Exercise can change perceptions

If you want people to know that you’re confident, in control and a hard worker, let them know you exercise. According to the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, a recent study at McMasters University showed exercisers were more likely to be seen by others as healthy and sexually attractive. Nice, huh?

Pity the poor non-exercisers. McMasters researchers surveyed 627 Canadian men and women and discovered that non-exercisers were perceived to be sickly, scrawny and sexually unexciting. In an earlier study, the same research team found that overweight women who exercised were able to escape some of the nasty stereotypes generally attributed to heavy women who don’t exercise. None of this is fair, of course, but it does seem to be true one more reason to take the bull by the horns and start exercising today.

Three ways to improve strength training

Strength training is a great way to build muscle, boost your metabolism and reshape your body. If you don’t have a strength-training routine, start one. Buy a book or video, or reserve some time with a trainer. It’s very important to lift weights properly, never holding your breath while you lift. Here are three great ways to improve your training and avoid injuries:

Don’t lock your knees. I see it in the gym way too often: stiff-limbed lifters who lock their knees or elbows as they work through their routine. Not smart. Locked limbs can lead to injuries. Locking your limbs also takes away from the work the muscles have to do, decreasing the effectiveness of the routine. When you lift weights, you want to keep your knees and elbows soft and fluid, not locked and tight.

Don’t bounce when you stretch. Stretching before you lift is a great idea, but if you stretch improperly, you may be doing more harm than good. Don’t b-b-b-bounce your muscles. You may think that increases your ability to stretch them, but in fact it does the opposite.

P-p-pumping your muscles triggers a reflex that makes your muscles contract, not stretch. Stretch slowly, exhaling as you try to deepen the stretch, holding each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds as you imagine your muscle getting warmer, more flexible, more alive.

Watch those toes. Done properly, lunges and squats are excellent exercises for building strength in your lower body. Do them improperly and you risk injury. A common mistake is allowing your knees to extend past your toes as you lower your body. This may seem like a little thing, but it can add up to serious knee pain over time.

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