Look around any community and one thing is very clear; Americans are gaining weight. Furthermore, those that want to lose are having a much
harder time because of sedentary lifestyles and diets high in processed foods. Weight gain in the United States has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov), today almost 68% of Americans are over weight. Perhaps more alarming, about one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese and approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents (aged 2-19 years) are obese. Obesity is a term used to mean something greater than just overweight and is most commonly calculated by using Body Mass Index (mentioned earlier). A BMI of 30 or greater is
considered obese and 40 or above is considered morbidly obese. To determine your BMI, please refer to the following chart by the National Institute of Health: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi_tbl.htm
The health implications of obesity in America are startling:
- If things remain as they are today, one-third of all chilldren born in the year 2000 or later may suffer from diabetes at some point in their lives, while many others are likely to face chronic health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and asthma.
- Studies indicate that overweight youth may never achieve a healthy weight, and up to 70% of obese teens may become obese adults. Even more worrisome, the cumulative effect could be that children born in the year 2000 or later may not outlive their parents.
Think about that last statement; for the first time in the history of the United States of America, children being born today are not expected to
live longer lives than their parents. That is startling! The impact of obesity doesn’t end there. Obesity has personal financial and national
economic implications as well. Those who are obese have medical costs that are $1,429 more than those of normal weight on average (roughly 42% higher). And annual direct costs of childhood obesity are $14.3 billion.
Why Exercise Helps Weight Loss
There are two primary strategies for successful weight loss; eat less and burn more calories. Certainly a healthy, well-balanced diet is critical to good health and is especially important when trying to lose weight. 3,500 calories consumed and not burned will add one pound of body weight. Said another way, if you overeat by just 125 calories every day (which is easy to do), you will gain one pound every month! Therefore, controlling calories is necessary. However, it is human nature to want to eat and at least three times a day you typically find yourself making significant food choices. This makes consistently controlling calories very challenging for most people. Therefore, more physical activity increases the number of calories your body uses for energy.
The burning of calories through physical activity, combined with reducing the number of calories you eat, creates a “calorie deficit” that results
in weight loss. But, studies have shown that people who lose weight with diet along often re-gain the weight. Many re-gain more because they have lost valuable lean body mass by reducing calories too much. Therefore, regular exercise actually helps weight loss in two distinct ways. First, it helps to burn more calories. Second, it helps to maintain lean body mass during weight loss, which keeps the body burning more calories at rest.
Perhaps most importantly, evidence shows that people who engage in regular physical exercise and activity are more likely to maintain their weight loss than those who succeed with diet alone.
How Much Exercise is Needed?
When it comes to weight loss, people vary greatly in how much physical activity they need based on their body type, metabolism and exercise intensity. That said, most people will need a high amount of physical activity unless ones’ diet is adjusted to reduce the amount of calories being consumed. The more
vigorous your exercise program, the more calories per hour you will burn. What do we mean by vigorous exercise? Something is vigorous if your heart rate is increased substantially and you are breathing too hard and fast to have a conversation.
- Swimming laps.
- Rollerblading/inline skating at a brisk pace.
- Cross-country skiing.
- Most competitive sports (football, basketball, or soccer).
- Jumping rope.
On the other hand, if your breathing and heart rate is noticeably faster but you can still carry on a conversation, you are probably exercising at a moderate intensity. Examples of moderate intensity exercises would include:
- Walking briskly (a 15-minute mile).
- Light yard work (raking/bagging leaves or using a lawn mower)
- Light snow shoveling.
- Actively playing with children.
- Biking at a casual pace.
To maintain weight it is recommended that you get approximately 225 minutes of exercise each week, with 1/3rd of that being vigorous and the other 2/3rds being moderate. Of course, everyone is different and you may need to adjust up or down to achieve your own weight loss goals. The good news is that whatever amount or type of exercise program you begin, it is more than what you are probably doing now. Set some realistic goals, write them down
and begin your new exercise journey today. By increasing your exercise expenditure as well as monitoring your caloric intake, you will soon be on your way to successful, long-term weight loss.