Monday, December 28, 2009

MYTH: Physical activity is icing on the cake—it doesn’t do anything for me, really.

Answer: Busted.

Let’s explore physical activity as a part of losing weight.

Again, using the analogy of the appliance, one of the questions to consider is ‘What way will give me the “best product for my money” (or, best weight loss for my effort)?’ If weight loss is the only thing we want from our New Year’s Resolution, then physical activity may not be an aspect of the “appliance” we want to buy with our time and effort. Why is that? Most weight loss occurs with reducing calories. Physical activity uses some calories, but not nearly enough to result in a meaningful amount of weight loss in a reasonable length of time. If our resolution is really to improve our health by losing weight, then that is a whole different matter—physical activity is crucial!

Physical activity has been shown to reduce blood pressure, without any other behavior changes! Also, being physically active helps us to keep our muscles strong, even when we are losing weight. Why is this important? Well, the lean part of our bodies (muscle and major organs—like the heart and liver, to name a few) is the part of the body that uses the calories we eat or drink. If our body has more muscle, then we are going to burn more calories every day—more than another “body” our same age and size that is less lean. Physical activity also reduces the chance of developing heart disease and diabetes more than just weight loss by itself.

Our proposed resolution just made a change to: “lose weight to be healthier.”

While the holiday season is a great time to practice changing eating behaviors, it can also be a time to practice being more physically active. A lot of people shop more during this time, which gives us practice time! Some ideas to experiment with include the following:

Plan your after-Christmas/New Year's shopping trips to include walking the longest distances between stores or items being purchased—forget about saving time and being efficient! Going from one end of the mall or store to the other end to buy items on your list will automatically increase the steps you are taking.

After completing your shopping trip, take a final “lap” around the mall or store—adds steps with little extra time.

Consider buying yourself a pedometer. Using a pedometer is one way to track the number of steps taken per day.

Did you know that cleaning house is considered a moderate activity? Maybe spend some time everyday cleaning house? A more organized, company ready home would be a bonus!

How about walking the dog? People who walk their dogs log in more steps that than who don’t. Plus, the regularly walked dog will help keep you walking often—who can resist those eyes begging for a walk?

While you are practicing including physical activity in your life this week, think about what keeps you from being physically active during your “regular” life. Knowing what keeps us from doing what we want to do is excellent information to help us choose our final New Year’s Resolution.

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