on the time of day, I ask the appropriate question: "did you eat breakfast / lunch / dinner today?" They look thoughtful and say "no... is that why I feel like this?"

The opposite problem happens too. Someone comes in for a workout right after a big meal and feels nauseated from warmup to cooldown.

There is a right way to fuel your body for exercise, so that you're feeling energized throughout, don't run out of steam and don't feel nauseated and overfull. Lots of people who are trying to lose weight figure they will exercise without eating beforehand, thinking that this will force their bodies to burn fat. In actuality, the body will react by slowing the metabolism, burning fewer calories overall both during and after exercise. It also ensures that the exerciser will be unable to work out with as much intensity as their normal potential would allow; making exercise less effective.

This does not mean it's okay to overdo it on junk food before hitting the treadmill! Putting in more calories than you will expend in exercise will result in gaining weight, not losing it. And while sugary foods might give you a rush of energy to begin with, the quick blood sugar crash makes for the same problem you would have had if you hadn't eaten at all half an hour into the workout.

The best way to prepare the body for exercise is to eat a healthy meal around 2-3 hours beforehand, or if it has been longer since the last meal, a smaller snack about half an hour to an hour beforehand. Whatever you eat should have a balance of simple and complex carbohydrates and protein, which will provide lasting energy throughout your workout. Some of my favorite pre-workout snacks are below:

*1/2 peanut butter & honey sandwich on whole wheat bread
*"cottage doubles" cottage cheese & fruit
*1/2 whole wheat bagel w/ 1 tbsp cream cheese
*1/4 cup of trail mix with nuts & dried fruit
*1 apple sliced with peanut butter

Be creative, or just stick with things you like. Just don't try to workout with no fuel!

Also make sure to drink 16-24 oz of water before exercise, and have more available during and after exercise. This will keep your body properly hydrated, energized and able to keep going. Give it a try and see how much better you feel!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Reward yourself without sabotaging yourself: weight loss goals

Most people, when starting a new nutrition or fitness program, reward themselves along the way to keep themselves motivated. This is a great concept and in some ways essential. Unfortunately, a lot of people go about "rewarding" themselves in very self-sabotaging ways, creating vicious cycles that counteract their attempts at improving their health and well-being, creating frustration and eventually causing a return to old, bad habits.

Here are a few self-sabotaging "rewards" that don't work, and some better alternatives:

-over-the-top treats
Hitting the gym and then deciding to splurge on a hot fudge sundae (or chili fries with the guys, or margaritas with the girls, or whatever) is a classic example of self-sabotaging rewards. If you take a look at how many calories your exercise efforts are burning vs. how many are in that splurge food, most of the time you'll be shocked and appalled. Food treats are not altogether bad and you *should* allow for some decadent foods occasionally or even on a daily basis; but NOT in huge amounts and NOT as a "reward" for following your fitness plan. If you're craving something, try a small portion, like a mini candy bar or a few bites of a shared dessert. Don't go crazy on a regular basis and expect to achieve good results.

-teeny-weeny clothes
Seen as an incentive to diet and exercise, too-small clothes tend to cause more anxiety and backsliding than motivation. Better to purchase clothes that fit as you lose weight - this is a very positive reinforcement of your efforts that can make you feel great, instead of a constant guilt-trip that may make you feel bad about yourself and thus trip up your healthy plans.

-things you should be doing for yourself anyway
The occasional day off, self-care you never seem to get around to, time to relax: these should not be contingent upon whether you're losing weight or not. In fact, neglecting these things can really sabotage your diet and exercise plans as stress mounts and overtakes your ability to cope with life. Take care of yourself as a baseline practice, not as a reward for something you've done.

-stuff you can't afford
There's not much worse than being saddled with large amounts of debt, whether it's from one big splurge or a bunch of small things adding up. Make your rewards within, rather than above your means in order to maintain a happy, healthy you.

