I stumbled across this article in Time magazine last week about exercise and weight. Quick synopsis: Some research studies have shown that people who exercise to lose weight do not succeed in weight loss because 1) they reward themselves for exercising with food that has equal or more calories than they just burned and/or 2) they are less likely to be active in their daily lives (e.g., taking the stairs, doing work around the house or yard) after exercising.
What the article hints at, but does not emphasize enough, is the role that active living can and should play in weight control and overall preventive health. Instead of a set time for “exercise,” that people build into their schedules and check off like one more thing on the to-do list, active living makes routine physical activity a normal part of the day, not something that we reward with a trip to the bakery or make up for by spending hours on the couch later.
Suggestions for active living:
- Walk or bike to replace car trips as much as possible. Start with short trips and errands and build up to longer distances.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator. In some buildings, you may have to do a little work to find the stairs. Just look for the red, lighted “Exit” signs, a staircase is usually nearby.
- Conduct a “walking meeting” at work.
- Use a rake instead of a leaf blower.
- If you have a multi-story house, or even a single story house with a basement, take advantage of opportunities to use the stairs.
If you engage in a variety of activities at different intensity levels, your daily life can provide a pretty good “workout.” Even if you are not trying to lose weight, physical activity can help lower your risk for a variety of chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer.
If you do enjoy a regular exercise program, great! Keep it up! Just make sure you are not falling into the trap of rewarding yourself with food or sitting in front of the TV.