Rich Weil, MEd, CDE: Fall Into Fitness
How to get up and moving
The good news is that if you follow the Surgeon General's guideline, which presumably is easier to follow than more vigorous guidelines, you can still get healthy and fit. For people who have either taken the summer off or just need to get started again, this is the perfect way to do it, with lifestyle activities.
Member question: I have just started workouts in the gym a week ago. I find that the total calories burned in treadmill, elliptical, and stationery bicycling does not increase considerably with increase in speed or time. Is that a bad sign?
Weil: The reality is that exercise, by itself, doesn't burn as many calories as people always think. It's possible that the machine is miscalibrated at the gym, but more than likely it's simply that in 30 to 40 minutes of exercise, you may burn anywhere from 250 to 400 calories and not much more. So in terms of strict caloric expenditure and losing weight, exercise is helpful, but it's also important to reduce the number of calories that you eat if you're interested in losing weight.
Member question: I am taking two different prescription medicines that have affected my weight. One, Adderall, a stimulant medication for narcolepsy and ADD, has made me lose my appetite and a lot of weight. The other is the Pill, which I have just yesterday resumed after a three-year break; this one made me put on 5-10 pounds back then. I hope they'll balance out, but my biggest fear now is that the weight I've lost includes muscle -- how can I tell? Thank you.
Weil: If you belong to a gym, they can measure your body fat with calipers. If you want to spend some money, you can purchase a special type of scale that works with bioelectric impedance. You can purchase one for $50 to $100, and that will tell you what percent of your body is fat compared to muscle. You won't know if you lost muscle, since you don't have a baseline body fat, but if you use it this week in four weeks you do it again, and you can start to see a pattern.
Another way would be to measure your circumferences or even at this moment, determine whether your clothes fit differently. Typically people will lose muscle from their shoulders and upper body first, so if a shirt fits looser through the shoulders it may be you've lost some muscle. Another circumference would be your waist. If you've lost muscle and gained some fat, your slacks might fit a little tighter.
The other thing to keep in mind is that whenever you lose weight, you almost always lose some muscle. In fact, you can lose up to 25% of your weight from muscle. So if you lose 10 pounds, two and a half pounds of that could be muscle.