Glossary of Exercise Terms

Aerobic – literally means “with oxygen;” during aerobic exercise, activity is very sustained and requires large amounts of oxygen; benefits of aerobic exercise include: improved circulation, lower blood pressure, increased lung capacity, a stronger heart which in turn lowers the resting heart rate and lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.

Anaerobic exercise – literally means “without oxygen;” any activity in which the working muscles require and utilize oxygen at a faster rate than your body can supply it; brief, high-intensity activities; weight training is essentially an anaerobic activity using muscle glucose for energy; benefits of anaerobic exercise include: stronger bones, increased speed and power, increased muscle strength and mass, reduced muscle atrophy with age. Allowing your aerobic workouts to have moments of anaerobic activity increases your aerobic capacity over time. In other words every run should have a few sprints. Every walk should include some jogging.

Body fat percentage – the percentage of fat your body contains. Exact body fat percentage cannot be precisely determined, but multiple methods can used to estimate it such as body measurement with weight, caliper (skin fold method) with weight. Even more accurate is the body fat water scale Hydrostatic weighing and the special X-ray test known as DEXA. There are also scales that show body fat. These scales do not actually calculate body fat. They measure how much your body resists a tiny electrical current. More body fat means more resistance. Based on the amount of resistance and other personal information, the scale calculates an estimate of your body fat percentage. Body fat percentage is a much better measurement of health versus BMI. The BMI numbers are way too general to be really useful. These numbers were developed using data from enormous numbers of people. They don’t tell you anything about your own body composition, how much of your weight is fat, and how much is muscles and tissue.

Bone density – a measurement corresponding to the mineral density of bone, used to diagnose osteoporosis and other bone diseases; bone density is a measurement of bone strength, which is the resistance to fracture. Strength training increases overall bone density.

BMI (Body Mass Index) – BMI is a ridiculous method for measuring health. The BMI formula was derived in Belgium “between 1830 and 1850.” The BMI formula did not become popular amongst physicians until well after 1970. There have been several scientific studies that point out the weaknesses of the BMI. Body fat is a more accurate indication, but overall, you should look at your whole health picture to determine how healthy you are.

BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) – the rate at which heat is produced (or calories burned) by an individual in a resting state. Calorie – a unit of heat; used by nutritionists to characterize the energy-producing potential in food.

Carbohydrate – any group of organic compounds that includes sugars, starches, celluloses and gums and serves as a major energy source in our diet. Fruit and vegetables are carbohydrates. Never limit fruits and vegetables. If you limit carbohydrates, just limit starchy carbohydrates like white rice, potatoes and bread.

Complex carbohydrate – a sugar or starch that consists of two or more monosaccharide units, also called polysaccharides; examples are brown rice, quinoa and whole grain pasta.

Glycemic index – a system that ranks foods by the speed at which their carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the body; a measure of the effects of foods on blood-sugar levels. Steady blood sugar levels have a lot to do with fat loss and hormone balance. A glycemic diet uses the glycemic index (GI) to rank carbohydrate foods according to how much and how fast these foods affect blood glucose levels. Click here for a chart.

HDL cholesterol – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is one of the five major groups of lipoproteins which enable lipids like cholesterol and triglycerides to be transported within the water based blood stream. In healthy individuals, about thirty percent of blood cholesterol is carried by HDL. It is hypothesized that HDL can remove cholesterol from within arteries and transport it back to the liver for excretion or re-utilization—which is the main reason why HDL-bound cholesterol is sometimes called “good cholesterol.”

Lean muscle mass – fat free body tissue, comprising mostly muscle. Lean mass is the primary determinant of the body’s basal metabolism (calories you burn at rest).

LDL cholesterol – lipoproteins which are combinations of lipids (fats) and proteins are the form in which lipids are transported in the blood. The low-density lipoproteins transport cholesterol from the liver to the tissues of the body. LDL cholesterol is therefore considered the “bad” cholesterol.

Metabolism – the whole range of biochemical processes that occur within us. Metabolism consists both of anabolism and catabolism (the buildup and breakdown of substances, respectively). The term is commonly used to refer specifically to the breakdown of food and its transformation into energy.

Protein – made up of amino acids; referred to as the “building blocks” of the body; fundamental components of all living cells and includes many substances, such as enzymes, hormones and antibodies that are necessary to the functioning of an organism; essential in the diet for the growth and repair of tissue and can be found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs, milk and legumes. Protein is important for blood sugar balance.

Resting heart rate – the number of times the heart beats while at complete rest; is measured in bpm = beats per minute; a low resting heart rate is an indicator of fitness; your resting heart rate should be taken first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed; a normal heart resting heart rate is between about 70-80 bpm. Athletes will have a much lower resting heart rate.

Serving size – cup your hand. That is the perfect serving size for you. So to eat four servings of fruit eat 4 handfuls. To eat one serving of protein each meal, eat one handful.

Strength training – the use of resistance to oppose muscle contraction and build strength; benefits include: increased bone, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, improved joint function and increased bone density. For info on creating an exercise plan click here.

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