Monday, August 17, 2009

Exercise Doesn't Make Us Lose Weight?

I just finished reading "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin" by John Cloud (Time magazine, Vol. 174, No. 6). I was interested to see what point the writer was making, and how he set out to make it.

Basically, he wrote was that when people exercise strenuously, they tend to compensate by doing less afterward (like taking the elevator instead of the stairs, sitting on the couch instead of sweeping the floor) and tend to eat more afterward (muffin and latte instead of a yogurt). He also mentioned that a strenuous exerciser might have less willpower than someone who didn't workout so hard, mostly because they are so tired. 

He's got a point. Two summers ago, I stopped working out for the month of August. I was going through some personal changes, and I just didn't want to go to the gym. I walked regularly, about an hour a day, but leisurely and with friends. My eating was pretty basic: a slice of pizza, a yogurt, some salad, coffee, water. I was probably eating about 1,400 calories a day. At the end of the month, I had literally dropped over 10 lbs. I wasn't even trying. Since I didn't workout, I wasn't as hungry, and I was more aware that I was expending less energy.

People who want to lose weight and use working out as the only method to do so will have a much harder time than those who combine working out with healthy eating. But still, working out is important overall.

We need to workout to build muscle strength and bone density. We need to stretch to sustain and increase flexibility. We need to do sweaty workouts to maintain and improve our cardiovascular system. Working out is important, but the writer of that story is correct in saying that working out cannot be the only method for weight loss.

Working out can be comprised of a variety of forms of physical activity. It can be yoga, walking, indoor cycling, dancing. It can be intense or moderate. The story was a good reminder, though, that working out doesn't replace moving in everyday life. If you are parking, it's good to park a bit farther away to wherever you are going, to get a good walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator/escalator, and walk whenever you can. Mow your law, plant flowers in your garden. Rake leaves. Throw a frisbee or football with your child or a friend, and have fun. 

Be aware of everything you are putting into your body. Think before you bite, and make a conscious decision when choosing food. 

Exercise is a good thing. Even strenuous exercise. It relieves stress, works the cardiovascular system, and increases metabolism. Just be sure to bypass the drive-thru on the way home from the gym.

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