Heart disease, immune disorders, diabetes and other obesity related diseases plague Americans at an alarming rate. In response, experts continue to advise us to eat less and exercise more. While this might be an over-simplified solution, it surely has some basis in fact. But can the process of weight loss, and associated health benefits, really be that simple?
Yes and no. Eating less and moving more will surely reduce body fat, but there are ways (within this overall concept) to manipulate the system with diet and exercise to achieve maximum benefit. First let�s take a quick look at why most of us have a tendency to gain weight in the first place.
Built For Conservation
Our bodies, built for survival during lean times, are trapped in a world of overabundant supply and decreasing activity. No longer does procuring a meal require enormous energy expenditure. A quick cruise through Burger King�s drive through window will snag a 2000-calorie Whopper with zero effort.
At the same time, today most of us earn a living with long hours at the office, with little or no physical activity. And things are no better on the home front. In our automated society, machines have taken over many of the daily chores that were once accomplished with a little legwork or elbow grease.
This one staggering statistic explains a lot, the average American household watches over seven hours of TV per day. And that's not to mention the ever-increasing use of personal computers, DVD players, and video games. We've become a nation of sitters!
We eat super-sized portions of high calorie foods that are devoid of nutrients, then spend endless hours either behind a desk or planted on the couch. Too tired or busy to exercise, we pump alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine into our bodies as a stress buster or pick-me-up, then complain when we get sick or put on a few pounds. (Get off the couch: click here)
You wouldn�t put an inferior grade of gasoline in your car, not drive it for a year, and then wonder why it runs so bad. What makes you think that your body can thrive if it�s perpetually underused and overfed?
Possible "Simple" Solutions
Every theory on fitness and weight loss has its supporters and naysayers, and there is nothing simple about separating fact from fiction. But a few schools of thought have emerged that are diametrically opposed, but apparently still work. This has created much confusion for anyone looking to get back in shape or just shed a few pounds.
Low Carb or Low Fat
Atkins or other low carbohydrate diets are based on the assumption that the body will switch to fat as its main source of fuel if carbohydrate consumption is severely limited. The Atkins approach, featuring an induction phase, limits initial carbohydrate consumption to only 20 grams per day. Dozens of formal studies have been released that proclaim the positive effects of this carbohydrate restrictive regimen.
However, a 2002 report on nutritional guidelines released by The National Academy of Science�s, Institute of Medicine basically has restated the Academy�s long held position and stressed a balanced diet with approximately 130 grams of daily carbohydrate (accounting for 45 to 65 percent of total calories). Adhered to by dieticians and nutritionists around the country, these recommendations are in direct opposition to the Atkins plan.
Aerobic Conditioning or Resistance Exercises
In his 1968 book, Dr. Kenneth Cooper coined the term Aerobics with his new book of the same name, and ushered in a fitness revolution. Since then millions of people have engaged in some form of aerobic exercise to either improve health or reduce body fat. There�s little doubt as to the health benefits of this type of sustained, less than maximum intensity exercise (such as walking, swimming or cycling) for the average individual.
On the other side of the coin, resistance exercises should no longer be thought of as only for people who want to build large muscles or look better at the beach. A recent University of Florida study has found that weightlifting benefits the body in many ways.
Besides just building strength and endurance, resistance exercises provide protection against free radicals �those naturally occurring, highly reactive molecules that have been linked not only to cardiac problems, but also to aging-related disorders, stroke and even cancer. Strength training has also been shown to reduce serum lipid levels, lower blood pressure, and decrease insulin insensitivity (the precursor to diabetes).
While most proponents of strength training have no real gripe with cardio, there are a few notable experts that have no use for aerobics. Ken Hutchins, the creator of SuperSlow exercise, advocates short, but very intense workouts using very slow movements to momentary muscle failure and warns against performing any aerobic exercise. Mr. Hutchins believes exercises like walking, swimming, and cycling to be nothing more than an injury risk or waste of time.
No one can say for sure what�s the best solution or way to lose weight �fat versus carbs, cardio versus weights or even diet versus exercise. From practical experience I can tell you that anything too complicated or too extreme usually doesn�t win out over the long haul.
Improve your chances of succeeding by making simple, middle-of-the-road choices. Be consistent and always use common sense when it comes to how you treat your body. The key to success is a straightforward plan you can live with on a long-term basis. For more specific information on how to put together a highly effective, yet easy-to-follow program, click here.
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