The majority of people think of ‘going to the gym’ or ‘vigorous activities’ (like jogging) when they hear the word ‘exercise.’ Instead, this issue will be discussing movement, i.e. ‘moving your body through space.’ After all, that is what really decides the energy balance equation. A person does not have to ‘go to the gym’ or ‘exercise’ in the stereotyped way to make a difference in their weight. In fact, a person does not have to exercise at all to maintain a healthy weight (for example, a quadriplegic). However, ‘moving your body through space’ is critical for general health and wellness! It also makes weight maintenance easier and allows for a greater variety of food, which can help provide for a better nutritional state.

As always, before starting any exercise program, a person should consult with their physician. Since I am not a personal trainer and do not believe that I am qualified to give specific exercise guidelines, I consulted with Eleanor Wilson, owner of The Exercise Experience (805-647-6158). Eleanor has a Master’s degree in Exercise & Health Studies and is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health/Fitness Instructor.

Initially, people who have been sedentary need to work out at a low intensity because they are unable to sustain higher intensity efforts over a long period of time. The ideal situation is that they will work toward building a higher level of cardiovascular fitness so they can maintain a higher intensity of work for 50 –60 minutes several times a week. However, let’s remember that any movement is better than no movement. There are health and weight benefits with any activity. In other words, just get moving – in any way, shape, or form. Even cleaning the house, gardening, & playing with children, all help to get us moving! Look for ways in daily routines to increase the movement of the body through space.

According to Eleanor, for many years the idea that a person should exercise at 50% of maximal capacity for optimal fat loss was promoted. However, the fact is that higher intensity physical activity will actually use more fat calories than more moderate exercise. At 50% of maximum an individual burns 50-50% mixture of fat and carbohydrate for fuel while at 70% of maximal capacity the fuel mixture shifts to 40% fat and 60% carbohydrate. The key lies in the fact that exercise at the higher intensity burns more calories. For example, at 50% of capacity an individual may burn about 360 calories in 45 minutes of activity with 180 of those calories coming from fat. At the 70% level the person will expend 495 calories with 198 contributed by fat. The difference may not seem significant, but over weeks & months it adds up.

Remember that successful weight loss id gradual (i.e. over a period of time). A 100-calorie deficit per day will result in about 10 pounds lost per year. To achieve this a person can increase the intensity of workout from 50% to 70% or eat 1.3 oz. less meat or 1 slice less of bread. Small changes can make the difference between gaining and losing weight. It is easier to maintain and incorporate small changes into one’s lifestyle rather than trying to make drastic changes, which don’t last.

Achieving a healthy weight & general wellness takes time, patience, and commitment. Remember, it’s progress not perfection we are striving for! So let’s start with where ever you are now and identify small steps to focus on in order to get where you want to be.

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