Weight Loss Series Part 3-

In Part 1 of this series we talked about how sustainable weight loss is kind of a paradox since the truth is that losing weight is really all about gaining health. In this post we will discuss how exercise is a very important part of gaining health and returning balance back to your body. 80% of the battle for optimal body composition is won in the kitchen rather than the gym, but don’t let that fool you when it comes to the importance of exercise. Our body’s genetic design is wired up with a specific expectation for regular daily movement. If we neglect that need, then imbalances are sure to occur. The problem with the lack of exercise though is that symptoms are latent rather than acute. For example if you have a lack of an essential vitamin like vitamin C, then acute symptoms of scurvy will show up within months. A lack of exercise though might take years to take its toll, and since it is understood that exercise is critical for the health of every cell and tissue in your body there is no telling just how detrimental a lack of exercise can be. One symptom for certain though is the gradual exchange of muscle mass for fat tissue. Not only is excess fat unattractive, but it has horrible repercussions over time like metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, thyroid exhaustion, reproductive dysfunction, cancer, among many.

Ok, so I should just hit the treadmill right?

The tendency for most exercisers that want to lose a few pounds or get leaner is to gravitate towards doing tons of “cardio” exercise like running, cycling, or anything that gets their heart rate up for a long period of time. The thought process is usually that the more I do, and the longer I run, the more fat I will burn. These types of folks usually abide by the dogma of “eat less and workout more”. Do NOT follow this all to often mistake. While it is great to do some cardio-type of exercise once in a while, it is rarely productive to keep your heart at an elevated rate for long periods of time. It actually becomes counter-productive at a certain point and your body starts to release stress hormones like cortisol that promote fat-storage and metabolic dysfunction. Have you ever seen a long distance runner or cyclists body type? They are usually very thin, and tend to carry an unusual pouch of body fat around their abdomen. The reason being that they usually are forced to eat tremendous amounts of sugar to fuel their long exercise bouts and the prolonged stress they endure forces their body to store fat and elevate stress hormone. This is not a good exercise strategy for someone who wants to have optimal health, longevity, and especially lose weight.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Move your body EVERYDAY. When I say move your body, I mean move around more than you sit on your keester. Walk, take the stairs, stretch, do some yoga, garden, play with your kids, etc. Our ancestors, who were the most physically fit and healthy people who ever walked the earth did a ton of moving around at a slow pace. Movement will keep your joints healthy, help you burn fat, keep you mentally sharp, and help you feel great. This doesn’t require breaking a sweat, this just requires moving around at a moderate pace often during the day. The rule of thumb for desk dwellers is that for every 30 minutes of sitting you should be moving and stretching your body for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Every once in a while, kick it up a notch! 1-2 times per week pick an activity like walking, biking, jumping jacks, whatever, and do some higher intensity sprints. What I mean by this is to pick a certain time or distance interval and pick up the pace to where you are working vigorously to darn near an all-out effort during that time. These intervals do not have to be very long, they can be 10-30 seconds so long as you are working as hard as you can during that time. Pick a rest period in between your intervals from anywhere between 30-90 seconds to let your heart rate recover. I suggest shooting for anywhere from 5-10 different sprint intervals depending on the amount of time that you choose to sprint. A great way to perform these sprint intervals is to do what are called Tabata sprints. This sprinting protocol calls for 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 8 times. This gives you a total time of only 4 minutes of work, but I promise that you will be exhausted by the end of this workout. Say good-bye to long useless 2 hour cardio sessions! You can pick any activity with this protocol, just remember that the 20 seconds of work means that you are working as hard as you can! It will be uncomfortable, but only for a very short period of time. This is where the good stuff comes from, and where you will get huge results when it comes to weight-loss and health benefits.
  3. Resistance training (2-3 times per week for 20-60 min). If you are missing this critical component in your training then you are missing out on one of the most important pieces of weight loss and optimal health. Consider that the gradual loss of muscle and bone tissue from the lack of resistance activity is what puts people in nursing homes. Building and maintaining muscle is not only critical for staying functional for life but is necessary for sustainable weight loss. Now this does not mean that you have to get a gym pass and start pumping iron with all the muscle heads, resistance training can be body weight exercises like squats, sit-ups, push-ups, dips, or even taking a hike with a loaded up backpack. The best way to begin a resistance training program though, especially when using weights, is to hire a coach (read 7 reasons everyone needs a coach). This will allow you to safely and effectively build a repertoire of exercises that you can do on a regular basis. Remember, muscle tissue burns calories even while you’re resting. It is necessary for a balanced metabolism and weight loss, and it looks a heck of a lot more attractive under your skin!
  4. Vitamin F- Fun! At least once per week find an activity that you love to do that gets your sweat on. Shoot some hoops, run a 5 K, have a dance party, whatever it is that you love to do! When it feels more like play than work time usually flies. Besides, when something is fun its much easier to stick to the program.

In summary, here’s what to do: Move your body everyday, kick it up a notch for short intervals 1-2 times per week, do some resistance activity 2-3 times per week, and play once per week. In total, this program would take you less than 2-3 hours per week of sweat equity. Doesn’t that sound a heck of a lot better than dragging yourself to the gym for an hour or two to run on a hamster wheel? When it comes to weight loss and exercise, less can definitely be more. Start with a commitment to making movement a priority in your life. And yes, you do have time. Make time now to move your body, or plan to make time later to take care of symptoms from a lack of exercise.

Part 4 will talk about the other lesser known factors that could be sabotaging your weight loss goals.

In the meantime, If you want to come learn more about the Movement Rules to live by for acheiving optimal health then join Dr. Ryan and Kendra at this months ” Motivated to Move” wellness workshop on Wednesday, May 2nd starting at 6:30pm at Merrimack Valley Wellness Center. Call [th_phone] to  register you and your guest for FREE!

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