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Exercise to Lose Weight and Maintain Health

Official Guidelines

  • The Surgeon General has publicised the fact that overweight and lack of physical activity is bad for health. The Surgeon General recommends moderate activity of about 150 calories per day or 1000 calories per week.

  • The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggest all adults should engage in 30 minutes or more of moderately intense physical activity daily. This level of activity corresponds to about 200 calories expended a day.

  • Other authorities suggest the least amount of activity for optimal physical health is an energy (calorie) expenditure of about 1500-2000 calories a week via moderately intense activities. Additional health benefits come with increased intensity.

  • Most experts suggest moderately intense aerobic activity needs to be performed most days of the week to bring about significant fat loss. Some sources recommend brisk walking progressing to 45 minutes or more daily. Other authorities recommend working up to 60-90 minutes of daily physical activity for weight loss.

Exercise to Lose Weight and Maintain Health

Exercise to Lose Weight - Our Recommendation

For best weight loss and long-term weight maintenance, combine Cardio-Aerobic Exercise with Weight/Strength Training.

In a nutshell, aerobic exercises help to burn extra calories and develop some muscles. Weight training builds muscle mass to raise your metabolic rate, which helps to maintain weight loss in the long-term.

Exercise to Lose Weight and Maintain Health

Cardiovascular Fitness

  • Cardiovascular fitness is based on maximizing oxygen intake. This is best achieved through physical activity involving large muscle groups over prolonged period of time. These activities are rhythmic and aerobic in nature (e.g. walking, running, hiking, stair climbing, swimming cycling, rowing, dancing, skating, cross country skiing, rope jumping, etc.). (ACSM 1995).

  • Cardiovascular fitness improvement is dependent upon frequency, duration, intensity of exercise. An increase in oxygen intake may range from 5 to 30% depending on these factors. Intensity of exercise is the dominant factor. Weight/strength/resistance training does not significantly increase oxygen intake. (ACSM 1995).

Exercise to Lose Weight

With a typical exercise program, it is usual to maintain weight yet lose fat and gain muscle. This gain in lean muscle tissue results in a lower body fat percentage and a higher metabolic rate, which is good for weight control. Lean muscle tissue is much more metabolically active than fat tissue. One pound of muscle can burn 30 to 50 calories a day, while one pound of fat burns only 3 calories a day.

That said, in order to achieve significant reduction in body fat, regular moderately intensive exercise needs to be combined with a healthy balanced diet. In addition, fat loss is most efficient when aerobic exercise is combined with anaerobic exercise, like weight/strength training.

Exercise to Lose Weight - Calories Burned

Although exercise may burn relatively few calories, a negative energy balance of as little as 200 calories a day can result in weight loss over time.

For example: by brisk walking for one hour (300 calories burned), instead of watching TV (80 calories burned) you burn an extra 220 calories. Over the course of a year, this is the equivalent of 23 pounds of body weight. What's more, in clinical tests, when moderate exercise is performed food intake either remains the same or decreases. At the same time, weight will gradually decrease.

Exercise to Lose Weight - No Spot Reduction of Fat

Contrary to what some weight loss and exercise products state, there is no such thing as spot reduction. Fat is lost throughout the body in a pattern dependent upon genetics, gender, hormones and age. In other words, although a negative calorie deficit (more calories burned than consumed) will always cause fat loss, the precise location of such fat loss is decided by the body and no exercise or diet routines can influence this process.

Although fat may be lost throughout the body, the midsection (in men and some women) and hips and thighs (in women and few men) is typically the final body area to become lean.

Spot exercises, like sit-ups, crunches, hip raises, leg raises, hip adduction, hip abduction, etc. can only develop the muscles adjacent to the fat. They cannot burn fat from the area exercised.

Sources include: American College of Sports Medicine, (1995) Principles of Exercise Prescription, William & Wilkins, 5.


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