Tag Archives: fitness

To Lose Weight, Eating Less Is Far More Important Than Exercising More

One of my family’s favorite shows is “The Biggest Loser.” Although some viewers don’t appreciate how it pushes people so hard to lose weight, the show probably inspires some overweight people to regain control of their lives.

But one of the most frustrating parts of the show, at least for me, is its overwhelming emphasis on exercise. Because when it comes to reaching a healthy weight, what you don’t eat is much, much more important.

Think about it this way: If an overweight man is consuming 1,000 more calories than he is burning and wants to be in energy balance, he can do it by exercising. But exercise consumes far fewer calories than many people think. Thirty minutes of jogging or swimming laps might burn off 350 calories. Many people, fat or fit, can’t keep up a strenuous 30-minute exercise regimen, day in and day out. They might exercise a few times a week, if that.

Or they could achieve the same calorie reduction by eliminating two 16-ounce sodas each day.

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

 Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Are All Fitness Trackers Created Equal?

Many of us have invested in the wristbands or other wearable devices that tell us how many steps we’ve taken, calories we’ve burned and other information. But an interesting new study that compared activity monitors found that while some are accurate when measuring step counts, others are way off. And few are more accurate than the convenient and inexpensive apps you can find on your cellphone.

What’s more, the researchers say, while many of us hope that these activity trackers may motivate us to become more active and healthier, none of them has proved able to persuade reluctant exercisers to start and stick with a workout routine.

The promise of these devices obviously relies heavily on their accuracy and ease of use. If the trackers tell us that we have moved more or less than we actually do, our responses may not be appropriate or ideal. If, for instance, the monitor says that we have burned more calories than we actually have that day, we may overeat and gain weight. If, alternatively, the monitor says that we have taken fewer steps in a day than we actually have, we may become discouraged, blame the device, throw it in a drawer and stop walking for exercise altogether.

Similarly, if a fitness monitor is difficult to program, requires frequent charging, feels uncomfortable or is pricey, many people who might benefit from more exercise will avoid buying or wearing the thing. As the authors of the new study point out, only about 1 to 2 percent of Americans currently own an activity monitor, and many stop using the device within a few months of buying it.

A majority of Americans own a smartphone, however, and recently, a number of apps have become available that promise to measure someone’s steps, calories and so on, much the way a wearable fitness tracker does, but at a lower cost and, presumably, with greater convenience.

The accuracy of these phone apps, however, has not been established, especially in comparison to the accuracy of the dedicated fitness trackers.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

One Minute of Exercise Improves Your Overall Health

For years, I’ve been writing about the benefits of short bursts of exercise. Studies and anecdotes suggest that 10 minutes, seven minutes, six minutes, or even four minutes of very hard exercise interspersed with periods of rest can lead to a robust improvement in fitness.

But I suspect that this column is the least amount of exercise I will ever write about.

According to a lovely new study, a single minute of intense exercise, embedded within an otherwise easy 10-minute workout, can improve fitness and health.

Just one minute.

This is good news for busy people who have tried, unsuccessfully, to fit even short workouts into their schedules. The overall time commitment for interval-training sessions is not quite as slight as many of us might wish. Consider, for instance, an interval session in which someone rides a stationary bike as hard as possible for 30 seconds, followed by four minutes or so of easy pedaling. If that person completes four of these intervals, with two or three minutes of warm-up and cool-down added at the beginning and end of the workout, the entire session lasts for almost 25 minutes, a time commitment that some people might consider unsustainable.

These concerns reached the laboratory of Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Ontario. He and his colleagues have conducted many of the most influential recent studies of high-intensity interval training, and many of the scientists there regularly exercise with interval training.

They, too, had noticed that interval-training sessions were not quite as truncated as some people hoped and had begun to wonder if it might be possible to lower the overall time commitment.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

Counting Calories Will be Easier in 2015

Now it’s official. Starting next November, menus in many places where Americans eat — like chain restaurants and some movie theaters, convenience stores and amusement parks — will have to list calories.

Consumer health advocates were jubilant when the Food and Drug Administration announced the new policy on Tuesday. Many had fought for the rule for more than a decade, believing it would be a major weapon in the fight against obesity.

But will it?

The evidence on whether menu labeling works — either to move the national needle on obesity, or to reduce the number of calories an individual consumes after looking at a menu — is pretty skimpy, in part because the practice hasn’t been around that long.

In the few places where menu labeling exists, like New York and Philadelphia, most studies have observed a few thousand people over just a few weeks and months — too small a group and too short a time to detect the subtle changes that economists expect the policy will prompt.

Brian Elbel, associate professor of population health at New York University’s School of Medicine, has spent weeks outside fast food restaurants talking to customers and collecting their receipts.

The findings have been uninspiring so far. In a study he did in 2008 in New York City, only slightly more than half of consumers even saw the posted calories, and of those, a little over a quarter (around 15 percent of the total) said the information changed what they ordered. He conducted a larger study in 2010 in Philadelphia after that city started requiring chain restaurants to post calories, and the results were similar.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary

What’s Your Fitness Age?

You already know your chronological age, but do you know your fitness age?

A new study of fitness and lifespan suggests that a person’s so-called fitness age – determined primarily by a measure of cardiovascular endurance – is a better predictor of longevity than chronological age. The good news is that unlike your actual age, your fitness age can decrease.

The concept of fitness age has been developed by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, who have studied fitness and how it relates to wellness for years.

Fitness age is determined primarily by your VO2max, which is a measure of your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen. VO2max indicates your current cardiovascular endurance.

It also can be used to compare your fitness with that of other people of the same age, providing you, in the process, with a personal fitness age. If your VO2max is below average for your age group, then your fitness age is older than your actual age.

But if you compare well, you can actually turn back the clock to a younger fitness age. That means a 50-year-old man conceivably could have a fitness age between 30 and 75, depending on his VO2max.

Knowing your fitness age could be instructive and perhaps sobering, but it also necessitates knowing your VO2max first, which few of us do. Precise measurement of aerobic capacity requires high-tech treadmill testing.

To work around that problem, the Norwegian scientists decided several years ago to develop an easy method for estimating VO2max. They recruited almost 5,000 Norwegians between the ages of 20 and 90, measured their aerobic capacity with treadmill testing and also checked a variety of health parameters, including waist circumference, heart rate and exercise habits.

To read more, click here.

Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary