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The Secret to a Slim & Fit Physique

When I returned to the U.S. after a year of field research in Peru, a Peruvian colleague remarked with surprise that I looked slimmer than when I had left. “I always come back fatter,” she said, explaining that she couldn’t resist eating more than her share of delicious Peruvian food. I thanked her for the compliment, and proceeded to ponder what I had done that brought me back in such good shape.

I had always been told that aerobic exercise makes you slim

but I hadn’t been mountain climbing on this trip, and I hadn’t been able to keep up my lap swimming and cycling routines while abroad. The one thing I had done to keep myself from getting completely out of shape was 5 minutes of core exercises every morning.

Five years later, I finally have an answer for why just a small amount of daily Pilates did more for me than the hours of aerobic exercise I had been doing before I’d gone abroad. In studies including over 3,000 participants, Dr. Wayne Westcott found that a small amount of consistent and effective resistance training is the most effective way to build muscle, lose fat, and maintain a healthy & slim physique.

A man strengthens arm muscles with a resistance band.

Resistance bands are easy to find and easy to take with you when you travel.

Why resistance training? Because muscle mass is easy to lose and hard to gain.

When you do an intense aerobic workout that your body isn’t used to, or suddenly cut down your calorie intake, your body digs into muscle mass, as well as fat, to get the energy it needs. So at the same time that you lose fat, you also lose muscle. And losing muscle lowers your metabolism.

Take your training with you wherever you go. (Photo by Han Vi Pham Thi, taken in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

Take your training with you wherever you go. (Photo by Han Vi Pham Thi, taken in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)

What does it mean when your metabolism is lower? It means that you have to work even harder to convert fat to energy.

If you think of the extremes, someone with super high metabolism could burn fat just sitting on the couch twiddling their thumbs, and someone with extremely low metabolism would have trouble burning fat even on a 50-mile bike ride.

And here’s the big secret: It’s not just luck! We aren’t simply born with low or high metabolism. We can raise our metabolism by building muscle, and we can lower it by losing muscle. This is why regular strength training is more effective than irregular aerobic training in keeping us slim and fit. So when I stopped doing my sporadic crazy bike rides and started doing a few core exercises every morning without fail, I came back fitter than ever.

And there’s more good news—Resistance exercises are essential if you want to kick a## in Capoeira.

So find your favorite YouTube training video, grab your resistance bands or weights, and get moving!

Home Fitness Equipment

More fun tools to play around with at home–but you can also get a great workout with no equipment at all. The important thing is to find a routine that you can do consistently.



Goldberg, Carey. “Uncannily Youthful at 67, He Embodied Antidote to Bummer ‘Biggest Loser’ Study,” July 29, 2016. WBUR. Retrieved from http://www.wbur.org/commonhealth/2016/07/29/biggest-loser-weight-regain.

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