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EXERCISE -I need to lose weight, but I really hate to exercise. Can I lose weight by eating a low-calorie diet without exercising?- It's possible; many dieters (especially women) avoid exercise at first and rely on low-calorie diets for weight loss. However, these same dieters often find that exercise can be the key to restarting weight loss that has suddenly stopped (see the section on plateaus), and most people who successfully maintain their new weights find that exercise is a necessary component of a maintenance plan. Another benefit of exercise (especially anaerobic exercises such as weight lifting--see section on "What is anaerobic exercise?") is that it can increase the amount of muscle tissue in your body--the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. -What are the most effective types of exercise for losing fat/weight?- Those that cause your heart rate to increase to 65-80% of the suggested maximum heart rate for your age group (which can be determined by subtracting your age from 220), and which will keep your pulse at that rate for at least 15-20 minutes continuously (i.e., "aerobic", or "oxygen-using" exercises). Depending on your current fitness level and how hard you work, many exercises, sports, or tasks can be aerobic in nature. You don't necessarily have to jog or go bicycling; you can count walking, dancing, or vigorous housework (e.g., vacuuming) as exercise so long as it causes your heart rate to stay in that 65-80% range continuously for 15-20 minutes. Note: While swimming qualifies as an aerobic exercise and does appear to provide all the cardiovascular benefits of other aerobic exercises, it appears to be less effective for weight loss than other exercises. Swimmers tend to have higher fat levels than other athletes; this may be because fat provides buoyancy and insulation against cool water temperatures. -How hard do I need to exercise?- Hard enough to get your heart beating fast, but not hard enough to exhaust you; this is the pace at which your muscles burn fat most efficiently. Exercising harder than this causes carbohydrates (sugars) to be burned, not fat. (For a detailed, easy-to-read discussion on this subject, check out The New Fit or Fat, by Covert Bailey.) There are several ways to tell whether you're exercising at the proper intensity: * Heart rate: Determine your maximum safe heart rate by subtracting your age from 220, then exercise hard enough to bring your heart rate to 65-80% of your maximum. For example, if you're thirty years old, your maximum heart rate is 190, and you should aim for a heart rate of 123 to 152 while exercising. If you're not in great shape (just starting to exercise, recovering from a minor illness, etc.), you should aim for the lower end of your range. Taking your pulse during exercise can be tricky, since you'll usually need to stop jogging, dancing, or whatever, to accurately feel your pulse (at your wrist or at your carotid artery, which is located at the side of your neck just under the jaw). Stopping for too long, however, can cause your pulse to drop down out of your target range. Measure your pulse briefly (Covert Bailey recommends 6 seconds, other authorities recommend 10 or 5 seconds), then multiply that figure by the correct amount (10, 6 or 4) to determine your average pulse per minute. (* If your normal, resting heart rate isn't somewhere around 70-80 beats per minute, the "maximum safe heart rate" formula above may not be an accurate indicator of exertion for you; use the "talk test," explained below, instead.) * Talk test": This method doesn't require that you stop exercising, but it can earn you some odd looks out on the jogging track. :) Try speaking out loud as you exercise--if you have enough breath to speak easily, without gasping, but not enough to sing, then you're doing ust fine. *Getting warm or working up a sweat: the least precise of these methods. If you exercise in warm conditions, you should exercise hard enough to work up a light sweat. In cold conditions, it's sufficient to work hard enough to make yourself warm. Keep in mind that as your fitness improves, you will have to work harder to get your heart rate up, so keep checking your pulse (or using the talk test) even if you've been exercising for some months. -What is anaerobic exercise?- Anaerobic exercise is activity which promotes the growth of muscle tissue, as opposed to burning fat tissue, which is the point of aerobic exercise. Anaerobic exercise involves pushing your muscles to the limits in order to encourage them to grow to meet the demands that you put on them. Unlike aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise is short and intense. Weight lifting, sit-ups, push-ups, chin-ups, and squats are all examples of anaerobic exercises. Anaerobic exercise does not cause weight loss; in fact, those who exercise anaerobically on a regular basis may find themselves actually gaining some weight due to the increase in muscle mass (even though their bodies are becoming leaner and trimmer, since muscle is denser than fat). However, anaerobic exercise is an important part in overall fitness precisely because of that increase in muscle. Your muscles, after all, are what do the work that burn calories, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. -How often and how long do I need to exercise?- In short, you should exercise aerobically as often as you can. 6 or 7 times a week is not excessive, although if you work out this frequently, you might wish to alternate exercises from day to day (e.g., walk or jog one day, bike the next) to avoid stressing the same sets of muscles repeatedly. Most authorities recommend a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic exercise per session, and at least 3 sessions per week. Ideally, you should also include 2 or 3 sessions of anaerobic exercise per week to increase strength and build muscle mass. (You should always allow 2 to 3 days between anaerobic workout sessions to permit your muscles to recover and to prevent injury.) -How many calories do different types of exercise burn?