The goal of exercise is to improve yourself, but it can be easier than you think to do more harm than good when hitting the gym. At the same time, getting the most out of your sweat sessions shouldn’t feel like rocket science. Recently, we sat down with Dr. Tanaporn Laprattanagul of Bumrungrad Hospital to answer some of your most common fitness questions and help you train smarter, not harder.
Are there any fitness apps you’ve come across that are useful? Why?
One of my favorites is Strava, which is nice app to track your run, ride or other activities. This app provides key statistics during each exercise. It connects easily to many devices and has large social network community to keep you inspiring during exercise. However, any apps that count your daily steps are useful. According to physical activity recommendations, you should do moderate intensity exercise 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes per day for five days and 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week, or combination of both. Walk at least 10,000 steps a day, then you will start to see massive health benefits.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make when working out that cause injury?
The most common mistake is trying to work out too fast and injuring your muscles as a result. If you are just starting, take it easy in the beginning—warm ups and dynamic stretching before a workout are beneficial for preventing injury. Last but not least, make sure to get the proper amount of rest. I can’t say this enough. Failure to give your body the rest it needs will lead to chronic injuries down the road.
I want to train for a 5k marathon, any advice?
If it is your first time, I would recommend walking and jogging during your first attempt. It takes time to reach a level where you can run the entire distance. Alternating jogging with walking will get you to that level really fast because it puts less pressure on your joints. For training, make sure you train two-to-three days and then take a rest day. Rest is vital if your body is going to make it through training unharmed.
If I feel sick (like a fever or cold) should I still continue my regular workout schedule?
If you’re feeling sick, stop your regular workout schedule. Your body needs enough rest and sleep to get a quick recovery. Working out might aggravate things.
Does drinking caffeine have any effect on my workouts?
Yes, of course. Caffeine will make your heart beat faster, which leads to faster fatigue. We recommend avoiding coffee before you go to the gym. You shouldn’t consume more than 300mg of caffeine per day—about three cups of filtered coffee.
I’ve heard that running is actually a bad way to try and lose fat. Is it true that walking is a better fat-burning exercise?
It depends on the intensity. When you work out at moderate intensity (walking) , you are burning mostly fat. Vigorous intensity (cardio zone) use both fat and carb and more calories. Vigorous intensity therefore could help you to lose weight more and could burn calories more. That doesn’t mean high intensity workouts don’t burn fat—they do—they just burn both carbs and fat. Personally, I think running is a great way to lose weight. Both running and walking will work if you are dedicated over the long haul. It just comes down to burning more calories than you eat.
If I stop working out for a few months, will my muscles turn to fat?
Usually, if you stop exercising your muscles still retain the gains for about four weeks. After that, things start to decrease. The strength of your muscles will go down, and they will get smaller the longer you are inactive, but they aren’t turning into fat. The proportion of muscle-to-fat changes, so it might look like you are getting fatter, but your muscles are smaller.
I work out right before I go to bed. Is this a good idea?
Not really. Your body gets stimulated during a workout, leaving you feeling alert and energetic. This will prevent you from achieving a natural deep sleep that is so vital for recovery. If you are going to work out during the evening, make sure it is at least three-to-four hours before going to bed.
Bumrungrad International is the first Asian Joint Commission International accredited, multi-specialty hospital located in the heart of Bangkok, Thailand. Founded in 1980, it is one of the largest private hospitals in Southeast Asia, with 580 beds and over 39 specialty centers. Bumrungrad International offers state-of-the-art diagnostic, therapeutic and intensive care facilities in a one-stop medical center. www.bumrungrad.com