Fit facts: New exercise guidelines, muscle tone, perfect bra fit

Get the most from your weight training workout by using a full range of motion.

New exercise guidelines established for women

Finally, women have exercise guidelines based on actual studies of women. Until now, doctors have used activity assessment standards based on research done only on men, essentially making educated guesses where women are concerned.

Using data from 5,721 stress tests from women over 35, researchers found that women's capacity for exercise is slightly lower and declines a little faster with age than men's. They also found that women whose exercise capacity is less than 85 percent of what it should be are twice as likely to die within eight years.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, estimated exercise capacity in metabolic equivalents (METs), based on treadmill testing. One MET equals the amount of energy or oxygen used at rest. To relate this to working out, walking burns three to six METs per minute while running consumes more than six METs. According to the guidelines, a 50-year-old woman should be able to reach 8.2 METs.

Go all the way

Want to add muscle tone? Make sure you're pumping your iron through a full range of motion.

A study at the University of Southern Mississippi compared women following a 10-week, two-day-a-week regimen of full-range-of-motion bench presses with those who performed the same exercises with only partial range of motion. The result: the full-range group built more muscle.

The right fit

The next time you shop for a new running bra, keep these tips from Brooks in mind:

  • Because fit varies by brand, try on at least three different sizes.
  • To ensure your fit isn't too tight, make sure you can easily get a finger under the bottom band in both the front and back.
  • Jog in place, jump up and down, sit and take deep breaths, and swing your arms around to make sure you can move freely and can't feel the bindings.
  • For the most comfortable fit, look for adjustable straps and hooks.
  • For the best support, opt for separate, individual cups instead of the "monoboob."

Reclining spinal twist

The reclining spinal twist sends an ahhh-inspiring stretch through the core, hips, thighs and butt while releasing enough pressure from the neck to send tension headaches packing.

Here's how to do it: Lie on your back, bend your knees toward your chest and extend your arms to your sides, palms up. Roll your legs to the left until they touch the floor and slowly turn your head to the right. Hold for up to two minutes. Roll back to the center and repeat on the right side.

While the testing performed by researchers is expensive, lead author Martha Gulati, M.D., says most cardio machines at gyms do the calculations for you, it's simply a matter of knowing what to look for.

Heidi Kelchner is managing editor of Her Sports.

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