Category Archives: Health & Fitness

Don’t be an April Fool when it comes to weight loss claims.

Diets don’t work!

Exercise can actually make you gain weight!

You can take supplements that will melt fat away while you sleep!

Claims like these should make you wonder if someone is trying to fool you. Since April Fools’ Day just past, it is worth learning the truth about these common weight loss myths.

Diet pills


Diets don’t work

Considering that most people who lose weight end up gaining it back, this belief is understandable. The fact is that diets do work—that is how people lost weight in the first place! The problem is that many diets simply aren’t sustainable and don’t teach healthy eating habits necessary to keep the weight off. The result is that after the diet ends, a return to old eating patterns leads to gaining the weight back. The solution, of course, is to find a diet that you can stick with even after you have lost weight, one that teaches you how to make healthy choices and adapt your lifestyle.

Exercise doesn’t lead to weight loss

The traditional advice for losing weight is to eat less and exercise more. But some research suggests that exercise itself doesn’t lead to significant weight loss. In fact, exercise alone results in lower weight loss compared to diet only or diet plus exercise. While this is true, concluding that exercise isn’t important is a mistake.

First, even if exercise only leads to a small amount of weight loss (about a half pound per week in my research) it does add up over time and can help someone achieve their weight loss goal more quickly. Second, research involving individuals who have succeeded at long-term weight loss in the National Weight Control Registry shows that exercise is important. It is noteworthy that 94% of these “successful losers” increased their physical activity in order to lose weight and 90% said that they maintain their weight by exercising an average of 60 minutes every day.

You can boost your metabolism and burn fat using supplements

Losing weight really does require making changes to your eating and exercise behaviors. Many of these changes can be difficult, so it is no surprise that people look for shortcuts. And there is no shortcut more appealing than a supplement that will increase your metabolism and burn fat while you sleep.

Keep in mind that there are no dietary supplements that have been shown to be safe and effective for promoting long-term weight loss, despite what the manufacturers claim. In fact, some could even be dangerous. The only way to make a meaningful change in your metabolism is to exercise and significant weight loss simply won’t happen unless you change your diet.

Be especially skeptical when you see words like “flush” and “cleanse,” which are meaningless and have nothing to do with weight loss. There are a few prescription medications and one over-the-counter drug (Orlistat) that has been shown to promote weight loss—but only when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.

Hopefully this advice will help you make healthy decisions and avoid becoming an “April Fool” when it comes to weight loss claims. The good news is that you can start losing weight today by making some simple changes including reducing your portion sizes at meals, choosing water or other calorie-free beverages when you are thirsty, and making it a point to be active every day. These modifications can lead to weight loss now and are exactly the type of changes you need to make to keep the weight off in the long run.

 

What to think about before you buy home exercise equipment.

Regular exercise is among the most important things people of all ages can do to improve their health. Even as little as 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity like brisk walking has substantial physical and mental health benefits. Despite these benefits, only about one third of adults meet minimum physical activity guidelines.

 

One commonly cited reason why people don’t get regular exercise is time. Obviously, you need to make time in your day, even if it is for a short walk. There are some short (less than 10 minute) workouts that are popular now, but these tend to be very intense and may not be appropriate for everyone. You may also need time to travel to a place to exercise, whether that is a gym or a good area for walking. After a workout you might need to shower and change, too. The point is, even a short exercise session can take time beyond the exercise itself.

 

That leads some people to consider purchasing home exercise equipment so they can skip the trip to the gym and exercise at home. There are numerous options for equipment specific for strength and endurance training in your own home. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Home treadmill

Continue reading

What should you drink to recover after exercise?

It used to be that water was the preferred after-exercise drink. Nowadays, though, you are likely to find that recreational and competitive athletes of all ages consume a specialized recovery drink after a game or training session. These drinks and, sometimes bars, have become part of a post-workout routine recommended by coaches and personal trainers.

 

Most of these recovery beverages contain some combination of carbohydrates, protein, electrolytes, vitamins, and water, although the specific nutrients and relative amounts of each vary from brand to brand. Depending on the formulation, these supplements may help with rapid recovery from a bout of prolonged exercise, promote muscle growth following resistance training, or reduce muscle soreness after an intense workout.

 

While research supports consuming some of these nutrients, alone or in combination, in recovery, there are some considerations for determining which supplement, if any, may be right for you.

Sports drink

Continue reading

Cutting Unnecessary Carbs

I had lunch with a friend at a casual Mexican place recently. He ordered a burrito without the tortilla (too many carbs), but ate a whole basket of corn chips. Many people make this same choice…cutting out carbohydrates in some way but eating more in another.

To be sure, most of us could easily eat less carbohydrates, but I think we are focusing on the wrong carbohydrate sources. Perhaps we shouldn’t focus on the tortilla as much as the chips that go with it.

I think of this in terms of “necessary” and “unnecessary” carbs. In the example above, the tortilla is a necessary part of the burrito, but the chips are an unnecessary addition. If people are interested in cutting out carbs, skipping the chips make more sense than forgoing the tortilla. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Continue reading

Exercise and allergies, just in time for the pollen to arrive.

Springtime is arriving in our area, which means warmer weather, blooming flowers, green grass, and, for many, seasonal allergies. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may want to know if it is safe to exercise outdoors. The short answer is yes, provided you take the right precautions. This is the topic of my Health & Fitness column in the Aiken Standard this week.

Jogging-poster

Continue reading

If exercise is medicine, why didn’t your doctor give you a prescription?

What if I told you that there is a prescription your doctor could give you that would prevent and treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes as well as lowering your risk of heart attack, stroke, and most cancers. It can also decrease depression, improve memory and cognitive function better than any other available treatment, and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. And it can help you maintain a healthy body weight, increase your strength, and help you live longer. You would insist your doctor prescribe this for you, right?

The good news is that this prescription exists. The bad news is your doctor may not tell you much about it. This is because it isn’t a drug or other medical treatment—it’s exercise!

exercise-rx

Continue reading

Diagnosis and treatment of heart disease explained.

Coronary artery disease or heart disease is caused by atherosclerosis, a process which involves the accumulation of cholesterol plaques in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. These plaques can narrow the blood vessels and reduce blood and oxygen delivery to the heart, leading to symptoms like chest pain (ischemia). The plaques can also rupture and form a blood clot, blocking oxygen delivery and causing a myocardial infarction—a heart attack.

Coronary_angiography_of_a_STEMI_patient,_showing_partial_occlusion_of_left_circumflex_coronary_artery

Continue reading