Body Work with Dr Joanna McMillan Price

Get with the strength
The bottom line for successful weight control is that you need to get your diet right and start strength training. Strength training is arguably the best means we have of really changing the shape of our bodies and it keeps us looking younger by maintaining a strong posture and frame.
In fact our need for strength training increases substantially the older we get – even more so for women. Research has shown that even seniors can regain some of their previous strength with correct training so it’s never too late to start.

First and foremost, muscle is there to move limbs. But it is important for another reason. Muscle is active tissue and burns substantially more energy than fat every minute of the day and night. In other words of two women (or men) with the same weight but different body fat percentage, the one with more muscle and less fat burns more energy everyday than her (or his) fatter colleague. Over time this makes the person with more muscle content more likely to remain lean.

Muscle also plays a very active role in metabolism, particularly of glucose. Muscle takes up glucose from the blood and is the major store of glucose (as glycogen). The more muscle you have, and the more exercised those muscles are, the more efficient this process. This means that fit, strong people are far less likely to develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

How to start strength training: Strength training can be done using weights, resistance bags, your own body weight or makeshift weights such as bags of rice. Lifting weights is undoubtedly one of the best ways to do it, so it is well worth considering joining a gym where a qualified instructor can design you an individualised program. Most gyms and leisure centres also run strength training group fitness classes which are an excellent and fun way to strength train under expert guidance.

The lower body workout: Do 20 of exercise 1 and 2 to begin with, hold exercise 3 for the designated time, and aim to complete the sequence 2¬3 times a week (and not on consecutive days). Once you can do this easily add a second set of 20 with a brief rest between sets. The speed is important and generally the slower you go the better – you have more control and it gives the muscle time to work properly recruiting more muscle fibres. Try counting 4 seconds to contract and 4 seconds to release.

Squats – Works legs & bottom

Stand with your feet hip width apart and your arms outstretched at shoulder height. As if you are going to sit on a bench behind you, slowly sink your hips back keeping your chest ‘proud’ and arms level, until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. Return, equally as slowly, to standing so that the muscles continue to work on the return movement.

Lunge with upright row – Works legs, bottom & shoulders
You need a resistance band for this exercise. Keep a hold of the ends of the band and move one foot to the centre of the band. Step the other foot well back behind you, keeping your feet hip width apart. Maintain your weight between your two feet by keeping your back heel raised and your hips square. Lower your knee towards the floor until you have almost a right angle at each knee and the shoulder, hip and knee are aligned. At the same time pull your hands up towards your chin, leading with your elbows. Return slowly to the start position as before.

Hover – Works stomach/mid-section

Come down onto your elbows and link your hands. Lift up onto your toes until your body is flat like a plank while pulling your navel towards your spine – think of narrowing your waist or pulling in your belt another notch. If this feels tough to start with, lower your knees to the floor and hold the 3/4 position. Hold for 30 seconds to start with and gradually increase the time until you can hold for 1–2 minutes.

Dr Joanna McMillan Price is a registered nutritionist and accredited practising dietitian with a PhD from the University of Sydney. She is also a trained fitness leader and has taught group exercise classes for over 15 years. She has written several books and is a co-author of The Low GI Diet and The Low GI Diet Cookbook.