Only about 10-15% of weight loss comes from exercise. Maybe you have been exercising, and you have not lost weight, leaving you feeling frustrated and discouraged. Or maybe you have been thinking about starting exercise, and you are wondering, “why bother”? As a doctor, I can tell you that there is almost nothing more important you can do for yourself than purposefully being physically active.
Regular exercise lowers blood pressure, prevents many cancers, and reduces the risk of cancer recurrence. Plus, exercise drops blood sugars immediately and maintains lower blood sugar for hours after exercise. Exercise strengthens bones. It lowers cholesterol. Physical activity improves your mood and helps you to sleep better. There is nothing you can do that has as many benefits as exercise.
What counts as exercise, and how do we know if we are doing enough to get these benefits? Here is my advice:
The type: Do anything that requires constant movement for at least 10 minutes. Walking, biking, jogging, swimming, or dancing - the key is to do what you enjoy for at least 10 minutes. If you cannot move well, consider chair exercises by alternating leg and arm movements as best you can. Put on some music to make it fun!
The amount: Aim for ten minutes three times a day. Work it into your typical day if possible, so you don’t have to get up early or stay up late. Ten minutes, three times a day, or 30 minutes a day, or three and a half hours a week: they all give the same results. I pick the goal of 30 minutes per day because it is proven to reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, diabetes, and cancer by half. Halve your risk with just 10 minutes of exercise three times a day! That is a big benefit for a modest effort.
The intensity: How do you know if you are going hard enough to get a benefit? Use your breathing as your guide. If you are short of breath such that you cannot easily talk- it counts! If you are breathing hard enough that you cannot complete a short sentence, you get double credit! Fifteen minutes of intense exercise offers the same benefit as 30 minutes of milder exercise.
Please do not be discouraged if you do not lose weight by exercising. Instead, focus on the many benefits exercise provides you. Remember, you don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment; you just need the time and space to engage in constant movement for at least 10 minutes three times a day.
Here is an example of how effective exercise can be for improving health. Two groups of patients had the same amount of narrowing in their coronary (heart) artery. Group one received a stent only. (A stent is a tiny tube that props open an artery.)
Group two did not get a stent but engaged in regular exercise.
The exercise group had almost 20% less risk of a heart problem than the stent group in the year that followed. Why? Because exercise treats all of your arteries while stents take care of a single spot. If your doctor tells you that you need a stent, absolutely do it, but do not forget to exercise - it may be even more important than that stent.
For more tips to help you through the holiday season and all year long, to learn more about our program or schedule an appointment, please visit mountnittany.org/weightmanagement.