Monday, June 25, 2012

Exercise Time

Okay, it's been long enough (did I really write the last post here about my diet 18 months ago?) and I should say at least a word or three about exercise.

I'm sure nearly anyone interested in losing weight has watched shows where the enormously obese are put through a regimen that would be daunting for a trained marine.  It burns up calories, which helps, but not as much as you think.  If you start doing the math you may end up depressed -- sawing logs by hand, a pretty tough thing to do, burns up 500 calories per hour (assuming you could even do that for an hour).  That's about the equivalent of one donut.  Or, to look at it another way, to lose a pound of weight you'd have to saw those logs for seven hours (at the end of which time you'd eat about 2,000 more calories than you normally would, making the whole point moot.  Or you'd drop dead).

What you really want to do when you exercise is not so much burn calories but build muscle.  That's the key to weight loss.  It's unfair, but fat begats fat, and lean muscle burns calories so much more efficiently it's not even close.  That's one big reason why your thin friend eats like a horse and never gains weight, while you look at a soda and the scale goes up a pound.

So we want to concentrate on strength training, and that means lifting weights, either those that are sitting on the floor first, or those that are attached to you (which means your body weight).  There's no getting around that minute for minute the absolute best thing you can do for shedding those pounds is to pump iron.

But don't despair -- you don't have to spend the time that Ahnold does (or even look like him) to get benefits.  Even a couple days a week, 15 minutes a day, will achieve remarkable results.  Ideally you'll do it three days a week (with a day off in between) and spend about 30 minutes each day, but at least do something.

You don't have to join a gym, or even buy a lot of equipment.  Body weight exercises are fine, and if you supplement them with a few free weights (free in that they are not attached to a machine, not that anyone is giving them to you for nothing :>) you're gold.  I may (or may not) go into details about this in another but for now that's all you need to know.

And what about all the aerobic stuff you see them do on those shows?  Is it just a waste of time?  Well, insofar as losing weight, the answer is mostly yes, but it's a very good idea health wise to get your aerobic conditioning up there.  Being healthy isn't all about being the ideal weight -- you can be thin and very unhealthy (and conversely, I've seen some guys on the tennis court that have the aerobic conditioning of a top level athlete, and have bellies bigger than mine ever was). So by all means get out and walk, run or dance to the music (experts say about 15 minutes of cardio five days a week is the minimum).  I play tennis, because all the other stuff bores the heck out of me, but do whatever you want to have fun as well as get your heart healthy.  Just don't expect to lose any weight doing it.

Oh, and just for a running commentary -- it's been over two years now and I'm still at (or below) my target weight.  I do fluctuate at times, particularly when I hurt my arm recently and had to stop lifting weights for six weeks (I gained three pounds but quickly lost it back when I started working out again). I know one thing -- I will NEVER be fat again.

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