Goal Setting

Bit of a delay between articles, but here it is. Today we will be discussing goals. How to choose them, define them, and stick to them. Goals are like destinations on a vacation. They help keep you focused and on the right path. They keep you looking forward to arriving at a specific destination. And you can always look back on them once you’re on to the next one. Without goals, it is easy to continue aimlessly and lose sight of what we have actually accomplished.

Regardless of who you are, and where you are on the wonderful spectrum of health and fitness; there are goals that you can set for yourself. You may be after after weight loss or muscle gain, running a 2.5 hour marathon or going around the block for a walk, quitting smoking or adding two servings of vegetables every day. No matter what you’re setting out to accomplish, there are a few considerations that will help give your goals meaning and increase your success. The time tested SMART principle:

Specific
Jack and Jill set a goal for themselves; in three months they both want to be healthier and more fit. Jill cleans up her diet and goes to the gym five days a week. Jack buys $300 worth of Lulu Lemon clothing and wears them every Sunday for their traditional 2 km. walk.  After three months, they revisit their goal sheet. Jill feels better than she did, but the scale is telling her she weighs two more pounds than when she started! Jack takes a look at his shrink wrapped body in the Lulu’s, and gives himself the old gun and wink. He thinks he reached his goal, she does not.
Had they been more specific with their goals, they probably would have come to different conclusions.
Jill could have set and succeeded in any of the following goals:
– I want to feel less tired throughout the day
– I want to go to the gym for at least 4 hours every week
– I want my waist circumference to go down 3 cm’s
– I will only eat junk foods on the weekends
Jack, on the other hand, may not have been as optimistic about reaching his goals had he been more specific. He didn’t make any lifestyle chages to activity or diet. He maintained his 2 km walk every Sunday, but it was the magic of spandex that gave him the illusion of being healthier.

When setting your goals, try to get as specific as possible. This may lead to more items on your goal setting sheet, which is never a bad thing.

Measurable
One trick to keeping your goals specific, is making sure they are measurable. You should be able to measure/record your baseline when you set your goals, then re-measure periodically until you’ve reached your goal. The advantage to measurable goals, is there is much less room for interpretation/subjective clouding. It is important that the same standards are used from one measurement to the next. I was in a local gym a couple weeks ago where a trainer was measuring the circumference of a client’s thigh (he was trying to increase his muscle mass). The trainer randomly chose a spot on the client’s leg, no landmarking whatsoever. Obviously surprised by the measurement, the trainer told his client his leg must be swollen because of how big his thigh was. I suppose this could have been the case… or the trainer measured a couple inches higher on the client’s thigh, which would drastically change the circumference of the leg.
If you are taking circumferences of your hips/waist/limbs/etc.; use a bony protusion as a landmark. Our bones don’t move, so you’ll have a more accurate measurement the next time through.

If your goal is centered around diet; be sure to be specific and measurable here as well. “I will clean up my eating” is neither. Try putting a specific quantity to the foods you will be restricting or adding to your diet. You can also set goals based on times of day, or days of week.

Appropriate
Your goals should be appropriate. I like to clarify this as being safe for your mind and body, and for the right reasons. Many goals based on weight loss are appropriate, unless the intention is to lose the weight in an unhealthy manner (dangerous supplementation, starving the body, reaching an unhealthy body fat %). There are also inappropriate ways to gain muscle, such as steroids. I also mentioned setting goals for the right reasons. You should be motivated by staying healthy, and feeling good about yourself. Ask youreslf why you want to accomplish your goals, and you should feel in control of whether or not you pursue, abandon, or modify the goals.

Realistic
This is definitely the principle that most people struggle with. I’m sure you or someone you know has looked frantically for a 5-day/week bootcamp because they have a weeding coming up next month. As a trainer, I love these clients, because they are highly motivated. However, I do have an obligation to explain to them that our body has limitations, and timelines for adaptations. So losing 15 pounds in one month may not be a realistic goal. Is it possible? Sure it is. Can it be done safely? With enough effort and managing every aspect of your life, yes. Would I recommend this to anybody? I’d rather see you make manageable changes over a longer period of time, and turn that temporary 15 pounds in one month, to a sustainable 40 pounds in a year. But I digress.

