Common Questions Women Ask About Exercise

Can I exercise during my menstrual period?
Yes, it is okay to work out during your period. Many women find that working out eases the symptoms of bloating, depression, lethargy, and lower back pain that usually accompany menstruation.

Can I exercise if I am pregnant?
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) states that moderate exercise can be safe for both the baby and the mother-to-be provided it is a healthy, normal pregnancy. Pregnant women who exercise are less likely to have varicose veins, hemorrhoids, low-back pain and fatigue. It enhances the woman’s self-esteem at a time when her body is changing shape for the worse. Exercise also seems to make labor more tolerable. However, get the go-signal from your doctor before embarking on an exercise program because there are certain conditions like placenta previa or imcompetent cervix that will make exercise contraindicated during pregnancy.

How soon after giving birth can I exercise?
While the changes the body experiences in pregnancy are slow and gradual, these changes are reversed in about six weeks. Therefore, women who have normal deliveries are told to wait four to six weeks before returning to exercise, while cesarean section mothers are told to hold off exercising for six to eight weeks. The body needs time to heal whether from natural or C-section delivery.

What exercises can I do to make my breasts bigger (or smaller)?
Breasts are made of mammary glands, ligaments, and fat. Their size is determined mostly by genetics. Exercise cannot directly increase breast size because exercise can only make muscles firmer and breasts have no muscles. However, the breasts sit on a platform or foundation of the pectoralis (chest) muscles. Lifting weights can increase the size of these muscles, which will lift the breasts higher and will push them forward. This can make the breasts look bigger. Well-developed pectoralis muscles can also add cleavage, particularly in the upper chest area. Gaining or losing weight can affect breast size since they are made primarily of fat so if vigorous exercise makes you lose weight, you may lose some inches on your bustline.

What do you think is better for weight loss? Aerobics or weight training?
In my opinion and a lot of research on the subject, both weights and aerobics (meaning cardiovascular activities like walking, cycling, running, etc.) are better than aerobics only or weights only. Aerobic exercise helps you burn calories and increases your efficiency to burn fat. Weight lifting increases your muscle mass so you burn more calories throughout the whole day. Lifting weights will also shape and firm up your muscles better than aerobics can. However, don't be surprised if your body gets tighter and smaller but you haven't lost much weight on the scale. As muscles get firmer and harder, they also get heavier. Don’t worry, this is a sign that your body composition ratio is changing for the better - more muscle, less fat.

Will my muscles become big if I lift weights?
Women do not automatically get bulky male-like muscles from lifting weights because they lack large amounts of testosterone, the male sex hormone. So if your life’s desire is to become a female Arnold Schwarzenegger, I’m sorry, but it takes very exceptional genes, years of hard work, and probably a little help from steroids. Women shouldn’t be afraid of lifting weights because it is one of the best ways to firm up the body, increase metabolism, and build strong bones.

If I stop exercising, will my muscles turn to fat?
Muscles do not turn to fat and fat doesn’t become muscles. Just like your teeth will not turn into your hair or your bones into your skin. Fat and muscles are two separate and distinct body tissues. When you stop exercising, your body will eventually revert back to its previous state. This is an example of a fitness principle called ''reversibility''. Fitness is not like putting money in a bank where your money earns interest for you even if you don't do anything. Your muscles will get soft from the lack of exercise and if you take in excess calories, your fat cells will enlarge giving the visual impression that your muscles have turned into fat.

Will step aerobics make my calves big?
If this were true, body builders would not go through all the trouble of lifting very heavy weights to make their calves bigger - they would just do step aerobics everyday! Seriously though, if you continually go up and down a step bench on the balls of your feet or step on the edge of the bench with your heels hanging off, it can result in a shortened calf muscle that looks like a ball is stuck at the back of your lower leg. To avoid this, use the right step aerobics technique. Step up with a flat foot and step down on the ball of foot, rolling onto the heel.

What specific exercises will remove the fat in my thighs (waist, hips, arms, etc.)?
Current research indicates that you cannot “spot-reduce” fat from specific areas of the body meaning you cannot expect side leg lifts alone to reduce the fat in your hips. Tests done on tennis players show that their dominant arm (the arm they use to swing the racket) is bigger, has more muscle mass but has the same fat percentage as their inactive arm. Exercise stimulates fat reduction throughout the entire body, not just in localized areas. Thus, a hundred abdominal crunches a day will not necessarily reduce the fat in your abdomen. Use cardiovascular exercise and sensible eating habits to reduce body fat and use specific spot exercises to tighten and shape the muscles underneath for a more streamlined you.

If I exercise, can I eat whatever I want and not gain weight?
Even if you eat more than you burn, you can exercise three to four hours a day and still gain weight. It is simply a case of more calories coming in than calories going out. Don’t make exercise an excuse to overeat. Always remember that it is much easier to eat two scoops of ice cream than it is to burn it off.

Why am I losing in inches but not in pounds?
It seems like a paradox to lose inches but not pounds when you start exercising but this is a common observation. It is because your muscle cells are getting denser and heavier (translation: harder, firmer, more toned) and your fat cells are getting smaller. Muscles are more dense than fat. One kilo of muscle weighs exactly the same as one kilo of fat, but the muscle occupies a smaller space. Oftentimes, the gain in muscle weight and the loss in fat weight balances out on the scale. That's why you lose in inches but not necessarily in pounds.

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