Get Energized for Good

How to Use Your Body More Efficiently—March 1, 2011

The second role of your blood is to deliver oxygen to your muscles and organs, important for helping us pursue the activities we love. As a rule, she who can fill her bloodstream with the most oxygen has the best shot at reaching her goal, whether it's surviving a kickboxing class or winning a half-marathon. To improve that capacity, first you need a baseline of how much oxygen your blood can currently transport and deliver to your working muscles.

What does this mean in terms of everyday energy use? I send my charts over to Josh O'Brien, an exercise physiologist at the Sports Rehabilitation and Performance Center at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, who works with some of the city's top sports teams.

"Oxygen is the fuel that helps you sustain your efforts in a workout," O'Brien says. The higher the intensity you can sustain before the "burn" gets too intense, the more calories your body will use and the fitter you will become.

A final piece of the energy puzzle is muscle mass, O'Brien says. The more your body is made up of muscle instead of fat, the more strength you'll have for daily activity. Though I'm proud of my lean, mean biking-machine body, keeping it that way will only get harder as I get older, O'Brien says, explaining that women are naturally programmed to shed about a half pound of muscle every year after age 30. With it goes potential energy. The good news: You can counteract nature's course with strength-training.

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