Some examples of effective self-rewards:
(remember, you can always purchase things used to avoid spending too much, if that's a concern)
-a new book, cd, dvd, video game or whatever entertainment item floats your particular boat
-a trip to someplace you'd like to go: museums, concerts, amusement parks, operas, parks - whatever interests you
-non-food-centered outings or parties with friends and loved ones: go bowling or rollerskating or surfing or swimming or something else fun that you don't normally do, and enjoy the activity and company
-attractive, properly sized clothing that makes you feel fabulous at the size you are.
-time at the spa, hair salon, manicure place or massage place - anything that makes you feel good and refreshed in your own skin and isn't part of your normal routine

The important thing is that your rewards please you and help keep you on track without causing guilt, anxiety or sabotaging your efforts. So make it about you and not anyone else. Good luck, and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


I've gotten addicted to Heart Thrives, these ridiculously good things that claim to be energy bars but which are like no energy bars I've had before. They come two to a package - a whole pack makes a great breakfast and one of the hearts (they're shaped like hearts!) is a great pre-workout or late afternoon pick-me-up snack. Unlike most energy bars I've had, they actually stay with me for a significant amount of time, not leaving me starving an hour later. They have a great mix of protein, complex carbohydrate and (low) fat, so they don't spike the blood sugar and then cause a crash. They're also really tasty. My favorites are apricot and poppyseed. The only place in town (Ann Arbor) I know of that carries them is Espresso Royale; other than that you can order from the website. I don't go around randomly endorsing stuff; these are nuritionally and deliciously just about perfect and I feel the need to share. :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Visualize it

I have a short post for you today on a motivation technique. Everyone has heard of visualizing success, but most of us seldom use it. In the realm of fitness, everyone has different goals. Perhaps you want to be pain-free, or have more energy. Maybe you want to look better in a swimsuit. You might want to be able to do something like cross the finish line at a 5K or even a marathon. Whatever it is, visualization is a great technique to keep you motivated and even get you better results. You can try it while you're exercising, when you get up in the morning before you start your day, before you sleep at night and whenever you need a little extra boost (like when a carton of ice cream is staring you in the face).

It's called visualization, but vision doesn't have to be the only sense involved. The more you can get involved in the moment you're imagining, the better. For example, if you want to lose weight, you can picture yourself looking the way you'd like to, feeling lighter, moving with more ease. Imagine what your clothes feel and look like on you, how it feels when you walk or run, your breathing being easier as you exercise. Get wrapped up in the experience and enjoy it. Don't chastise yourself for not being there yet. This should be a positive time. Smile and know you are on your way to making this vision a reality, then continue about your day, whether it be going to sleep, getting up, continuing to exercise, or ignoring the ice cream newly at peace with not needing it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Target Heart Rate, Elliptical Machines and the "Fat-Burning Zone": (Not So Much)

Here is a question a received recently (and I receive ones like it often): "Hi Lynda. I attended a workshop you gave in February, and I have a question that I bet you can answer. I joined a gym this week! My target heart rate is 112 and it doesn't go much above that when I use the treadmill. I tried the elliptical trainer today and my heart rate got all the way up to 130. Is this bad? I did have a stress test about 6 months ago and the doctor found no problems. The elliptical seems like a much better workout, but I worry about my heart rate. Should I?"

Here is my answer, plus a bit more info:

I am not at all concerned about your heart rate at 130, especially given that your doctor found no problems on your stress test. Target heart rates are a confusing issue since there are several formulas determining them and so much individual variation. But a target heart rate given as a single number instead of a range represents a number somewhere on the low to middle end of what your heart is theoretically capable of doing based on your age, gender, and depending on the formula used, sometimes your fitness level and resting heart rate. Many times, it is recommended that people stay within their "fat burning zone", which is a number about 60-65% of their maximum heart rate and sounds like your 112 number. The reality is that while you burn more of a percentage of calories from fat in this range, at higher heart rates you burn more calories, and thus more fat, overall. Studies are also suggesting that exercising at a higher heart rate will actually cause the body to burn more calories even after you finish exercising. As far as your general health is concerned, your heart is more than capable of sustaining a higher heart rate than 65% of your maximum, and exercising at a range between 65 and 85% of your maximum will definitely increase your cardiovascular health if you have no other health issues that would contraindicate this (this would include high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, so if you are concerned that you may have these issues be conservative about your exercise intensity and ask your doctor specifically about heart rate recommendations!). has a short article here explaining more about this principle.

Your number of 130 is well within a normal range and again, I am not concerned. Always pay attention to how you are feeling, though. If you are exercising comfortably at that heart rate, you're fine. If you start to feel weak, dizzy or otherwise off, you may need to slow down (although often this just means you just didn't have a snack before you worked out and your blood sugar is low).

Personally, I love elliptical machines because you can work harder without the strain on your joints from pounding as you step, which is why it tends to feel so much easier on your body. So keep it up, enjoy, and good luck!


Welcome to BPF's new blog! I'm going to try to post here at least twice weekly, more when possible. If you have a question you'd like answered or a topic you'd like posted on, e-mail me at Otherwise, I'll be posting fitness and health-related stuff as it comes to mind. Enjoy!