The Truth About Toning

When it comes to shaping our body, it’s not just about how hard we can work on building a particular muscle or group of muscles. While it’s true that we can indeed sculpt certain parts of our body through targeted exercise, there’s one element of this process that often gets forgotten about – reducing the overall body fat percentage. Now don’t be alarmed – body fat is completely normal and it’s a vital component in maintaining healthy body function. It helps us absorb Vitamins A, D and E and contributes towards the health of our hair, skin and nails. It also plays an essential part in the structure of our cells (and we have a lot of those don’t we!) The key is knowing exactly which fats are best and how much we should include in our diet each day.

There are two main types of fat found in food; Saturated and unsaturated.  The NHS advises that;

“Most fats and oils contain both saturated and unsaturated fats in different proportions. As part of a healthy diet, you should try to cut down on foods and drinks that are high in saturated fats and trans fats and replace some of them with unsaturated fats.”

It’s recommended that men should eat no more than 30g of fat a day and that women should eat no more than 20g of fat a day. Children should consume less fat than this also. If you would like to learn more about the different types of fat and which foods to focus on for a healthy diet, jump on the NHS website. They have loads of great information and advice about this and other topics relating to healthy diets.

Back to toning…

Toning is achieved through building muscle; there’s no question about that, and the more intensely we train a muscle, the more shapely it can become. However, given that we have a natural layer of fat which sits on top of our muscles – and we all have this by the way – it means that sometimes despite building up the muscle, it doesn’t appear quite as shapely as we’d hope. Again, this is pretty normal. So if we’re talking about achieving real tone here, it’s only going to happen by reducing that layer of fat too. By doing this, the muscle underneath will become more visible.

Strength and endurance-focused workouts (how heavy the resistance used and how long you can go for) are great ways to zone in on a certain muscle/group of muscles. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for body fat loss – it’s impossible to target a particular area of the body in this sense and instead we lose fat from all over the body (very unfair we know!). We should also acknowledge that if the body fat percentage is naturally low, which is the case for some people, then losing more is most likely not required! It is still, however, the act of muscle building that will shape the body.

A great way we can build muscular strength is through using weights, bodyweight resistance or resistance equipment such as looped bands and thera bands.

Why resistance training?

It’s important to remember that the benefits of toning aren’t just aesthetic. Strengthening our body comes with wonderful rewards, both mentally and physically. Our muscles support our skeleton, they protect our joints and they’re the reason why we can move. Resistance exercises are an excellent way to strengthen our bones by actually increasing bone density. This is something which is especially beneficial to our body as we age. Research also suggests that resistance training can increase tendon and ligament strength – all those connective tissues keeping our bones and muscles in place – which in turn helps decrease the risk of injury and tears.

Maintaining efficient muscle function is important for physical longevity and can also have a positive impact on mental health. Feeling good is a big part of being healthy too!

If you’re interested in using weights and haven’t already, check out our Introduction to Weights programme lead by the sensational Chloe Redmond. It’s advisable to start off with lower weights in order for your body to adapt to the movement and added resistance. As you develop a technique for this, more weight can be added. You could even start off with a couple of 2-litre bottles of water in each hand, or even a can of beans! Anything that adds a little resistance will work your muscles that little bit harder.