If our goals are not realistic, they will not accomplished, which esily demotivates and discourages us to start anew. Ideally, our goals should be based on a lifelong commitment to ourselves to live within a healthier body. If this is the approach we take, there is no need to rush our goals and set unrealistic timeframes. I highly encourage my clients to make short term goals that address lifestyle changes (specific diet and physical activity changes) and long term goals that address body composition measurements (weight, waist circumference, etc). First, lifestyle changes are generally needed before seeing body composition changes. Second, we have conscious control over lifestyle habits, whereas we don’t always know how long it will take our bodies to put on muscle or lose fat.

Most people don’t know what is a realistic amount of fat to lose in a month, so they guess, or avoid making the goal altogether.  Guessing can lead to unrealistic goals, but avoiding it doesn’t keep us accountable to reach the goal. I could tell you that 1-2 lbs. of fat per week is a safe rate for fat loss (which is what research tells us). But keep in mind that diet, stress, and physical activity must all be managed on an ongoing basis for this to become realistic. Many of us have schedules, commitments, and lifestyles that do not cater to this rate of fat loss. If you make weight loss a long term goal, and start with short term lifestyle changes, would you not be happy with accomplishing your goal of 40, or even 30 pounds in one year? In that one year, you would adopted healthy habits, lost approximately 15-20% of your body weight (I’m averaging here), and done so safely. 30 pounds in one year is only 0.57 lbs/week. That’s much lower than the 1-2 lbs/week research recommended. But you would have made it realistic and sustainable.

Timelines
All goals should have timelines associated with them. Short term goals can be anywhere from 1 week to 6 months, or 1 year. Timelines help to remind us that we can’t keep putting our goals off until we get back from the family vacation. Keeping track of your progress along the way is also very helpful. You may realize in February that you’re not going to realistically attain your April goal. Nothing wrong with adjusting timelines when we see we’ve over or underestimated the time needed to accomplish a goal.
Not many of us use goal setting as a tool to help us get where we want to be. It takes very little of our time, but can help keep us organized and headed in the right direction. You would never plan a European vacation without a map and schedule of destinations. So why not take ten minutes to frame out the map that will help you become more fit?

-Stuart

Holiday Workouts

Hello everyone,

Hope you’re all keeping well. You’ll have to forgive this week’s post. It used to be a lot longer, mind blowing and full of humourous quips, until something went wrong when I tried to upload it. So here is the abridged version with only the important stuff.

It’s around that time of year when we all pack up our cars and head out to the cottage for the week. Just because we’re taking a break from the city doesn’t mean we need to take a break from staying fit. In fact, there’s nothing better than getting a workout in at 6am on the cool sandy beach as the rising sun lights up the rippling waves. Toes sinking into the grainy sand, as you prepare to experience a refreshing and satisfying workout… this continued on for a while in th original article…

Don’t Need A Big Trunk
If you’re used to machines and free weights at the gym or in your home, this is a great opportunity for you to broaden your scope of exercise. Bodyweight workouts are a great way to work multiple muscles at once, develop your balance and coordination, get an aerobic component in to your strength program, and keep costs down. Best of all, you don’t need any equipment! Elastics, exercise balls and straps can greatly increase the variety in your bodyweight workouts, but they’re definietly not necessary.

On Vacation, Perfection Not Required
Unless you’re on a four week Alaskan Cruise, chances are you’re only gone for 1-2 weeks. This is a fairly short time in your training schedule, so we can afford to cut back on our duration while on vacation. Figure out an amount of time you know you’ll be able to commit to. 45 minutes? 30 minutes? 20 minutes? You may not get your minimum recommended aerobic exercise for the week; you may not have a perfectly balanced workout for all major muscle groups; but don’t worry, it’s only for a week! You’ll be back to your regular routine or Boot Camp before you know it!

Exercises
There is an unlimited number of exercises to choose from. I won’t bother trying to list exercises in this post, as there are hundreds of resources out there to choose from, a few of which are listed below. In addition to these online sites, you can always find exercise ideas in books (remember libraries?). If you don’t feel comfortable with a given exercise, or are not sure you’re doing it right, simply swap it with another exercise for the same major muscle group. If you don’t feel comfortable trying exercises without receiving proper instruction, you may want to consider seeking the services of a trainer to get you started.
Some online resources for bodyweight exercises:
www.bodyrock.tv
http://www.myfit.ca/exercisedatabase/search.asp?muscle=Home&equipment=yes
www.bodyweightculture.com
www.crossfit.com

Formats
This is where you can really spice up your workouts with variety, fun, and a little motivational competition. To give you an idea how many formats there can be, this Monday will be the 100th Boot Camp I plan for my MORFit participants. Every class has a different format. Some are typical formats you might find online, most are just ideas that came to me the night before. Nobody said you have to stick to the “2 sets of 15 reps” format. Or maybe someone did. Well, I’m telling you do don’t have to. Below are a few ideas you can use for your vacation (or your regular) workouts:

Ten’s – Pick 4-6 exercises. Do 10 reps of each exercise, then down to 9 reps, then 8, 7….. down to 1 rep of each. Try to complete the workout faster each time you go through the same exercises; or change your exercises every time.

