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Hope for the couch potato.

How about isotonics? You Greek scholars will immediately recognize the origin of the term--from isotonus (isos, equal, plus tonos, a stretching). The secret is to make your muscles push against something immovable (e.g., the floor) or hard to move (a weight). Other terms for isotonics are resistance training and strength training.

Forcing a muscle to push harder against an increasing amount of resistance makes the muscle bigger--it's that simple! However, we're not advocating pumping iron until your biceps are the size of your thigh. By increasing muscle mass, you increase metabolic rate; therefore you burn more calories. Where do those calories come from? You guessed it--fat. Nevertheless, what if you really don't need to lose weight? The good news is, you can ear more and still maintian your weight!

Increasing muscle mass also lowers the risk of diabetes. As pancreatic cells decrease with age and thus produce less insulin, more muscle mass requires less insulin to meet energy needs. Isotonics also improves the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.

So where does one begin? Why, at home, or course--no need for a gym or fancy weight machines. Some equipment helps, but even that can be homemade--a plastic milk container filled with water or plastic bags filled wit sand, for example. A one-gallon, water-filled milk container weighs about eight pounds, and its handle makes it easy to hang on to.

Some exercises require no extra weights. The old-fashioned pushup, for example, uses one's own body for the weight and the floor to create the resistance. Those of us who can't do even one pushup in the standard, straight-knee mode can bend at the knees when pushing up with the arms. Also, one can obtain more "leverage" by pushing up from a sink or countertop edge, rather than the floor. Eventually, you'll be ready to do a real pushup.

The secret of strength training--or any form of exercise--is consistency. The exercises must be so many times at the recommended frequency. Two to three sessions a week for 30-40 minutes each, for example, will do wonders. Says Dr. William Evans, exercise phsiologist at Turfts University, "The gratification is immediate. You get stronger by the second week. In just 12 weeks, you can double or triple your strength."

Too old for that, you say? Dr. Evans has a 101-year-old patient who has been on a strength training program since age 97.
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Title Annotation:isotonics
Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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