Losing weight is a challenge for many people who are overweight or obese.
There are many strategies one can employ to achieve this end, including adopting healthy eating habits, exercise, stress reduction, getting enough sleep and so on.
Invariably, a person runs into plateaus, where weight loss seems to stall and one can get frustrated, start to lose hope and eventually may abandon the new healthy lifestyle. But there is research that should help those who are encountering this impediment.
Being overweight or obese has numerous health risks associated with it, including a higher risk for cardiovascular, disease, diabetes, cancer among others. However, there has been mounting evidence, including a study last year published in the European Heart Journal, which suggests that overweight people can reduce that risk by a significant amount as long as they exercise regularly.
When the researchers took into account many different lifestyle factors, including how much the individuals exercised, they found that the obese exercisers had a 50 per cent reduced risk of death compared to the obese non-exercisers.
When the obese exercisers were compared with normal weight people who did not exercise, there was no difference in risk of death from metabolically-related chronic diseases.
That is a stunning effect that exercise can have on the body. Of course that doesn’t give license to go out and adopt other terrible lifestyle habits as long as you exercise, but it does provide a great impetus for non-exercisers to begin to get fit.
These findings have a couple of implications. One is for people who are overweight or obese and who are exercising regularly but having a tough time in dropping scale weight. These people should not despair as long as they keep exercising, since they have already achieved a reduction in risk factors despite the lack of success in losing pounds.
For many people, the roller-coaster scale weight is one of the biggest reasons for giving up. Stay with it – it’s a lifestyle change, just like eating, sleeping and working. And if you keep exercising, there is a likelihood that your persistence will eventually pay off and you will shed pounds, even if you are not performing the optimal fitness routine.
So how much exercise is enough? The bare minimum to accrue the 50 per cent reduction in mortality risk factors is exercising at least five days a week for 30 minutes, or three days a week for 60 minutes.
The intensity needs to be at least moderate, 50 to 60 per cent of maximum, which means being mildly out of breath but not gasping.
Strolling with your dog and talking to neighbors while you walk probably won’t do it – it needs to be at least a steady, brisk walk.
If you do more than this, it turns out that you cut your mortality risk factors by even more – further benefits of up to 10 to 15 per cent have been seen.
And if you are not able to do the recommended minimum, you can still get some health benefits though they do diminish.
So the take-home message is if you haven’t started exercising, you should get going, and if you’re already exercising and are overweight, keep going no matter what the scale says.
Kerry Senchyna holds a bachelor of science degree in kinesiology and is owner of West Coast Kinesiology.