Have you spent hours at the gym each day and yet when you weighed yourself on the scales, your weight had not budged? Do you think exercise is the best way to lose weight? Or do you believe that diet and exercise both play an equal role in weight loss? This article will provide some evidence-based guidelines on both incidental and non-incidental exercise.
The truth about weight loss is we have more power over our calorie intake than calorie expenditure. To explain this to you, let me give you an example, for a moderate-intensity exercise like biking, walking or cycling, we will burn around 350 calories an hour but we consume snacks and drinks at a rate of about 70 calories a minute. It can take just 5 minutes of our snacking to wipe out a whole hour of exercise. Some people burn 1500 calories a week but they consume 950 calories or more extra a week, so there is less likelihood that they will lose weight. So, the question is- Does exercise alone help in weight loss or a calorie-controlled diet is necessary to get the desired results.
Do you recommend exercise for weight loss or for weight maintenance?
Exercise has a positive impact on our health; hence, I recommend people to exercise irrespective of focusing on changing the number on the weighing scales. The unchanging number on the weighing scales will disillusion people out of exercising together. So, one must focus on the overall health benefits of physical activity.
Exercise for weight loss is only beneficial if calorie in less and calories burnt out is higher creating a deficit. Most, people who are trying to exercise to lose weight, often come back home and eat more. A slice of bread and 1 tablespoon butter is equivalent to 350 calories which were just burnt on the treadmill a few hours ago and if you consumed a burger thinking you have done a phenomenal job at the gym, then you are considering climbing 15 floors of your office, 4 times in a day.
It is seen that we try to exercise but still we don't see results on the scale, why is that?
The weight does not register on the scale is because one could be gaining lean body mass. There are also fluctuations in the weight due to fluid imbalance and one could be having fluid retention. There could also be a possibility that an individual is eating more calories or equivalent to what they are burning. So, the deficit of energy in and energy out is low.
Does even losing an inch of waist circumference help us with improved health outcomes?
One inch may not seem a lot, In fact, it can be demotivating for many who are working on the treadmill or are involved in non-incidental activities but Researchers have evidence, that on a CT scan or MRI cross-section of our abdomens, that an inch loss is almost equivalent to the reduction of visceral belly fat by five square inches. Now, think about improved blood sugars, reduction in LDL cholesterol and also, reduction in fatty liver.
Exercise assists in increasing our basal metabolic rate for up to 48 hours, a brisk walk for 30 mins may burn 150 calories but it will increase our metabolic rate by 5-10%, so it can burn additional calories after the exercise.
What is visceral fat?
Visceral fat is the fat that is around our internal organs. When you exercise you drop 6 % of visceral fat. Good news is an exercise in particular burns off visceral fat first. This is the fat which contributes to type 2 diabetes, fatty liver, dyslipidemia etc. On an average ab overweight person through diet restriction will lose 13% of visceral fat but through exercise or motion or movement will wipe out 21% visceral fat.
Does exercise increase our metabolic rate?
NEAT is a sum total of calories burned by everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, fidgeting, cleaning, walking to the stores etc. NEAT is the reason why some people gain more weight despite the eat more or fewer calories. Most people would exercise for 30-45 minutes or an hour at the gym and then do desk job or become sedentary through the day, just by subtly moving around more, our body can drain off as many calories as just spending an hour a day at the gym. When we exercise our metabolic rate rises for the next 48 hours but provided, we keep ourselves moving through NEAT. People who have higher calorie expenditure through NEAT will have a higher metabolic rate and hence, less likely to gain weight.
When is the best time to exercise?
I would suggest one must move all day long, as discussed above but if you look at fasted stated and fed state, fat is burnt more in an empty stomach. Research shows that of all 3 meals breakfast, lunch and dinner, calories burn maximum empty stomach and before breakfast.
Some people describe as unpleasant, uncomfortable and unenjoyable, what are your suggestion for them?
Laziness is in our genes. We have evolved to avoid unnecessary exertion to conserve our energies for survival. We exercise only when exercise is in the form of play and it is fun. Exercise will work only if it is long term and it is a habit. I suggest we must restructure our surroundings to make it a permanent habit, for example when I take my calls, I walk around my cabin and I climb the first floor to fill my glass of water.
I suggest one must listen to their favourite song, walk with a friend or watch a good web series when on the treadmill. It is seen that music keeps the feelings of fatigue at bay during exercise and makes it a more enjoyable experience. Reframe exercise as play rather than work and create a more sustainable regimen.
Is standing a good form of exercise?
Standing burns more calories per minute than sitting. Research shows that sitting for more than three hours a day may be responsible for more than four hundred thousand deaths every year worldwide. So, stand for 5 mins every 1 hour of your day for a minimum of 16 hours of your day. If standing is difficult one must follow "Dynamic Sitting".
What is Dynamic Sitting?
When we sit motionless for a while, it causes blood to pool and stagnate near our legs. In precise if we sit for 3 hours to be precise, special cells which lines our arteries detects the tugging and disrupts the blood flow. So Dynamic Sitting means flexible movement while sitting example use of a rocking chair or even foot pedal.
Ideally, take 5 minutes' break and walk away from your desk every hour, taking these walks will not stiffen your arteries. One can also do an aerobic exercise for forty-five minutes before sitting down to increase blood flow.
Exercise should be fun, if you do not have time for exercise just take some time to move and think twice before eating an extra size of french fries or extra can of soft drink or a slice of cake with that cup of latte, you may have to spend an extra 60 minutes on the treadmill to burn that off.
(About the author: This is a guest article by Swati Bathwal, an accredited practising Dietitian Nutritionist and Public Health Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, an accredited Anthropometrist and a registered Yoga Teacher.)