What is the role of exercise in a weight loss program?

Did you know that less than 25 per cent of people who attempt weight loss, on their own, incorporate exercise into their weight loss plans? Are you one of them?

If yes, then remember, exercise is more strongly associated with weight loss than any other factor, including diet. Combine exercise and weight loss diet and you will see effective and sustained weight loss. Evidence shows that even if you do not lose weight, you will find exercise improves your cardiovascular system.

Evidence also shows that increased exercise intensity increased the magnitude of weight loss. The question is: besides being on a diet, how much exercise do we need to lose weight?

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that if you can get people to reduce how much food they eat by about 25 per cent, and you get them to do a least
30 to 40 minutes of exercise five days a week, you can achieve a weight loss of nine per cent. This means a 200-pound person could lose about 20 pounds and successfully maintain it for at least a year (Globe and Mail October 1, 2003).

A study from Duke University, published in 2004, in the Archives of Internal Medicine, showed that study participants who got no exercise during the eight-month study gained an average of almost 2.5 pounds. But 73 per cent of those who briskly walked 17 kilometers a week or about 30 minutes a day were able to maintain their weight or even lose a few pounds. Those who did more vigorous exercise, like jogging 27 km weekly, had the most noticeable weight loss.

Let us look at the study published in 2008, “Effect of Exercise on 24-Month Weight Loss Maintenance in Overweight Women,” in the Archives of Internal Medicine. For two years the authors of the article studied 201 overweight and obese women with body mass index of 27 to 40, with age range of 21 to 45 years.

They found that by the end of the 24-month intervention, the women who managed to lose at least 10 per cent of their starting body weight and managed to keep it off were exercising twice as long as and burning more than twice as many calories through exercise as women who had no change in body weight. More they exercised, more they lost weight. Women who lost the most weight exercised 68 minutes a day, five days a week.

Every day we read about the epidemic of obesity. Is it because we eat too much or we are not exercising enough? Well, you will be surprised to read that our calorie intake over the last 100 years has not increased. What has happened is there has been a sharp drop in caloric expenditure secondary to changes at the workplace and in the home.

The Archives article defines the duration and intensity of physical activity necessary to maintain weight loss. Your happy hour of physical activity should have 68 minutes. The challenge is to sustain intense exercise for 68 minutes per day about five times a week and keep it interesting.

The Archives article suggests that increased daily activity should be encouraged via formal exercise, a modified work and school environment that allows for movement while working and learning. A modified home environment with less television and more movement would go a long way in achieving the happy hour of activity. So, let us keep moving.

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