The TRUTH about Exercise and Weight Loss – Part 2

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The TRUTH about Exercise and Weight Loss – Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1 of this post, you MUST do that before reading on.


Just to review a couple of the key points:

  • Exercise and burning calories are not synonymous.
  • Hormones rule {almost} everything in the body.
  • You’ll do yourself a disservice if you read this post without reading part 1.  You may even want to review part 1 before reading on.


 Okay, jumping RIGHT back in…


Chronic cardio(vascular) exercise would qualify as most anything that gets your heart rate above [180 – age] for an extended period of time.  When done in this sustained manner, glucose becomes the body’s preferred fuel over fat.

It has also been shown to:

  • raise cortisol,
  • interfere with immune system functioning,
  • cause inflammation,
  • increase injury risk,
  • and repress testosterone levels, to name a few.


Because it teaches the body to favor glucose for fuel, it often induces cravings for carbohydrates.  This preference of the body for glucose can last up to 24 hours after training in the cardio zone.  Put all of these pieces together, and you can see how this form of activity may make it HARDER for you to lose or maintain weight, say nothing about supporting overall health.


However, read on…


Chronic cardio also sends signals to the body to become more efficient at burning calories to sustain long sessions, which means your body slows down it’s metabolism in response.  Did you hear that?  Your body becomes more efficient, SLOWING DOWN your metabolism!


There are forms of training that send a different signal.


One is anaerobic training – meaning without oxygen.  In this type of training, you give your maximum effort (or very close to it) for a short period.  This will cause only a BRIEF spike in the stress hormone cortisol (unlike sustained highs with chronic cardio) and a more sustained elevation in adaptive hormones that promote muscle growth and recovery, stable or even lowered appetite, and good energy levels!  Did you hear that?  This type of activity actually encourages your body to be MORE METABOLICALLY ACTIVE for up to 24 hours after the activity!!


So what would this type of training look like?


I often suggest it last 10 minutes or less.  As little as 4 minutes can be effective.


This may be: 6 – 20 second sprints (running sprints, rowing, or exercise bike for example) followed by 1 minute rest (under 8 minutes total) or perhaps a low or high impact movement you can go all-out on for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds (total 4 minutes).  There are many options; these are just a couple examples.   This type of exercise also requires adequate rest and recovery.  I wouldn’t recommend this type of activity on back-to-back days of the week.  In fact, depending on your health status and your goals, I would suggest this activity occur a maximum of 3 days per week and as little as once every 10 days to see the benefits.


AND there’s more good stuff!!!


As you’ve seen in the previous two examples, some types of “exercise” are a form of stress.  The difference between the two examples above is: chronic stress that promotes inflammation versus brief stressors that encourage positive adaptationI think it’s pretty clear that chronic stress is not what we are going for!


Weight or resistance training is another form of exercise that often causes brief stress and promotes positive adaptations. 

This type of activity:

  • promotes muscle development,
  • improves insulin sensitivity,
  • enhances organ function,
  • stimulates adaptive hormones,
  • encourages mitochondrial (energy powerhouses) biogenesis,
  • and heightens fat metabolism.


Uuummm, yeah!  Who doesn’t like those benefits? 

The best kind of strength training focuses on full-body functional movements that include:

  • squatting,
  • pushing,
  • pulling,
  • carrying,
  • hinging,
  • and crossing the body.


Our genes also REQUIRE lots of “slow-paced” movement for optimal health!  We’ve all heard the saying, “sitting is the new smoking.”  Our bodies are making it pretty clear all on their own, but research has also confirmed, that a sedentary lifestyle has many detrimental health effects.  Think of this type of activity as gentle walks or bike rides, simply parking further away from our destinations, opting for the stairs, even things like yoga and easy movement breaks.  If you’re wondering how gentle we want these to be, you could be sure your heart rate remains below [180-age].  This type of conditioning strengthens our bones, joints and connective tissues, as well as our immune, cardiovascular, and circulatory systems.  Additionally, it enhances fat metabolism!

Yes- all those benefits and more from WALKING my friends!!!


And since we are on this topic, I can’t go without saying that mobility is a crucial component of all types of activity, as is quality over quantity!  If something doesn’t feel good, it’s important to seek support in either appropriately adapting the exercise and/or working to improve form and function.  Proper mobility leads to better form and fewer imbalances and injuries.


Okay, so let’s wrap this up…


While it is true that all forms of exercise will “burn calories,” the two ARE NOT synonymous!  NOR is it true that the “calorie burn” created by exercise is how it benefits weight/fat loss or maintenance efforts.   Other components related to exercise, such as appetite, energy levels, and hormone function, actually make the “calorie burn” piece pretty minor.  Going back to what I said way back at the beginning, HORMONES take the cake here!  It is the optimization of hormones with the proper types of exercise (for YOU and your individual health needs and goals) that have the biggest effect on health (and then weight as a side-effect).  With certain types of activity (strength training, occasional anaerobic activity, and lots of gently-paced movement), we also improve the health of our musculoskeletal and immune systems, organ function, genes, and more!   Ultimately, if we avoid inflammatory states and work to maintain healthy hormones, these will go a LONG way in keeping our bodies in a state of strong health, which will allow our body weight to find it’s optimal state.  So, HEALTH FIRST, and the rest will follow!

Deanna Wilcox

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