Tabatas
 – Do as many reps as you can of an exercise in 20 seconds. Rest for 10 or 20 seconds. Repeat this same sequence 6-8 times for the same exercise. Complete 4-6 minutes of higher intensity cardio. Then move onto your second exercise, repeating the same sequence as before. Go through 4-6 exercises. You can write down your reps for each round, trying to get as many reps as you can in each 20 second bout.

Two to Tango
 – Determine a distance that takes approximately 1-2 minutes to complete (maybe a track, maybe running to the tree on the beach…). Your partner does an exercise for the length of time it takes you to run the complete distance. When you finish the run, your partner takes off while you go through the exercise. When they return, move onto the second exercise. Go through as many exercises as needed to fill the time you have for your workout.

Now you have no excuse not to workout at the cottage! I hope this article was helpful. I have no intention of giving you one workout that will keep you satisfied for one week. These are some of the tools you can use to start building your own workouts, should you be interested in doing so. Check out some of the sites I pointed to, there’s some great resources out there. Until the next post, I wish you all variety and enjoyment in your workouts, whether it’s in the company gym, or on a sandy beach.

-Stuart

Stress

Our entire post today is dedicated to that unavoidable, unrelenting, silent but deadly, and all to often ignored…. stress. You have it, I have it, and that overly peppy neighbour who always has a smile on his face has it too. Stress is vital to our health and safety, yet has evolved to become the source of many medical ailments and diseases. Can we completely remove stress from our lives? I sure hope not, because that would mean never exercising! Can we manage stress so it is less detrimental in our daily lives? Yes.
Let’s explore stress together, and maybe we can come up with some solutions for taking back the control stress has whisped away from us over the years.

Too Much of A Good Thing
Stress can be generally described as any strain on our bodies, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional in nature. When we experience stress, our adrenal glands release the hormone cortisol into our bloodstream. Cortisol is our “natural” energy drink. It increases our reaction time, alertness, cognitive abilities, and strength to a certain degree. When we find ourselves in dangerous situations, cortisol increases our “fight or flight” response. Sounds great doesn’t it? Bring on the cortisol! As with most things, too much of a good thing can be detrimental. To quote Brendan Brazier, Ironman Triathlete and vegan, “Stress is like fire: When controlled and used for a purpose, it serves us well. Left unbridled, it can consume us.” (Brazier, The Thrive Diet, 2007).
We live in a world that breeds stress; quick unhealthy diets, long work days, polluted environment, relationship troubles, responsibilities that wouldn’t fit into a 36 hour day… We have a lot working against us. All these stresses, though not life threatening on their own, do contribute to an ongoing release of cortisol from the adrenals.

The Silent Killer
Our bodies can only handle a certain amount of cortisol before it needs to recover from the stress hormone. If this recovery does not take place, and our bodies are subjected to ongoing release of cortisol, we predispose ourselves to a host of problems. Initially, we will experience fatigue, mental clutter/fog, and sleep disturbances. If the level and frequency of stress is high enough, we can get into more complications. Our bodies interpret stress as a reaction to a threatening situation, and our bodies can shift to a survival mode. We start to store and conserve fats, and rely more on carbohydrates as energy. The more carbohydrates we burn through, the more we will crave these foods. A combination of the survival mode and cravings can lead to weight gain. Hormonal imbalances leading to nutrient imbalances can cause digestive problems, hampered hydration, and poor recovery after workouts. Further down the line, stress can lead to even more serious diseases and implications, including depression, types II diabetes, fibromyalgia, and so on.
The ironic thing about sustained stress, is that each of these complications just lead to more stress. If you’re too tired to be productive during the day, yet can’t sleep at night to get rid of the fatigue; you’ll just be more stressed that you can’t find the energy to get things done.

