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Exercise Smarter Not Harder for Weight Loss

We all know that exercise is essential for weight management because it burns calories. But how much and what kind of exercise is best?

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh enrolled 201 overweight, sedentary women as participants in a one-year study. They were randomly assigned to one of four exercise groups: (1) vigorous intensity with high duration; (2) moderate intensity with high duration; (3) moderate intensity with moderate duration; or (4) vigorous intensity with moderate duration. All women were instructed to follow a 1,200 to 1,500 kilocalorie-per-day diet and reduce fat intake to 20 to 30 percent of total energy intake.

Weight loss was significant in all groups, with those exercising moderately gaining similar benefits to those who exercised vigorously. Participants who walked briskly (moderate exercise) for at least 50 minutes, five times a week, and who cut back on fatty foods saw the best long-term weight loss. In six months, they lost an average of 25 pounds, or about 15 percent of their body weight, and the program helped them keep the weight off the rest of the year. It came down to the calories they burned, not how hard they worked to burn them.

Sherry Torkos

Why Do You Exercise?

When it comes to reasons for participating in physical activity, it appears men and women have distinct motivations. In a recent study of American male and female college students, researchers found that female study participants were generally more interested in weight management, while male study participants looked for competition, challenge, and improved strength and endurance.

Different motivations translated into different activity preferences: men preferred sports, whereas women liked sports and exercise equally.

The study, published in the September/ October 2005 Journal of American College Health, also showed similarities between genders. Both men and women indicated that they used physical activity for stress management. They also saw exercise as a way to improve health, although men thought sport was equally beneficial for health.

The results of this study raise a concern about ongoing motivation. People who participate in sport often do so because they love it; that is, they enjoy the competition and challenge of the sport, which makes it easier for them to include it as a regular part of their lives. Others who exercise only to achieve a desired outcome, instead of because they enjoy the activity, often find it harder to adhere to an exercise routine. 

Sandi Gauvin

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