While physical activity alone seldom results in significant and sustained weight loss, maintaining weight loss without physical activity is nearly impossible.
The quote above is from James Early, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita (Wichita, Kansas), as printed in Clinical Cornerstone, 2007, volume 8, No. 3, page 69.
It’s a simple truth, one that bears repeating, as the truth too often is submerged in a roiling sea of misinformation and trivia.
Exercise is extremely important for the vast majority of people who want to lose weight and keep it off, but it’s encouraging to know that it is possible to be successful if you don’t want to or can’t exercise.
This second quote is from the first edition of Thin For Life: 10 Keys to Success From People Who Have Lost Weight and Kept It Off, by Anne Fletcher, page 20. Out of the 160 “weight-control masters” studied by Anne, 70% exercised three or more times per week. Nine percent told her they didn’t exercise at all.
But what kind of exercise helps with weight management? The most important criterion is that it be pleasant for you. If not outright fun, it should be often enjoyable and always tolerable. Your exercise of choice should also be available year-round, affordable, safe, and utilize large muscle groups. The greater mass and number of muscles used, the more calories you will burn. Compare tennis playing with sitting in a chair squeezing a tennis ball repetitively. The tennis player burns calories much faster. Your largest muscles are in your legs, so consider walking, biking, many team sports, ski machines, jogging, treadmill, swimming, water aerobics, stationary cycling, stair-steppers, tennis, volleyball, roller-skating, rowing, jumping rope, yardwork, housework, etc. What? You don’t find housework pleasant? At least try it once with upbeat music blaring in the background. Walking is “just what the doctor ordered” for many people. It is readily available, affordable, usually safe, and requires little instruction. If it’s too hot, too cold, or rainy outside, you can do it in a mall, gymnasium, or health club.
Another option is instructional exercise DVDs and videotapes, featuring either a celebrity or prominent fitness trainer. Early leaders in this field 20–30 years ago included Richard Simmons, Jane Fonda, and Cindy Crawford. Many of these programs require only a pair of sneakers and loose clothing. Others include the option of using inexpensive equipment, such as light hand-held weights. If exercise videos sound appealing, you can’t go wrong with one of these: Supersweatin’ Party Off the Pounds, by Richard Simmons; Walk Away the Pounds—Walk Strong, by Leslie Sansone; Tighter Assets With Tamilee: Weight Loss & Cardio, by Tamilee Webb; Burn & Firm—Circuit Training, by Karen Voight; Minna Optimizer—Balanced Blend, by Minna Lessig; Personal Training System, by Denise Austin; Timesaver—Lift Weights to Lose Weight (volumes 1 & 2), Super Slimdown Circuit, and Functionally Fit—Peak Fat Burning, by Kathy Smith. Search for these titles at Amazon.com, where you can read reviews of them by actual users.
Another fun option for high-tech indoor exercise is Dance Dance Revolution by Konami. Perhaps you have seen a version of this video game in an arcade. You must use a video game console, such as a PlayStation or Xbox, and the Dance Dance Revolution Controller along with your TV screen. The controller is a 32 inch by 36 inch floor pad partitioned into several large squares. The TV screen shows you which squares to step on in sequence as the music plays, and you rack up points for accurate timing and foot placement. Each supplied tune can be danced at numerous skill levels, from easy to expert. Trust me; it’s more fun than I can describe. If you enjoy moving to music, time flies as you focus concentration on the TV display. Some versions of the game have a workout mode that tracks your calories burned. If you already have a video game console, you pay about $150 for the controller and game disc. As always, check for compatibility of all components before purchasing.
Steve Parker, M.D., author of The Advanced Mediterranean Diet: Lose Weight, Feel Better, Live Longer www.AdvancedMediterraneanDiet.com