Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is Exercise Really Necessary to Lose Weight?

Answering this question will probably upset some of my fitness fanatic friends, but I have to be honest. An exercise program is not necessary to lose weight. It is a question many people ask simply because they are at a place in their health where exercise isn't an option, or it feels like torture. I have to confess that I lost my weight before I started an exercise program. I didn't just lose a few pounds either…. I lost 54lbs BEFORE I started exercising. It was not until I had lots of flabby skin to tone up that I made myself find the time to fit exercise into my schedule. Using our weight management program which helps to balance the metabolism was all that my body needed to shed the fat.

I say this not to upset the exercise gurus who read this, but to encourage people who aren't to the place in their journey that they are ready to implement exercise. I can also offer encouragement by saying that all my clients who started out in that position, now enjoy pain free exercise and have found a way to fit it into their busy lives. Now to appease my gym rat friends a little more – even though exercise isn't necessary for your weight loss program, it *is* necessary for your fitness program. Most of us who have weight loss as a goal would also have 'being more healthy' as our 'why' for setting that goal. So, you aren't off the hook!

You can NOT be healthy without some form of physical activities which include aerobic and anaerobic routines. We might think we are healthy because we are at our ideal weight, but unless you are physically exerting yourself, your heart and lungs will be weak. You must get your heart rate up higher than normal in order to 'exercise' your cardiovascular system. Most of us are familiar with aerobic exercise, but I thought including the following description would be helpful in understanding the differences in aerobic and anaerobic so you can incorporate both in your program.

"The term "anaerobic" means "without air" or "without oxygen." Anaerobic exercise uses muscles at high intensity and a high rate of work for a short period of time. Anaerobic exercise helps us increase our muscle strength and stay ready for quick bursts of speed. Think of short and fast when you think of anaerobic exercise.

Examples of anaerobic exercise include heavy weight lifting, sprinting, or any rapid burst of hard exercise. These anaerobic exercises cannot last long because oxygen is not used for energy and a by-product, called lactic acid, is produced.

Lactic Acid contributes to muscle fatigue and must be burned up by the body during a recovery period before another anaerobic bout of exercise can be attempted. The recovery period also allows the muscles to use oxygen to replenish the energy used during the high intensity exercise.

Aerobic exercise, on the other hand, includes lower intensity activities performed for longer periods of time. Activities like walking, jogging, swimming, and cycling require a great deal of oxygen to make the energy needed for prolonged exercise.

Both aerobic and anaerobic exercises are needed for the development of physical fitness. Check with your healthcare provider before you start an exercise program. Choose activities that you enjoy, and that are readily accessible." – taken from the University of Iowa's website.

Many people think that if they are walking 3-5 times a week that should be enough. Even though that is better than no exercise, it is doubtful that it will facilitate weight loss, and it is definitely not enough to support good cardiovascular health. Zumba is the latest craze, and is lots of fun. I am a social exerciser so finding classes at the local gym was what it took for me to "take the plunge." I really like Body Pump too because it includes enough weights to double as aerobic exercise and weight training. R.I.P.P.E.D. is probably my favorite thus far, but is not the best class for beginners because of its intensity. Whether you get to the gym for a fun class, or order a DVD so you can get all sweaty and stinky in the privacy of your own home, find something to do to get your heart rate up, your lungs working at full capacity, and your muscles moving enough to at least feel it the next day. Find something to do that you enjoy, or you won't stick with it. And just like dieting… exercising is NOT going to work for you if you have a short term attitude about it. It needs to be a lifestyle change.

Even though exercise is not necessary to lose weight, it is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. As the Nike slogan goes…. "Just Do It!" Do it for your figure, but most importantly, do it for your health!

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