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Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.


I'm 5'8" and only weigh 118 pounds. I want to tone up and gain weight, but my schedule is really busy. I can only fit in occasional morning walks and I don't have time to eat a bunch of times a day. Suggestions?


(Article continued below.)

When it comes to fitness - or anything in life, for that matter - quality is more important than quantity. Walking is a nice, leisurely form of exercise, but if your time is limited it's not the best exercise choice. It won't do anything to tone you up, either. The quickest, most effective way to tone is through resistance training, preferably by using weights. Dumbbells are inexpensive and versatile, and in just a half an hour three or four times a week, you can actually fit in some serious toning. This is especially true if you concentrate on a specific set of muscle groups for each exercise session - legs one day, chest, shoulders and triceps another day, back and biceps the day after, for example. Remember to warm up for five minutes beforehand and stretch out the muscles you worked for five minutes afterwards. Interestingly, strength training is a good choice whether you want to gain or lose inches. Muscle development will give shape to a thin person, and since muscle mass is more condensed than fat mass, heavier people will often lose a size before even taking diet into the equation.

As for food, once again, go for quality over quantity. If there isn't time to eat more, then eat food with a higher caloric content. That doesn't mean eat junk - if you want to tone up, you need food that's going to help you build muscles, not just empty calories. That means a good amount of protein (although you shouldn't consume more than 30 percent of your overall calories in protein). Choose lean cuts of meat - saturated fats are not quality calories. Fish, such as salmon and sardines, offer both protein and omega-3 fat (the "good" type of fat). Vegetarians can get their protein from soy, peanut butter and beans - which, incidentally, are denser in calories than most vegetables. In addition, you can up your calorie intake by eating more starchy carbs (the foods that people who are trying to lose weight need to avoid). Potatoes (especially sweet potatoes), whole grains and brown rice are all good selections. Healthy, high-calorie snack choices include nuts and dried fruit. For fat - which should be 30 percent, or less, of your total caloric intake - choose olive oil, flaxseed oil, or any monounsaturated fat. Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, and high in antioxidants, too.

Combine quality resistance workouts with a quality, high-calorie diet and you'll definitely add shape and muscle tone to your frame!

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