Nutritional Stress
Stress from the foods we eat deserves it’s own section. It is believed that the majority of stress experiened by North Americans is caused by nutritional stress. Processed foods, unbalanced macronutrients (fats vs proteins vs carbohydrates), hydration, and a lack of wholesome foods causes UNPARALLELED stress on our bodies. Food is supposed to provide us the energy we need for all our other daily activities. A lot of the foods we buy actually tax our bodies of energy in the digestion process, robbing us from some of that valuable energy. I can’t possibly cover everything on nutritional stress in this article. But I will provide you with two resources. The first is a book called the Thrive Diet, written by Brendan Brazier (quoted earlier). I am neither recommending or suggesting you follow the thrive diet, but there is a lot of good information on nutritional and other stresses. Secondly, I will be posting an article on nutrional recommendations in a couple weeks. There will be a bunch of ideas you can adopt into your diet to minimize the nutritional stress on your body.

Balancing Stress
As mentioned before, some stress is beneficial. We stress our muscles every time we go through a MORFit Boot Camp. But we stop the stress, recover, and come out stronger and more fit than we were before. If you went through three boot camps every day for 4 months, the stress would be too much. We wouldn’t recover, fatigue would set in, and possibly injury. Stress also strengthens our immune system in the same way. If stress lasts too long, the immune system is overloaded, and we are at increased risk of illness and immune system ailments.
Below are a couple strategies you can use to try and manage the effects of stress in your life:
1) Be aware of stress symptoms (fatigue, mind clutter, unmotivated, performance decline, weight gain, weight loss, sleep disturbance, mood swings, decreased sex drive)
2) Educate yourself on what you’re eating, and start making healthy substitutions
3) Balance work, recreation, and other responsibilities. Do you really need to put in the overtime? Is there something more productive you can be doing instead of watching “The Last Ten Pounds”? Will I be more relaxed if I take the kids to the park and leave the dishes till tomorrow?
4) GET YOUR SLEEP!!! 4-6 hours is not enough for the vast majority of us, yet this is a very common amount of sleep for many of us. Getting good quality sleep every night can do wonders for stress levels, positively affecting everything else.
5) Choose your battles. Some of us are more high strung than others. Turning every little squabble into a warzone may get you your way more often, but it will come back at you in stress. Cortisol makes no exceptions for type A’s. A good question to ask yourself in these situations, “Will this really matter 6 months from now?”.

If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment. Every little bit helps. I wish you all a stress-limited week. Check out Brazier’s book when you get the chance!

-Stuart

Managing Time & Yourself

As some of you have noticed, I have missed a week or two in submitting an article to the MORFit Blog. I do apologize to the readers out there. I wish I could use the excuse that I have been too busy, but this very article is about time and stress management, and winding down on a weekly, if not daily basis.

Lists
We do them with our groceries, so why not with the rest of our daily to-do’s? Have you ever noticed how much more time you spend in the grocery store if you don’t have your list with you? You have to check every group of products in every aisle, just to make sure you don’t forget something. And if you do, then it’s an immense waste of time making that second trip.
As we get older we seem to develop more responsibilities. I would highly encourage you to try making a list of things to do during times of stress (home renovations, balancing a busy weekend with the kids, University exam month, etc.). Make a column for “urgent”, “non-urgent”, and “reminders”. Take ten minutes to brainstorm everything you need to get done, and write them under one of the columns. There will be times when you’re adding to the list more than removing, but it is such a relief to have it written down, and not worry if you’re missing something.

Take Time For Yourself
This has been an extremely hard thing for me to do, now that we’re in the throws of building the MORFit Training Centre. I’ve been trying to spend every spare minute in the gym tearing up floors, hauling out garbage, or looking for something to do. My contractor and good friend Dan gave me a lecture this past week about taking time off. I heeded his advice, and was more productive on other tasks that I had been ignoring (such as the MORFit Blog). Often we get caught up in one task that is in the forefront of our mind; neglecting to realize our efficiency is needed somewhere else. Many times, that somewhere else, is simply relaxing. When we relax, we let go of stress, which is one of the healthiest habits to get into.

Stressful Times
Next week I will dedicate an entire article to stress. This natural process is experienced by every human, is a major leading cause of chronic diseases, yet is commonly overlooked. Most people strive for a healthy body through diet and exercise; yet completely ignore stress as a major component to health. Diet and exercise contribute to stress in their own ways; which can be a good or a bad stress. This will be explained in greater detail in the next article. For now, we just want to plant a seed in your mind that stress could be the reason why you feel fatigued all the time, could be the reason you seem to keep putting on weight despite your regulated diet and exercise, could be the reason why your doctor is worried about your lipid/cholesterol/blood sugar levels.

