True or False? Low to moderate intensity cardio-vascular exercise burns more fat, therefore exercise for weight loss should focus on cardio performed at a comfortable pace.
If you’re not sure of the answer and suspect a trick question, you are right!
While it is indeed true that low to moderate cardio burns a higher percentage of body fat versus glycogen stored in the muscles, higher intensity exercise burns more total calories. What is most important in the body fat reduction equation is that the total number of calories burned has to be greater than the number of calories consumed.
True or False? If you want to lose fat, cardio-vascular exercise should be the primary focus of your exercise program.
If you suspect another trick question, you are right again. While cardio exercise is considered the fat burning activity of fitness, strength training is important to increase metabolically active muscle mass, which in turn burns more calories – even at rest.
True or False? If you need to lose fat in your stomach, crunches – hundreds of them – will whittle your middle.
Look, if this were true, people who chewed gum would have skinny faces… besides it’s not actually your stomach where fat is stored – that’s the organ that processes your food, remember?
A lot of our confusion in fitness and weight loss is fueled in large part by media blurbs reported out of context (Low Intensity Exercise Burns More Fat!), magazine headlines (Slim in Seven Days!) and infomercials that promise quick results (Six Second Abs!).
It’s no wonder that a reported 65 percent of the population is overweight or obese. We are just plain tired of trying to figure it all out. While some hold out hope for an easy solution, many have just given up. We’ve read those fine print disclaimers that are now required in advertising – “results may be atypical” or “when performed in conjunction with a sensible diet and exercise plan”.
At one point we wanted to believe that we could be the “atypical” winners of the losing game and actually get “Slim in Seven Days”. But many have grown weary of grappling with that feeling deep down inside that it must be something we failed to do, which ultimately caused us to fail to lose, leaving us feeling… well, like failures. We’ve decided it must just be us – perhaps a “character weakness”, lack of “will power” or “discipline”. We can’t lose so we must be losers.
Yes, fitness and the whole weight loss game are pretty tricky indeed. Even the use of the word “weight” with “loss” is tricky.
Many of us have worked hard over the years striving for that number on the scale which some insurance company came up with in 1979. At 5’ 2” and a “medium” build, I’m supposed to weigh 121 pounds, but I haven’t seen that number since diet pills stopped being prescribed in… well, let’s see, I think it was around 1979.
Today’s common gauge in determining if we are “normal” or “overweight” is called the Body Mass Index (BMI). Easy to use BMI calculators can be found all over the internet. All you have to do is enter your height and weight, click a button, and you are instantaneously declared “underweight”, “normal”, “overweight” or “obese”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “BMI correlates with body fat. The relation between fatness and BMI differs with age and gender. For example, women are more likely to have a higher percent of body fat than men for the same BMI. On average, older people may have more body fat than younger adults with the same BMI. ”
If you paid attention in math class, you can manually calculate your BMI, with this formula: BMI = weight divided by height in inches squared, times 703. If you are searching for your calculator, stop because you may not want to know. According to the BMI calculator, I’m classified as overweight but even so, I’m better off than others who are “obese” – like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Tom Cruise!
Don’t ask me how the formula “correlates” to body fat when all you’re entering is your height and weight. And the qualifying statement about women vs. men and age seems to give even less credence to the use of this information, so why strain your brain?
Seriously, even the CDC states that this information should not be taken as the be all to end all – it’s just a little tool to help guide you in determining if you might be at a health risk with your weight. The fact of the matter is that you can be classified as overweight according to your BMI and still be fit, and similarly, someone classified as thin may not necessarily be fit.
Just like the numbers on the scale, if this information helps you make proper choices with your nutrition and exercise, then it’s good. If it depresses you and sends you straight to the store for a gallon of cookie dough ice cream, don’t pay any attention to it – it’s totally useless information.
So what should you do?
First, just move more than you eat – if you have the time to go for hours to burn off that stored fat, that’s fine, but try applying some short intervals of higher intensity work followed by lower intensity recovery. Not only will it burn more total calories in a shorter amount of time but it will also improve your fitness level.
Second, increase your muscle mass with strength training – building muscle is like replacing your car’s 4 cylinder engine with a hemi – your body becomes a fuel hog.
Third, crunch away if it makes you feel better. But the aforementioned activities – along with that “sensible diet” – are ALL what must be done to whittle your middle.
Finally, change your mind set. Focus on making gains in your overall level of fitness, and if you eat that sensible diet, you may just discover you can be a loser after all!