Everyone talks about getting into shape and getting more physically fit; some finally take action. Marketing and media reports have convinced the public that to get fit, you must buy something, usually something expensive, and there is a lot of hype, falsehoods, confusion, and outright lying about what to take to get fit. Be wary of any fitness advice from anyone who is trying to sell you something. Here are some truths backed up by independent research.
Exercise is not for weight control
Exercise has a lot of benefits, such as increased strength, endurance, flexibility, cardiovascular health, relaxation, mental acuteness, and simply enjoyment. However, it is not an effective way to control weight. While it is true that increased physical activity burns more calories, there is a major problem with using it for weight control. If you stop exercising for whatever reason, such as injury, illness, time constraints, weather, or simply laziness, you will gain back any weight lost as a result of the exercise.
There are about 3500 calories in a pound of fat. Running at a 6 mph pace burns about 800 calories per hour for a 150 person. That means it takes about 4.5 hours of running to burn off a pound of fat. Say you have a regular cheeseburger, fries, and soft drink for lunch each day, that meal is about 800 calories. By eating a more healthy meal of say 400 calories, you save 400 calories. If you do this each day for lunch for about 9 days, you will have eliminated about 3500 calories. Which takes less time and effort, running 4.5 miles or eating a healthy lunch for 9 days? In addition, you can lose weight this way even with injury, illness, or time constraints, etc.
Weight control comes from controlling what you eat
The secrets to weight control are simple:
- Watch your portions. Portion control has the greatest effect on weight loss. You can eat most anything, if it is done with portion control.
- Limit fat. Limit fat intake to less than one-third of your daily calorie intake.
- Eat fruits and vegetables. Remember to eat 5 or more portions per day.
- Choose whole over refined. Eat whole grain bread rather than refined bread. Try to eat all food in as near to its natural state as possible, the less processing and refining, the better.
- Eat at home. Eating at home where you have more control helps with weight loss, and it is cheaper.
- Exercise. As stated above, exercise does burn some extra calories, but its greatest benefit comes from the overall increase in well-being, which help you eat better and less.
Note: The storage of food in the body as fat does not increase more at night. Research has shown that, while eating before bed may cause indigestion or sleep problems, it does not make you fatter.
Elaborate, expensive exercise equipment is not needed
Before making any major, or even minor, purchase, always check out Consumer Reports to see what they have found out about the product.
Consumer Reports runs surveys and tests each year to evaluate exercise equipment. The tests always show that the hype and promises made by companies are not backed up by reality. Some results of their findings are as follows:
- Sit-ups beat ab machines. Simple floor abdominal exercises are more effective than ab machines; and they are free.
- Walking is better than most machines. Some machines burn slightly more calories than simple walking or running, but any gains do not justify their cost.
- Upper body devices can help some. Pull-up or pushup devices may increase upper body strength, but this same affect may be gained using simple things found around the house. For example, rather than buy pushup devices, perform your pushups while gripping a dumbbell to increase the depth of your pushup movement.
- Diets included. All the claims made by the makers of these devices include their diet plans, and most of the plans are nearly impossible for most people to maintain.
- Results not typical. This is always in the fine print. It means the results they are claiming are seldom, if ever, achieved.
- Total cost. The advertised cost does not include shipping, handling, and sales taxes, which may sometimes double the advertised cost.
- Money back guarantee. Even if you can actually get the refund, it does not include the initial shipping and handling, and you will have to pay a shipping and restocking fee to send it back. Many devices cost substantially less than the handling and restocking fees, so even if you are able to return the item, the company still makes a big profit.
- Not sold in stores. Many times the products are not sold in stores because if you were able to see, touch, and check out the quality of the product in person, you would never buy it.
- Better Business Bureau. Simply being a member of the BBB means little. Check with the BBB in the company’s area and see what complaints they have had filed against the company.
- Internet ordering. Before ordering from a web site, check the site for a customer service number and call the number to see if you can get a live person. Most rip-off companies never reveal any phone numbers other than the ones used to order.
- Check address. Use Google maps to review the location of the company.
Build a home gym for under $100
On all the equipment, purchase the equipment itself, not all the programs, videos, and hype that some include. You can find free instruction material and videos on how to use the equipment from web sites and from the library.
- Dumbbells. Dumbbells are inexpensive and highly effective. While lifting the weight, you must balance and control the weight through minute muscle and joint movements over the entire body, which increases the strength building benefits over the use a weight machine. You do not need rubber coated or otherwise enhanced dumbbells, simple iron ones are just as effective. Get at least two sets, one weight set you can use for high reps, and one weight set to use for low reps.
- Elastic bands or tubes. These are extremely versatile and may be used in numerous ways to strengthen and tone muscles and increase flexibility. They are easy to pack for use when traveling. Purchase a few levels of resistance than you can handle.
- Stability ball. These balls add variety to your core workouts and cause you to use additional muscles during exercises. Try a 45-cm ball if you are less than 5 feet tall, a 55-cm ball if you are 5 feet 1 inch to 5 feet 7 inches tall, and a 65-cm ball if you are taller.
- Exercise mat. Hard floors can be rough on joints and bones, especially as you get older, so a cushioned mat is very helpful. It may be purchased or homemade.
- Suspension straps. Hand make you own suspension straps.
- Jump rope. Use a simple jump rope for variety instead of running.
- Heavy bag. For martial artists, a heavy punching bag is essential. Check the Home Gym topic for more information.