Bit of a shorter article today. But now we both have an extra 5 minutes to sit back, listen to some Nick Drake, and simply, breathe.

-Stuart

Portion Control Strategies

Getting To The Root
Portion control can be tricky to manage, as many times the overeating is triggered by emotions, stress, boredom, or habit. Developing strategies for controlling portion sizes or overeating can be accomplished more readily if the the cause is known. For example, if you find you always grab some food when you’re bored at home, one strategy might be to drink a glass of water prior to eating any meals and snacks throughout the day. This will increase your water intake, make you aware everytime you’re going for food, and may discourage you from taking multiple snacks between meals (thereby decreasing amount of food you eat in a day). However, if you find you simply eat too much during dinner time, this strategy may be less effective. After your one glass of water, you can still eat two or three helpings without “breaking your rule”. Forcing yourself to do the dishes and cleaning up the kitchen before you go for a second plate would be a better strategy for this type of portion control. Other helpful strategies are presented at the end of the article.

One Step At A Time
The most important advice I can give on adopting portion control strategies (which can also be applied to any other lifestyle change), is to start with small promises to yourself. You may have a clear vision of where you need to be to take full control of your diet, or perhaps you’re attempting to adopt a strategy someone else has set out for you. Either way, I encourage you to break down the finished product into smaller goals. Everytime you succeed in one of your smaller goals, your confidence will build, and tackling the next goal will seem much easier. As an example; Jack only eats two vegetables a week, overfills his plate with pasta for dinner, and enjoys his late night chips before bed. Instead of shooting for 8 servings of vegetables every day, reducing his pasta portion to 1.5 cups for dinner, and swearing off chips; he may set an initial goal of trying to get 2 portions of vegetables per day. And that’s all he focuses on for the first month. Once that becomes routine, he may increase this to 4 servings of vegetables, or look at addressing one of his two other problem areas.
Trying a complete overhaul rarely lasts in the long run, because it is too much change to our daily routines. Some people can pull it off, but most of us respond to smaller, manageable adaptations.

Leave The Best For Last
Following the principle of building confidence and realistic goals, I would also suggest not starting with your arch nemesis. If you’re absolutely gaga for chocolate, I don’t recommend trying to cut chocolate out as your first goal. Even if you think those daily chocolate bars are the primary barrier between you and a healthier diet, consider working on increasing your water intake throughout the day, or not eating deserts Monday through Friday. Build the self-belief that you can take control of what you put in your body, and work towards the chocolate battle. When you get there, maybe you promise yourself you won’t eat chocolate after 5pm. This doesn’t completely dissipate the privilege of enjoying chocolate, but it starts to give you self-imposed accountability for when you can enjoy the privilege.

A Few More Strategies
Below are a few more tips and tricks that you can use in managing your portions:
– Bring your lunch to work instead of buying
– If you bring your lunch to work, pack it after eating dinner. You’ll be full when doing so, which may help you keep portions in line
– Brush your teeth before having an unplanned meal/snack. Toothpaste is great for getting rid of the hunger response
– Make a pact with a friend that you’ll call/text them everytime you’re about to go for a second plate (one of my favorites!)
– If snack food always finds it’s way into the cupboards; dedicate one cupboard to snack food, but you can only fill it once a week
or month. Work on reducing how much snack food goes into the cupboard every month
– Find an activity you can do with your hands, which will keep you busy when bored
– Find an activity/outlet for when things get too stressful in your day; going for a walk/jog, clean, write in a journal, buy a punching bag…

There are countless other strategies out there. If one didn’t work for you in the past, it just wasn’t the right strategy for you, or you may have been trying to change too much at once. Your health is worth giving it another try. I wish you all the best of luck, and remember that there’s always people around that are more than willing to help and answer questions. I encourage you to join MORFit’s Community Forum, where people are voicing their experiences and suggestions on this and other health topics. If you have any other tips for portion control, please share them, every strategy is bound to work for someone reading this article.

-Stuart

Three Energy Systems = One Fine Machine

Hello everyone,

Today we will be looking at the three energy systems we use for our daily activities (this will be a very general look at the systems. If you’d like more info on anything, please leave a comment so I can follow-up). Today’s article will not have much of a practical component to it, but more educational. We’ll apply this education to next week’s applicable article.
Let’s get right into it!

ATP
Adenosine Triphosphate is the molecule that our body uses as energy. One of the three phosphate (P) molecules breaks off; resulting in an adenosine diphosphate (ADP) molecule, a phosphate ion, and energy. It is this energy we use for nearly all the processes in our body.

