21 Feb The ONLY Reason to Exercise from Registered NYC Dietitian and Personal Trainer
Last week, I talked about The Biggest Loser and metabolism. But most of my clients aren’t in that extreme category of losing massive amounts of weight. To begin with, it’s important to understand what metabolism is. It is far less mysterious than Ponce de Leon’s “fountain of youth.”
Metabolism is the body’s energy balance – the total of living cells’ energy-producing and energy-utiziling reactions. Metabolism is our body’s ATM for energy. Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is how we describe how many calories are burned (energy is used) during a 24-hour period. All of this depends on metabolism as well.
Research we discussed last week that shows the contestants of The Biggest Loser’s metabolism being lowered also relates to people who aren’t that extreme. Just by being on a lifetime of low-calorie diets, like Weight Watchers, can result in lowered metabolism. I have measured metabolism for many of my clients, and often it is below the norms for someone their age and weight because of dieting. Add to the fact that human metabolism is reduced by 2 – 3% every decade, our bodies are, biologically, on a slow, downhill slide.
But we’ve all heard the claims that muscle burns more calories than fat – and our resting metabolic rate will skyrocket with all that lean body mass! Claims that muscle burns more calories than fat is true, but it’s nothing to shout out over a megaphone. Certainly muscle contributes to 20% of TDEE, compared to 5% of fat. But 80% goes toward organ functioning. This translates (the muscle tissue TDEE) on average to 50 calories burned/day. It’s nothing to sneeze at, but the muscle-burns-more-than-fat rallies tend to be over-enthusiastic.
So this begs the question: Why exercise?
There’s only one answer, in my opinion: Improved quality of life.
Exercise is life’s Wonder Drug. (And it’s totally legal.) Here’s how exercise increases quality of life:
- Run Away from Your Problems: This is totally the opposite of what any psychologist will recommend, but it’s something you should take literally. Exercise boosts blood circulation. This has an influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and, in turn, on a person’s physiologic reactivity to stress. Movement improves mental health.
- Independence: All exercise programs, for people of all ages, should have four components: cardio, strength training, flexibility, and balance. This is particularly important for seniors who have found themselves “slowing down.” Cardio, or endurance, strengthens joints, improves heart health, and lowers blood pressure. Strength training is the only way to prevent bone density loss and maintain bone mass. Flexibility improves our range of motion, making small details of life better – reaching for cans in cupboards, looking side-to-side while driving, tying shoes. And balance reduces the risk of falling. This comes from muscle strength and joint mobility.
- Reduced Pain: Many of my clients suffer from arthritis or fibromyalgia, back pain or joint pain. Pain causes people to stop moving, which can cause muscle loss and fat gain, which can exacerbate the pain. Resistance training, among the other pillars of a solid exercise program, is one of the only ways to alleviate pain in joints by preserving cartilage. Strengthening thigh muscles keeps strain off knees. A strong core helps with back pain and posture. Hamstring curls, quad extensions, toe lifts work the lower body. By improving muscle tone, you can improve your quality of life.
- Dancing, Traveling … Living: Exercise gives you a natural energy boost by delivering oxygen and nutrients to tissues. Exercise and an active lifestyle opens the doors to adventure and experiences you might otherwise not be able to fully enjoy. Dancing with your daughter at her wedding. Traveling, comfortably, and walking up the staircase of the Duomo in Florence. Kicking a soccer ball with your students during recess. Or even navigating the grocery store after a long day at work. Exercise is energy. Energy is quality of life.
- A walk a day …: Chronic disease like diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue and depression, among others, can all improve with exercise. Exercise boosts good cholesterol and lowers triglycerides – both of which will reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Now you’ve got visions of Mudders and marathons dancing through your head. Luckily, it’s a lot simpler than that. The American Heart Association recommends approximately 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. This means, simply, walking briskly, 30 minutes/day, five days/week. Walking to the grocery store has never looked so appealing!
It’s so much simpler than you think. My clients are astonished that by sneaking in activity in their everyday lives they can reach those 150 minutes quite easily.
It’s never too late to start.
Are you ready to improve your quality of life?