Want to look great without pumping iron all day long? Relax. Fitness experts say you don’t have to sweat for hours to be svelte.

It’s difficult not to hear the warning: Americans are fat. And they are getting fatter. In fact, according to a recent article in Science Magazine, at the current rate of increase, the national obesity rate will be 39 percent by 2008.

But a thick waistline and a handful of love handles do more than just lower a Latina’s self-esteem and energy level. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity is linked to diabetes, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, strokes, some types of cancer, and more.

But with so many fad diets, magic weight-loss pills, and work-out devices, it’s difficult to know what actually works.“

“Exercise is a lifetime commitment,” says Sally Garcia, owner of Slim and Tone, a female-only gym based in Ontario, Calif. (www.ontarioslimandtone.com).

Slim and Tone is one of the newest waves of fitness gyms hitting the nation. They brand a quick 30-minute workout for those busy women who are trying to have it all — including a slimmer waistline.

According to Garcia, many Latinas begin a fitness routine; sticking to it is a different story. “They don’t set realistic goals,” she says.

If the weight doesn’t come off within the first two weeks, they lose their motivation. They get bored.”

William May, a personal trainer in Los Angeles, agrees. “Everybody wants to lose body fat, but you cannot lose it overnight.”

But, while getting fit is certainly not a piece of cake — it’s a lifestyle commitment, after all — experts note that it doesn’t have to be a restrictive or life-consuming experience, either. Your 30-minute plan can be flexible; whether you work out once a day for 30 minutes or three times a day for 10 minutes, the key to success is just to get moving!

The experts are full of advice on how to remain fit for life. If carving out 30 minutes a day is a challenge, then you can alternate your workout regimen to fewer days — just keep in mind that you will need to exercise longer. “Find one hour twice per week. This time is wasted throughout the day anyway,” May says.

When asked what the best method of exercise is, May responds that he likes the “back-to-the-basics” approach. No fancy moves, no expensive equipment, just a good, old-fashioned sweat session.

For example, May recommends starting with stretching movements, then graduating to a cardiovascular routine, followed by specific exercises to target problem areas, such as sit-ups and push-ups. Next, he recommends a cool-down period of more stretching.


Phil Black shares May’s back-to-the-basics philosophy. As the inventor of FitDeck, a unique deck of playing cards containing illustrations and instructions describing 50 different upper-, middle-, lower- and full-body exercises, Black feels it’s important for people to follow a regimen of basic body movements that require no equipment or machines of any kind.

“I was sick and tired of hearing excuses about why people don’t exercise,” he says. “I was on a mission to find a way to make exercise simple, convenient, and fun.”

Illustrations from Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul by Debbie Mandel.

Each card allows you to choose from among three fitness levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced. The cards are easy to follow, and the exercises require very little space in which to perform them. “I believe that consistency in a fitness program is the single most important factor in living a long and healthy life,” Black says.

“Consistency is achieved with an exercise program that understands the many challenges we face every day — and gives us a solution.”

Garcia agrees that regularity is the key to fitness success. So when her clients can’t make it into the Slim and Tone gym to workout, she advises them to keep moving in other ways. “Take some walks. Do exercises at home. There are a lot of [fitness] TV shows,” she suggests.

An easy way for couch potatoes to benefit from the tube is to pop in an exercise video. A number of great fitness videos are on the market — some public libraries even keep them on their shelves to loan out for free. From yoga to Pilates, from aerobics to hiphop dancing, there is a video for every woman’s interest.

For the busiest of us, some experts contend that staying fit doesn’t have to take any extra time at all. Author and radio host Debbie Mandel says an easy and effective way to exercise is to incorporate fitness into your existing activities. “The good news is that you don’t need a solid block of time,” says the fitness and stress management expert. “Ten minutes, three times a day, and you are good to go. Who doesn’t have 10 minutes?”

According to Mandel, it’s as easy as taking the stairs instead of an elevator; for that extra burn, take them two steps at a time. Once you’re at the office, pause quickly at a cabinet or shelf on your way to your desk and do some side leg lifts and wall push-ups. Then, as you’re waiting for your computer to boot up, spend those first few minutes at your desk doing chair squats.