Aerobic System – Our highly efficient but slower system
We’ll start with the aerobic system. Even though it is the most complex, it is the easiest to sum up, because most of us have a general sense of what’s involved. “Aerobic” implies that oxygen is required to produce energy from this system. Once oxygen is brought into the equation, our cells have to work harder to create the energy, thus resulting in a longer amount of time before that energy is available. Along with the oxygen, our aerobic system uses fats and carbohydrates to create the ATP (adenosine triphosphate) our cells need for energy. Our aerobic system is like highway driving. It takes a while to get up to speed, but once we’re there, we are moving as efficiently as possible. The aerobic system may take a couple minutes to become fully operational during exercise, but it’s capacity lasts as long as there is oxygen and glucose available.

Anaerobic Lactic System – Our mid-capacity system
The anaerobic systems do not make use of fat breakdown, thus avoiding the need of oxygen. This results in less chemical processes, and quicker access to energy. The lactic system breaks down glucose molecules to produce ATP, supplying our muscles with faster energy than the aerobic system. However, a trade-off for this quicker energy is the production of lactic acid. The problem with lactic acid is that it releases hydrogen ions into our muscles and bloodstream, creating an acidic environment which causes that burning feeling when you’re exercising at high intensities. If too many hydrogen ions are present in our cells, we have to decrease our intensity to a point where we can tolerate/remove the hydrogen ions.

Anaerobic Alactic System – Our instantaneous but short lived system
This system doesn’t breakdown fats or carbohydrates for energy. In fact, everything this system needs is already stored within our muscles in the form of stored ATP and creatine phosphate (CP). During the initiation of intense exercise, the stored ATP within our muscle is used for instantaneous energy. As mentioned before, this results in many ADP molecules sitting in our muscles. This ADP is converted back to ATP by borrowing the phosphate ion from the stored CP. These processes are very fast, allowing us to give maximal efforts for an all-out bout of 10-15 seconds.

One Fine Machine
These three systems work together at all times; allowing us to run four blocks to catch the bus (lactic), sprint after the bus as it pulls away from the stop (alactic), and jog 20 minutes to get home using our own two feet (aerobic). The intensity of the activity determines which system predominates, but rest assured they are all working to some degree. In next week’s article, we will use this knowledge to look at the marketed “fat burning zones” on treadmills; and whether slow is better for “burning fat”.

-Stuart

 

“What is the Best Exercise for Losing Weight” – Part III

This is the last addition to this three part article. Today we will be talking about practical applications, specific exercises and resources, you can use to increase your fitness level, create a net caloric defict (resulting in weight loss), and decrease your risk for many chronic diseases.

The Guidelines for Health Benefits
The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) is Canada’s gold standard for physical activity recommendations, health and fitness research, and fitness professional certifications. In January of 2011, CSEP released new physical activity guidelines broken down into age groups. The guidelines can be found on the CSEP website, or MORFit’s Resources page. For adults, CSEP advises: “To achieve health benefits, adults aged 18-64 years should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.”
Ideally this would be spread over 4-6 days of the week, and not just one full-on bout of 2.5 hours. Keep in mind this is to achieve health benefits, which will reduce your risk for things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases. If you’re looking to lose weight, this may not be enough.

How Much is Enough for Weight Loss?
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises: “Overweight and obese adults may benefit from progression to approximately 250-300 min/week or 50 to 60 min on 5 days/week”. Research suggests this volume of activity (>2,000 kcals/week) enhances long-term weight loss maintenance. They recommend targeting a 5-10% reduction in body weight over the initial 3-6 months. This may not sound like much, and many diets/progams out there claim to lose that much in half the time. The difference here, is that we’re trying to adopt a sustainable lifetsyle that will continue to deliver results over the long term, to avoid the yo-yo effect.
In addition to the physical activity, the ACSM recommends reducing caloric energy intake by 500-1000 kcal/day to achieve weight loss. Dietary fat should account for <30% of total energy intake.

Making the Numbers Fit
Just how much physical activity equates to 2,000 kcals? Below is a list of kcal/min burnt during different activity intensities. From this table, we can see that a female exercising “lightly” (3.4 Kcal/min), would need to exercise for just under ten hours to burn 2,000 kcals in a week. This should help illustrate the importance of balancing the intensity and duration discussed in part II.

