Megan Johnson did something at 33 that she'd dreamed of since college
she entered a bodybuilding, figure and fitness competition and placed a
respectable seventh in the figure category.
What's the big deal? In addition to her agethe average female figure contestant is about 28he's a mom of four: Max, 7, and triplets Hank, Sam, and Sophia, 6. She also employed a rather unusual workout regimen for a competitive figure contestant.
"I gained 25 pounds in college," says Johnson, "mostly because I've always hated cardio. Weights I would do, but I just wouldn't do anything aerobic."
When Max arrived, Johnson knew it was going to be even harder to lose weight unless she faced her cardio phobia. That's when she found a local women's-only fitness center whose philosophy combined strength training and cardio.
"I belonged to a serious weight-lifting gym and I had doubts," says Johnson, "But I knew I would never realize my dream unless I changed tactics, so I quit my gym and jumped right in."
Johnson checked her progress against a friend who was training for the same event. "She lifted weights and did cardio two to three hours a day, six days a week. I did my 30-minute workout, three to five days a week, and nothing else. Our results were comparable."
Research supports Johnson's experience. Addressing the American College of Sports Medicine recently, Dr. Richard Kreider presented the results of the 2008 Curves/Avon Fitness Study, which tracked 43,000 women through the 30-day challenge. Participants worked out at Curves three times a week and were encouraged to walk an additional 120 minutes a week. The women saw considerable decreases in weight, body fat, inches, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. "It's possible to make significant improvements with this type of program," says Kreider.
Johnson took multivitamins and followed her gym's eating plan. She loved the flexibility, meal plans and recipes. "I make the chili all the time," she says.
"People think you have to work out for hours a day to get really fit," says Johnson, "but I've proven to myself that's not true. As a mom of four, I don't have time even if I wanted to. And the good news is, if I give it my all during those 30 minutes, I don't have to."
Megan's Favorite Cozy Comfort Chili
"I make this in batches of 25 servings and freeze in one-cup portions," says Johnson. "Take one out, reheat, top with cheese and enjoy."
- Garlic, to taste
- Onion, to taste
- Celery, to taste
- Bell Pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 3 ounces 95 percent lean ground beef
- 1/2 can diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1/4 cup black beans, cooked
- 1/4 cup pinto beans, cooked
- 1/4 cup kidney beans, cooked
- 1/4 cup shredded low-fat cheese
Saute your favorite vegetables and spices (you can use unlimited amounts of them) in oil. Add lean ground beef and cook through. Stir in diced tomatoes with juice, black, pinto and kidney beans. Stir and cook until bubbly. Top with 1 ounce (1/4 cup) shredded low fat cheese.
Recipe from the "Curves Fitness & Weight Management Plan."
Budget-minded families are looking to cut expenses that seem like a luxury,
or even just frivolous including gym memberships. Yet mounting evidence
suggests that cutting out the gym may be exactly the wrong move for even
the most cash-strapped family.
In its report of annual health spending figures, published in the journal Health Affairs, the federal government confirmed that chronic illness accounts for 75 percent of all health spending. Yet exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can significantly reduce your risks for chronic illness and your medical bills.
"To put that in financial terms, for every dollar you spend on wellness, you can save as much as five dollars or more on illness," says Dr. Richard Kreider, director of the exercise and sport nutrition laboratory at Texas A&M University. He has studied the effectiveness of the Curves women's fitness program for the past eight years.
"The women in our studies have been able to lose weight, gain muscle strength, raise metabolism, and make significant medical improvements in blood pressure, resting heart rate and aerobic fitness," Kreider says. "Many of them no longer suffer from the chronic conditions that cost them so much money for medications and doctor visits."
This can add up to a bundle of savings. The Health Affairs report shows that the average annual out-of-pocket expense for someone with cancer is $8,411, but the good news is that regular exercise can help you avoid the disease and the costs associated with it. A major report by the American Institute for Cancer Research found that obesity plays a key role in increasing the risk for many cancers including breast cancer by as much as 60 percent. And a study in the journal Cancer found that obesity increased women's risk for ovarian cancer by a whopping 80 percent.
The benefits go beyond reducing the risk of cancer. A landmark study by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota found that people who went to the gym at least eight times a month had significantly lower healthcare costs than those who did not. These frequent gym attendees had:
* 39 percent fewer emergency room visits
* 41 percent fewer hospital admissions
* 18 percent lower overall claims costs
The research, then, is clear. "Exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight can save not only your life, but your money as well," says Kreider. "Your health is your most precious asset, and not taking care of it is going to cost you more in the long run."
So how can you get to the gym without breaking the bank? Many clubs are offering great deals on memberships because of the economy. Also, check with your health insurance provider to see if they have a wellness program that offers rebates on dues and membership fees. Some fitness centers, like Curves, have partnered with major health insurance and third-party providers, including Healthways SilverSneakers, AARP and Blue Cross Blue Shield, to make the cost of membership even more affordable.
To learn more, visit www.curves.com.
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