Can Exercise Burn Off Our Excess Weight?
A few years ago, it seemed that all we needed to do was get down to the gym and work off the flab. Indeed, the percentage of energy we burn in physical activity is a substantial amount of the whole, varying from 20-50 percent. It is a logical step to suppose that upping exercise will bite into the reserves of energy that are stored as fat and keep us trim. But, what is the evidence?
In developed countries there is a relationship between low levels of physical activity and obesity. One American study found that television viewing patterns were closely related to obesity levels in children. The relative risk of obesity is 5.3 times higher for children who watch television for 5 hours or more each day compared with those children who watch 2 hours or less. Similarly, in the UK, there is a close relationship between measures of physical activity, like car usage and television viewing, and the incidence of obesity. What these studies show us is that very low levels of physical exertion make us fatter. But, can high levels of exercise make us thinner?
Exercise for Health & Shape Not Just Weight
Yes, exercise certainly can help keep the weight down, but only to some extent. For many of us, one of the most desirable effects of regular workouts doesn’t involve weight loss at all. Muscle toning can change body shape and most of us prefer to have a pert bum and tight thighs whatever size we are. There are, of course, other health benefits to the physically active, like a healthy heart and a strong, supple body. An added bonus is the feel good factor from hormones called endorphins released in the brain during heavy physical exertion.
Exercise Halt – Weight Gain
The big ‘but’ comes when you lay off the workouts when your body will slowly creep back to its original state. This is a real trap that worries health professionals and locks some of us into unhealthy patterns of exercise. The fact that we all gain weight as we age makes the situation worse still. Much like running on the spot, an obsession with the skinny ideal leads some people to tackle ever more intense exercise regimes just to maintain the way they already are. Exercise addiction is one obvious side effect of such a trap. In reality, the kind of exercise that does most good for body (and mind) is a far gentler affair. Regular daily walks of half an hour or more are recommended for a healthy heart. And, if you don’t have the time, it’s OK: two or three 10-minute walks will still help.
Weight – Exercise Only Partly Responsible
While it seems that a lack of exercise can make us fat, lots of exercise is not so effective at keeping us skinny. This is the paradox that scientists are beginning to unpick by looking at the intricate systems that regulate weight in the body. What emerges is the realisation that weight is only partly set by lifestyle.
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