Men                                         Women
Level               Kcal/min             Level               Kcal/min
Light               2.0-4.9               Light               1.5-3.4
Moderate         5.0-7.4               Moderate         3.5-5.4
Heavy             7.5-9.9                Heavy             5.5-7.4
Very Heavy      10.0-12.4            Very Heavy      7.5-9.4

There are other ways to determine more accurately how much energy is being used during exercise. A fitness professional can help you determine these numbers based on your weight/age/etc.

Still Waiting for the Exercises
Now that we have a general idea of how much exercise we should be targeting, let’s talk about types of exercises. As mentioned in part II, we get the greatest benefit from useing several large muscle groups while weight bearing. Treadmills, rowers, and ellipticals are good examples to choose from in a gym. Running, cycling, stairs, skipping, and multi-muscle exercises (aerobics, burpees) are great if you’re at home. Sports, boot camps, spin classes, running groups are very social and effective outlets in the community.
This list is certainly not exhaustive. The bottom line is to find activities that you enjoy doing, and making sure that you’re engaging in the activities with sufficient intensity and duration to experience the benefits you’re seeking.

In fture articles, we’ll get more specific about tracking intensities with heart rates and RPE’s. For now, I encourage you to set a goal of finding activities you can adopt into your lifestyle, and start working towards dedicating 150 minutes per week to those activities.
I wish you all the best!

-Stuart

“What is the Best Exercise for Losing Weight” – Part II

Welcome to part II of our quest to find an answer to that universal question, “What is the best exercise for losing weight?”. Part I touched on some basic physiology of kCals in our bodies; today we will explore some fundamentals that pertain to diet, exercise and lifestyle. Let’s get started!

#1 – Every Little Bit Counts
Let’s make a brief distinction between scheduled acitivities and unscheduled activities of daily living (ADL’s). Scheduled activities include going to the gym, your morning runs, playing on the softball team Tuesday nights, etc. ADL’s include everything else you do throughout the day that increases your heart rate and burns calories above your resting metabolism. Both these forms of activity are important in creating a net energy deficit, and ultimately contributing to weight loss. Scheduled activities (moderate to very heavy intensity) will burn anywhere from 2-6 times more kCals than most light ADL’s. However, if your scheduled activities account for only one hour of your day, you have another ~15 hours of awake time to fit in your lighter ADL’s. Now we can see the importance of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, sneaking a walk in over lunch hour, and carrying your groceries instead of using a cart.

Key Point: Any activity that increases your heart rate or breathing rate is burning extra energy. The more often you engage in these activities, the greater the daily energy expenditure will be, and your body will become more accustomed to these increased demands.

#2 – Move What Your Mamma Gave You
The last point highlighted the importance of performing light to moderate activities throughout the day. Now we’ll discuss the importance of maximizing efficiency of the limited time you have for scheduled activites. Due to my profession, I will be using the gym as my example of scheduled activity. Many of us only have 30-60 minutes in a day to dedicate to the gym. This is still enough time to experience significant benefits, if you’re taking advantage of your time. There are two key components to consider during your workouts: Duration & Intensity. If weight loss is your goal, you will need to balance these two variables to result in an adequate kCal expenditure (specific kCal values for common activities will be discussed in another article). If you’re pressed for time, try cranking up the intensity of your workout. If you don’t like working your body into a pile of sweat and lactic acid burn, then burn your kCals at a moderate intensity over a longer period of time.
The more muscles you have working, the more oxygen your body needs to fuel those muscles, and the more kCals you will burn. You will have to work at a higher percieved intensity on a bike to achieve the same energy output compared to a treadmill, for the same duration. A good indicator of which exercises require more muscles: Weight-bearing activities, and exercises requiring you to move more limbs are more effective than weight-supported activities.
My Question of the Day to the Reader: Considering this last point, how do sit-ups sound as an exercise to lose that belly fat?

Key Point: Increase your intensity or duration to burn more energy in your workouts. Exercises requiring the use of more muscles also require more energy. So try getting on the treadmill, elliptical or rower. The bike is weight-supported and lower body only; but can be a great tool if your intensity/duration are high enough.

#3 – The Diet
The nemesis of millions. Our diet has the ability to send us in either direction of the weight management spectrum, regardless of level of physical activity. You can workout religiously every day of the week, and still gain weight if your diet is not managed. Conversely, many people have eaten their way from obese to a “healthy” weight without changing their level of physical activity. How is this possible? It comes down to education, practice, and discipline. It’s important to have a general understanding of the foods you typically eat, and an understanding of how much activity and food are required to progress towards your goals. Then you’ll probably go through a period of trying different strategies that are compatible with your goals and your lifestyle. Finally, it’s a matter of turning new practices into habits that become second-nature.
There’s a reason why fad diets come and go. They will work for some people, but not everyone. There’s nothing wrong with trying one strategy for managing your diet, and not having it work for you. This is not a reflection on your ability to reach your goals. This simply wasn’t the right strategy for you.