If you’re office-bound and in need of small breaks throughout the day, combine the time off with another round of exercise. Instead of heading for the nearest ashtray or coffee outlet, take a brisk walk around the block. It’s a perfect picker-upper: The increased blood flow will give you a surge in creativity and reduce accumulated stress from the day.

Are you a new mom? This is the perfect time to spring back into shape — pushing a baby stroller is great exercise. “Combine that with a few rear leg extensions while you push,” Mandel suggests.

Even standing in line at the grocery store can provide an opportunity for exercise. Incorporate some resistance training into your wait: Do calf raises, or tighten and release your abdominals. “You can do that while you read a magazine next to your shopping cart,” says Mandel.

According to Mandel, these “compound movements” make it easier for women to incorporate fitness into their everyday lives; by adding bits and pieces of physical activity, you will also organize your day around good health.

“You don’t have to sweat at all,” Mandel says. “All you have to do is exercise smart. More can become less.”

The Everyday Workout

These exercises from author and radio host Debbie Mandel can be done anywhere. When you do them, make sure to exhale upon exertion. Don’t forget to tighten your abdominals throughout — not only to work the stomach muscles, but also to strengthen your back. Try to do three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

For more information, log on to: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com

Squats are a total lower-body workout, toning the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. As you lower your body, pretend that you are sitting on an imaginary bucket, keep your back straight, and don’t hunch over. You can also do squats by pushing off with your heels from a chair in a seated position and then sitting back down again. This helps keep you in good alignment.

“The Swan” promotes good balance and works your legs. With your arms extended across, lift one knee at a time. Close your eyes to really work on your balance.

Rear leg lifts while you push a stroller will target your legs and glutes.

• Wall pushups are the perfect companion to squats, providing a total upper-body workout. Place your hands on a wall shoulder width apart and do pushups standing up. Change the distance between your hands to target different upper body muscles.

Calf raises improve blood flow into your legs, improve walking and running, and give your legs that beautiful sculpted look. You can do calf raises while waiting in line at the supermarket. — up on your toes and then down on your heels.

• For triceps dips, face away from and hold onto a bench or coffee table, your hands palms-down and directly outside your hips. Keep your butt close to the furniture piece you have selected and bend your knees and elbows as you slowly lower your body to the floor. Pause at the bottom, then slowly raise your body up to where you began. Women need extra work to firm up under the arm.

Side leg lifts give your legs and hips extra strength and that long lean look. You can do these while waiting in an office or watching TV. Just lean on a piece of furniture and lift your straight leg a few inches off the floor; then return to touch the other leg.

• Don’t forget your abdominals. They are your core — your power block. Tighten your abdominals, pulling them in and releasing, while you wait in line or sit in the car. Also, concentrate on tightening your abs throughout all of your other exercises.

• If you have trouble sleeping, do some stretches in the evening to help you relax — you’ll sleep better and improve your flexibility. For example, stretch your tight hamstrings. Bend forward and grab your toes, keeping your legs straight without locking your knees. Push your heel to the floor and sit back slightly. Or, for that total-body relaxation, sit in a chair and bend over, letting your body hang loosely down like a rag doll.


Fit for Life

Six life-altering health tips from the experts

1. Stop watching TV. The images do not reflect reality. Pop in an exercise video instead, and use the tube for something constructive.

2. Have a healthy breakfast. The first meal is the most important one of the day.

3. Avoid fast food restaurants. When ever possible, cook your own meals. Also, try to eat as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible.

4. Take vitamins and minerals to strengthen your immune system and give you the energy you need to be active.

5. Consistency is key. Don’t expect results from one workout. Being healthy and fit is a lifetime commitment.

6. Visualize a healthy you. Close your eyes and see yourself physically fit. Practice this mental exercise every morning, throughout the day, and before you go to sleep.

By Linda Pliagas

[This article has been edited for www.latinastyle.com. For the full version, check out the January/February issue of LATINA Style.]

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