Weight Management: Move it!--Burn more part 1

In the previous sections, the focus has been on taking in less Calories. The truth is, doing this without changing anything else is enough to handle weight management.  On the other hand, if you burn a few more Calories each day, weight management will become easier--and moving around has MANY other health benefits.

I don't want to write a long section detailing all the areas of wellness that are improved by even light exercise. (There, I said that word!  By "exercise" I mean any kind of physical motion.) Instead of a long discussion, I am going to just rattle off a few health and wellness benefits: 
  1. Weight management. I'll talk about some specifics of this after the list.

  2. Improved heart health.

  3. Increased cardiovascular capacity.

  4. Improved flexibility and physical agility.

  5. Improved physical strength. I'm not talking about bulking up in the gym. Even light exercise will help improve general physical strength if conducted regularly and continuously.

  6. Elevated mood and mental outlook.

  7. Mitigation of cholesterol buildup.

  8. Decreased blood pressure.

  9.  Boosted imunity.
While this is only what I can think of off the top of my head, it is clear that exercise has many positive effects on us. Each of these are worthy of long discussion, but in this section, we will look only at its relationship to weight management--the "burn more" side of the approach.

Obviously, if you move around, you are burning Calories. If your weight has been stable for a while, then you can keep eating exactly what you have been eating, and by increasing how much you burn, you will lose weight. 

Therefore, if you have already adopted the "less in" side of the approach, adding a "burn more" element to your lifestyle will be a big bonus. Combining "less in" with "burn more" hassens the atainment of weight management goals, and the "burn more" element additionally kicks in with all the health and wellness benefits discussed above.

There are two obvious reasons that moving around helps burn more Calories. Calories stored as fat represent potential energy. Moving requires burning energy. The more you move, the more you burn. Duh.

However, there is a second way that moving more helps burn more Calories. Part of the way our bodies was designed includes the autonmomic nervious system. This is what, outside our conscious thought, controls breathing, heart rate, and much more. Its job is to keep us functioning properly.

When we jump up suddenly and run to the window, the autonomic system responds by accelerating the heart and other bodily functions. Now, the longer we demand more work from our body, the longer those organs accelerate. Naturally, increased demand of work requires the burning of more Calories, and that is good.

However, once we sit down again, the autonomic nervous system does not just shut everything down. Because it is not a conscious mechanism, it does not know that we are done exercising. You can think about it as if it is anxiously awaiting us to jump up and run around again! Its response to a period of exercising is to keep the body poised for more future exercise for a fairly long period of time after we have stopped exercising. It increases our metabolism to a slightly elevated state in expectation of the need for additional movement.

And as long as the metabolism is elevated, we are burning more Calories. We burn the Calories needed to do the activity, then when the activity is over, we burn our resting amount PLUS a bit more because of the elevated metabolism.

Let me make up some imaginary numbers as an example. Suppose after sitting at your desk for an hour, your metabolism is running at 70. (Often, heart beats per minute are used as one measure of metabolic rate, but for this hypothetical example, we are pretending to just measure metabolism directly, some imaginary way.) So, from your desk you decide to walk to the break room. As you stroll down the hall, your metabolism ramps up to 80. When you get back to your desk and sit back down, however, your metabolism does not immediately go back to 70. It hovers (using our made up numbers) at 75 or so. Now, sitting at your desk you are burning more.

This is how exercise has an affect that transcends the time we are actually exercising. Any little movement has affect.  But if you can induce higher demands on your metabolism, you can enjoy greater benefits for longer periods of time.

My doctor urged me to walk at least five minutes a few times through the course of the day. He said this would have very significant impact on metabolism rate far exceeding the five minute walk.

I would offer that if you do something that makes you slightly winded, you will benefit from increased metabolism long after you have caught your breath. Your metabolism will continue to run a little faster and burn a few more Calories, even though the activity has stopped and you are back to you pre-activity state.

One of the promises of Reasonable Fitness was that it would not require you to make drastic changes.  Rather, you would make little changes that you can stick to for the rest of you life.

Enjoy going for a walk!
While joining a gym or running club is totally a good idea, what I am going to offer are ways we can burn some Calories and boost the metabolism that fit pretty much right into how we have been living before deciding to manage our weight and fitness.  Try the following ideas as ways to burn more Calories:

  1. Take the stairs. If you work in a very tall building, take the stairs up three floors, then the elevator the rest of the way. Coming down, do the same thing.  Then, four floors, then five...

  2. Park further away.  Pick the parking spot that is safe, but distant from your entrance. The extra steps will add up!

  3. If you work at a desk and have a laptop, keep a folding bankers box nearby and periodically set the laptop on the assembled box and do your emails standing up. Read you blogs standing up.

  4. If you work in an office, use the restroom farthest from your desk.

  5. Walk to lunch if there are places close enough to allow that.  If not, drive to a public parking lot and walk a few blocks to where you want to eat. Or, better, park on one side of a park and walk to the other to eat the healthy lunch you prepared at home. Five or ten minutes of walking will boost the metabolism, make you feel better, and burn more Calories.

  6. Stick some extra books in your backpack or briefcase.

  7. If you work at a desk, take one minute every hour or so to stand, walk around, and stretch. These 60 second periods of movement will help keep the metabolism from thinking it can slow down.

  8. Walk the dog.

  9. Play with the kids.

  10. Go for a walk, just for fun!

  11. Be creative! Just move! The more you move, the more you burn.
Coupling the principle of burning more with the principle of taking in less, we can assure that we can be successful at weight management.

Remember, the idea is not to start something that is a gimmick or temporary. Reasonable Fitness is a lifetime commitment to a lifestyle that naturally results in weight management and wellness. It embraces the truth that a lot of little changes--slight adjustments in what we are already doing--will add up to have a large effect over time.

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