There are many reasons we exercise. Some people exercise to prevent illness such as cardiovascular disease or osteoporosis. Others exercise for mental health and as a stress release; others do it to improve strength, flexibility, and endurance to prepare for a sport. However, the number one reason people exercise is TO LOSE WEIGHT!
When it comes to losing weight, patients have asked me a wide variety of questions over the years. However, certain questions are consistent. “What exercise is the best to burn calories?” “Even though I exercise 2-3 times per week, why can’t I lose weight?” “What is BMR?” “Are there any tools that I can use to help me track my calories and exercise output?” “Is there anything I can do to speed up my metabolism?”
Have you ever heard people say that they never felt better or burned more calories as they did when they ran? Well, they may be right! The following numbers are base on the average male weighing 150 pounds: running 6 miles per hour will burn 700+ calories (11-12 calories per minute); vigorously skipping with jump rope or fast cycling will do the same; vigorous walking at 4 miles per hour and moderate biking will burn 600+ calories (10 calories per minute). The 400-500 calorie club includes the following activities: slow jogging, swimming, football, basketball, baseball, tennis, skiing, and moderate walking (3.5 miles per hour). Light gardening burns more calories than golfing using a cart (250 vs. 180).
How many times have you heard people say, “It is hard for me to lose weight because I have a slow metabolism?” What does that mean? To explain this in detail you first must understand BMR. BMR, basal metabolic rate, is the number of calories that your body requires to operate basic body functions that you don actively control, such as continuing to breathe, and keep your cells and organs working each day. The BMR is influenced by age, height, gender, body fat, and fitness level. BMR is inherently different (high or low) in each individual. While you can’t change your gender or height, you can influence some things to influence your BMR and burn more calories at rest. One, exercise for longer durations, with greater intensity and more frequently. Two, lower your body fat by eating less calories, especially fat and carbohydrates in your diet. Simply, eat less calories than you burn! Three, improve you muscle/fat ratio by weight training.
Basal Metabolic Index (BMI):
BMI: < 18.5 = Underweight
BMI: 18.5 – 24.5 = Normal Weight
BMI: 25. - 29.9 = Overweight
BMI: >30. = Obestiy
For example, a 58 year old male, weighing 150 pounds at 5 feet 8 inches tall with a BMI of 22.8
*Calculate you BMI by entering you gender, height and weight and find how many calories per food item at: www.calorie-counter.net
FUEL THE FIRE
While it might seem counterintuitive, you need to eat to improve your metabolism…but do so properly. Don’t skip breakfast because it can “jump start” your engine (metabolism). Some foods speed up your metabolism better than others. For example, protein is better than carbohydrates, so try an egg instead of pancakes to start your day. Some studies show that spicy foods with cayenne pepper also increase the metabolism…so spice up the chicken breast! Oh, and don’t forget the coffee or green tea because it will add fuel to the fire!
TURN UP THE FIRE
Exercise will increase your metabolism but some types are better than others. For example, aerobic exercise (walking, running, swimming, biking) are great to run the engine and burn calories, but mixing it up will speed up your metabolism even better. One day run, the next swim or bike, etc. Also, mix up the speed and intensity. For example, walk, run or bike at one speed for 5-10 minutes, then increase the speed and sustain it for 2-3 minutes, slow down for 5 minutes and repeat the high intensity again for several cycles. And, don’t forget to weight train because strengthening your muscles will also increase your metabolism. Light weights with high repetitions will do the trick and prevent injury.
REGHARGE THE FIRE
Sleep is essential to your health. Without it, your metabolism will not have enough energy to burn your calories and overtime this will lead to weight gain. Additionally, positive energy and laughing are associated with a more efficient metabolism to burn calories. So, in addition to exercise, diet, and sleep, makes sure you go to a funny movie, visit a comedy club and hang-out with positive, fun-loving people.
Remember, depending on exercise alone to lose weight is an exercise in futility. Losing weight is an intelligent and consistent combination of a balanced diet with portion control, proper nutrition, adequate and proper exercise and activity grounded in lifestyle changes.
Read Dr. Mackarey’s Health & Exercise Forum – every Monday in the Scranton Times-Tribune.
This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.