In last week’s column we examined how stress can lead to weight gain. We learned that stress hormones, especially cortisol, cause the deposition of fat in the abdomen and inhibit the activation of thyroid hormone. This is a major reason why so many people have difficulty with abdominal weight. We also learned that detoxification is a very important strategy for weight loss. This is because toxins are to a large degree stored in fat tissue. As we removed toxins and metabolic wastes from the body we encourage healthy weight loss. In this week’s column we will examine the role of exercise in weight loss and body composition programs.
How Important is Exercise?
Most physicians would agree that exercise is a crucial part of any weight loss program. However, it is important to note that exercise is a relative not absolute activity. Exercise is not just about how long you do it for, how many calories you burned, or how much you sweat. It’s about transitioning toward healthy activity. Where you start depends on individual characteristics and exercise history. If you have never exercised before you will start at a different place than someone who stopped exercising five years ago. The key is to start and not compare yourself to anyone else. In the next few paragraphs we will begin to learn where to start.
Fun! Effective! Support!
I am a firm believer that for exercise to be of value it must meet three main requirements. First of all, exercise should be fun. It may not be enjoyable for every second of the activity but overall exercise should be activities you genuinely enjoy taking part in. If exercise is fun then it is highly likely that you will continue to do it and you will receive so many other health benefits because you are enjoying what you do. Secondly, exercise should be effective. This means that it is helping you achieve your goals, whatever those goals may be. In the next section I will show you how to make the most effective exercise program for improving your body composition. Thirdly, you should have support with your exercise program. Very few people can do it all on their own. Exercise with a partner, join a gym, play a team sport, or hire a personal trainer to support you.
The Right Exercises
There are two main types of exercise that are both very important for encouraging weight loss and improved body composition. Cardiovascular exercise involves activities like walking, jogging, elliptical trainers, and other aerobic activities. People burn lots of calories when they do these activities. However, the first 20 minutes of aerobic exercise actually utilizes stored sugar for energy not fat. After 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise the body primarily burns fat for energy. Therefore, it is important to understand that the first 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise doesn’t actually encourage significant weight loss.
Weight bearing exercises like weight lifting, elastic band training, and body resistance exercises encourage the development of lean muscle mass. As lean muscle mass increases the overall metabolic rate increases. This leads to increased fat burning not only during weight bearing exercise but all day long.
Fortunately, there is a very effective way to combine these two types of exercise together to maximize your efforts, energy, and time. If you start your workout with 20-30 minutes of weight bearing exercise you will not only build lean muscle mass but you will also prime the body for burning fat during cardiovascular exercise. Immediately after your weight bearing exercise you can do any kind of aerobic exercise and begin burning fat immediately. Changing your exercise routine to incorporate weight bearing activity prior to cardiovascular activity should improve body composition better than any other strategy.
*It is important to consult with your physician or health care practitioner prior to starting an exercise program.
In next week’s column we will examine how hormones affect weight and body composition.