Key Point: Don’t underestimate the influence of your diet. Try not to get discouraged if you run into setbacks or “bad days”. EVERYBODY experiences these, multiple times. If you have the right intentions in mind, and are making changes to manage your diet, then you’re on the right track.

 

That’s it for part II. Next week, part III will get into some applicable examples of exercise and diet strategies to take your weight loss by the horns. Thanks again for reading, please feel free to leave your comments below.

-Stuart

“What is the Best Exercise for Losing Weight?” – Part I

I am going to be upfront with you; I will not be providing a best exercise for weight loss. I do not believe there is such a thing. But we can succeed in weight loss, if we stay committed to ourselves over time. It is my intent, over a series of articles, to give you the knowledge that will help you succeed in this undertaking. In part 1 of this article, I am going to address some of the physiology that will help give you a clearer understanding of the relationship between Kcals and our bodies. Part 2 will tie the physiology into diet & exercise, and part 3 will provide you with exercise and lifestyle strategies for positively changing your body composition.

#1 –  The Classic Over-Squeeze
I am going to use a car analogy to describe how our bodies make use of the calories we put in, and calories we burn off. Let’s pretend our car has a full tank of gas. We drive to the gym, burning 10 litres of gas in the process. After the gym, we plan on putting 10 litres of gas back in the tank, to bring us back to a full tank of gas. However, we pump a little too much, and we end up with gas everywhere because the tank cannot adapt to the additional fuel.

The same is true for our bodies. If we burn off the same number of Kcals that we consume, our “tank”, or weight, will stay the same. However, if we put in more energy than we burn, we hold the additional energy in storage sites, or fat cells. This creates a net gain in weight. One pound of fat contains 3500 Kcals of energy. To make this tangible, there are 140 Kcals in a can of Coke. If every day, we drank one can of Coke above our “gas tank” capacity, we would gain 1 pound every 25 days.

Evn though I used a sugar-loaded soft drink as an example, this holds true for all foods. One Kcal from Coke is the same as one Kcal from brocolli (we’re talking energy here, not nutrition). Regardless of whether the energy starts as a carbohydrate, protein, fat, or alcohol; all excess Kcals are stored as potential energy in the form of fat. Some days we underfill our tank, some days we overfill our tank. What makes the difference over time is which one we do more often.

Key Point: To lose weight, you need a sustained net energy loss. All foods contribute to filling our tanks with fuel, but if not burned, the excess is stored as fat. Our next point addresses energy out.

 

 

 

#2 – Idling Gas Guzzlers
Gas in your car is burnt both while driving, and while idling. We often think of driving as being the only culprit for emptying our gas tank, but imagine if we could never turn our cars off. Idling 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This in effect, is our resting metabolism. Surprisingly, we “idle” away  70-85% of our daily energy expenditure (this includes food digestion, and resting metabolism requirements of our cells). “Driving”, or physical activity, accounts for the remaining 15-30%. Physical activity directly and indirectly increases our metabolism, taking advantage of our “idling” Kcal expenditure. Some forms of exercise are more efficient than others for increasing metabolism, which will be addressed in part 2 & 3 of this article.

Key Point: The majority of our daily energy expenditure comes from normal cell metabolism, while a minority comes from physical activity. This fact emphasizes the importance of metabolism when trying to lose or gain weight.

So far, we’ve looked at how calories in and calories out affect our body weight over time. Keep in mind, that our bodies are much more complex than the simplified comparison to automobiles used in this article. Stay tuned for part 2, where we’ll explore how we use energy in exercise, and how our diet can speed up or slow down our progress.

-Stuart

Your Destination for Weekly Health & Fitness Information

Hello MORFit Members and Visitors,

Thank you for visiting our new blog. Every week, we’ll be posting a new article on Health & Fitness. We’ll provide helpful infomation that can be directly applied to your fitness program; talk about myths in the industry, and explain why these myths exist; provide exercise ideas; refer you to other resources for additional learning; and write articles based on your suggestions.

Knowledge is the key to keeping you motivated and committed to your active lifestyle. Providing you with knowledge is just one more way we will help you succeed.

Learning together, because MORFit cares more.

-Stuart