- For those who like tables, here's a table from The Family Fitness Handbook by Bob Glover and Jack Shepherd, p. 185. These numbers are probably geared towards those who are just starting to exercise; people who are already fit may burn calories at much higher rates than those listed here. Exercise ~Calories Burned/Minute Cross-country skiing 10-15 Running 10-12 Handball/Squash/Racquetball (singles) 8-11 Handball/Squash/Racquetball (doubles) 6- 8 Canoeing/Rowing 7-11 Swimming (crawl stroke) 8-10 Biking 5-10 Jumping rope 7-10 Tennis (singles) 7-10 Tennis (doubles) 5- 7 Ice and roller-skating 5-10 Walking 5- 7 Dancing (rock/disco) 4- 6 Dancing (square, western, polka) 5- 8 Dancing (aerobic class) 5- 8 If you're into numbers, this may look discouraging. Seen from a "input equals output" standpoint, it appears that you'd need to run for nearly an hour to burn off a 560-calorie Big Mac. The wonderful thing about exercise, Athough, is that it raises your metabolic rate, even after you stop exercising. The effects of exercise linger for some time after you stop moving, and in time, regular exercise will cause your body to burn fat far more efficiently than it did when you were inactive. -Does "passive exercise" (e.g., toning tables) work?- Toning tables may help relax tense muscles, but they certainly don't work your muscles, which is what you must do to burn calories. Other gimmicks such as jiggling belts, rollers that "knead" fatty areas, electrical muscle stimulators, body wraps or suits, and the like, do not promote calorie burning. Some of these devices (like body wraps or sweatsuits) do cause fluid loss (sweating) which results in lower weight and body measurements, but these losses are fleeting. A couple of glasses of water, and you're right back where you started. -I move around a lot during the day; I try to use stairs instead of elevators, park my car on the far side of the parking lot, etc. Would I qualify as a "moderately active" person?- Not unless you really do move around a lot. According to physicians and dietitians, a moderately active person is one who exercises at least 30 to 60 minutes per day, whether all at once or spread out through the day. Every little bit of exercise that you get helps, but most of us do need to include a regular exercise program in our daily routines to meet that 30-60 minute requirement. MOTIVATION - Iíve started a diet and exercise program, but I'm finding it really hard to stay on track. Any suggestions?- Eating tips: * Make sure that the eating plan you're following--whether it's a commercial plan like Weight Watchers or one you devised yourself--suits your needs and cravings. Do you need the control of weighing and measuring every bite that you eat, or do you need the freedom of eating whatever quantities of low-fat, nutritious foods that satisfy your hunger? Do you feel most in control if you eat 3 meals a day, or if you "graze" on 5 or 6 small meals throughout the day? Do you need to ease into a new eating plan gradually, adapting to new low-fat, high-fiber foods week by week, or would you be more motivated by going "cold turkey" on junk foods? Do what works for you, which may not be at all the same thing that worked for your best friend, husband, etc. * Don't beat yourself up if you "fall off the wagon" and indulge (or even overindulge) in something you think you shouldn't have eaten. An episode of uncontrolled eating does not mean that you or your diet failed, just as a minor fender-bender doesn't mean that you or your car are totally unworthy of ever appearing in traffic again. ® When it comes to improving your health, doing something, no matter how small, is always better than doing nothing. You may not be willing or able to adopt all of our suggestions regarding nutrition and exercise, but everybody can work some of these changes into their lives. Try switching from whole milk, regular mayonnaise and salad dressings to their nonfat counterparts. If you just can't live without meat, eat meat, but eat leaner cuts and smaller portions. If you can't exercise every day, at least take the stairs or walk around the block every once in a while. The more you can do the better, but even the smallest changes can improve your long-term health and your self-image. Exercise tips: * Don't overdo it; start out gradually. The point is not to exhaust yourself. * Try a variety of different exercises: walking, biking (outdoors or stationary bike), skating/rollerblading, dancing (in a class, to a tape, or put on some peppy music and make up your own steps), trampolining, hiking, etc. Even if you don't find an activity you like, maybe you'll find one you can tolerate. * Try listening to music, books on tape, or motivational tapes while exercising; maybe you can distract yourself. (Be extremely cautious and alert when using personal stereos with headphones outdoors, since these devices may leave you unable to hear approaching cars, bicycles, etc.) * Consider the possibility of "double-density" exercises: combining exercise with other activities that you do enjoy, such as reading or watching TV while riding a stationary bicycle, or using walks to catch up on quality time with your significant other or your kids. * Every little bit of exercise helps, so work in some extra motion whenever you can. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park well away from buildings (if it's safe to do so), etc. Healthy people are active people; overweight people are good at finding ways to conserve their energy. * Try biking to work, school, etc. People commute up to 30 miles each way. This can be done in all weather that's passable by our-wheel-drive cars, day or night, and it's no less safe than in a car. Your exercise time is largely time you would have spent commuting anyway, and you save tons of money. [I strongly recommend John and comfortably.--kfl] * If your destination is 5 miles away or less, consider walking or jogging. * Stick with your exercise plan until it becomes a habit, one that youíll enjoy brushing their teeth, but just as few would want to skip doing so for three or four days.