One of the guys I played football with in high school used to always tell us how fit and “cut” he was underneath the layer(s) of “cushioning” that comprised his exterior. At 6’4”, 300 pounds, he was hardly taken seriously by a group of 17- and 18-year-old boys who liked to tease and poke fun after practice. However, 4 years of NCAA Division 1 football, new eating habits, and several years of professional/combine athletic training have transformed my aforementioned previous teammate into a solid, 6’4”, 240-pound mold of his former self, and he now does elite-training for high school athletes.
Essentially, the guy was right!
A big problem that I find with a lot of patients that struggle with weight and issues such as blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol is that they are not necessarily doing the right things to address their specific issue(s). Too often we think it’s all about conquering the will part – the will to cut calories or the will to get into the gym. Without the proper focused approach though, will alone rarely translates to desired results.
The exercise required to peel away layers (like the example above) and shed pounds is aerobic exercise, and the easiest way to characterize aerobic exercise is: a sweat-producing activity that can be sustained for at least 30 minutes. It’s termed aerobic because it improves the efficiency of oxygen used by your cardiovascular system. Examples include jogging or brisk walking, elliptical machines, biking, swimming, and the appropriately dubbed aerobic classes.
Aerobic exercise is the best medicine when it comes to burning away calories and fat. In addition, it’s the easiest and most effective way to add definition and tone to your physique. The short-term benefit of aerobic exercise is weight loss, and the long the benefits include decreased blood pressure and better blood sugar regulation, equating to decreased risk (and/or treatment) of hypertension and diabetes. HDL (or good cholesterol), which provides heart protection, is raised by liberal amounts of aerobic exercise. 30 minutes, 3-5 times weekly, is the dose recommended for all.
Of nearly equal importance, I want you to be careful to avoid doing the wrong kind of exercise. If you are considerably overweight, looking to drop some pounds, or trying to slim down, the weight room is NOT the place for you. Lifting weights, especially heavy weights, generally builds muscle and bulk underneath your layers and can be counterproductive to your goal(s). It also is not as effective as aerobic exercise when it comes to fat and calorie burning and can actually add a few pounds.
Spring is right around the corner, and now is the perfect time to get started with a regular exercise routine. As always, consult with your physician before embarking on any type of complex regimen, and remember that when it comes to investing in your long-term health and peeling away any undesirable layers, aerobic exercise, 30 minutes, 3-5 weekly is the way to go.