I am a 56-year-old woman, 5 feet 6 and 138 pounds. I am in good condition and walk 2 miles a day, but I need an effective exercise for my abs. What can you recommend?
We posed your question to Jeffrey W. Brandes, certified personal trainer at Merritt Downtown Athletic Club in Baltimore, who says you should start with basic floor crunches. When your abdominal muscles become stronger, Brandes says you can begin incorporating single and double leg movements, and twists to work the obliques. After that, he adds, "you can graduate to working on stability balls."
Overall, Brandes says walking 2 miles a day is good, but he's curious to know if you do any weight training. Developing lean muscle and making sure you get your heart rate up during your walks are important parts of maintaining your overall fitness.
"Last but not least," says Brandes, "your nutritional intake is the No. 1 component to getting a leaner appearance."
When I was younger, we used to do a full-body exercise called "the burpee." Do you know what this is? Can you please explain the proper technique?
Otherwise known as a squat-thrust, the burpee is a full-body move that works a handful of major muscle groups. When done correctly, it's a great strength and cardiovascular workout. Here's how to do a burpee:
Begin in a standing position, feet together.
Next, bend your knees fully until you're in a crouching position with your palms on the floor by your sides.
In a single, flowing motion, thrust your legs behind you so that you're in a push-up position, then quickly push back up into the original stand.
Because the burpee is an explosive movement, it's important to warm up and stretch before beginning. If you have back or joint problems, this probably is not the exercise for you.
I have a friend who says I am obese. I want to know how I can shed my extra weight and feel great.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30 percent of all Americans over the age of 20 are obese -- that's about 60 million people.
How do you know if you're obese, or just overweight? The CDC defines an obese adult as anyone with a body mass index of 30 or higher (those with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight).
Body mass index is the ratio of your weight to your height. By taking into account both weight and height, it serves as a gauge for total body fat. There is a formula to calculate BMI, but the easiest way to determine yours is to use an online calculator (www.calo riecontrol.org has a good one.)
There are many ways to lose weight. Your job is to find an eating and exercise plan that you will stick with. While you can't change your genetics -- in this case, how efficiently your body burns calories and how quickly it stores fat -- you can alter your body with lifestyle changes.
The best way to melt off the weight is to lay out a plan with your doctor, and possibly a registered dietitian and personal trainer. As you get lighter, your plan should evolve to challenge you in new ways.
Take it one step at a time and celebrate each victory, however tiny.
Do you have a fitness question? You can submit questions via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at baltimoresun. com / healthscience, or in writing to The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278.