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A Walk Down Calorie Lane

By Dr. Peter W. Kujtan, B.Sc., M.D., Ph.D.

Article printed on page 22 in August 14-15, 2004 issue
under the title: How Much Exercise Do I Need?
Reprinted in July 16-17, 2005 issue and on page 7 in June 12-13, 2009 issue of The Mississauga News
under the feature: Health, Wellness & Beauty, Medical Matters.
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan
Dr. Peter W. Kujtan

Take a stroll through Canada's Wonderland on a hot summer's day, and you will see that there is no doubt about it - we have become an obese society. Many overweight people will spend considerable time convincing anyone who will listen of how little they eat, and rarely succumb to junk craving. In some people, it may be a simple problem of perception in that people who nibble and snack almost always underestimate their total caloric intake. But on equal footing is the failure to burn off those calories through activity. Our bodies burn a basic amount of energy to sustain life. This is called the Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR). We calculate this regularly for bed-confined hospitalized patients with severe conditions that need to be fed. The BMR varies little between people. It is influenced by exercise.

The average healthy adult Canadian needs to undergo at least 20 minutes of sustained rigorous activity every second day. Rigorous is defined as raising your heart rate at least 30 to 50% above resting levels. The proof is in the pudding. Persons with minor heart attacks enter cardiac rehabilitation programs quickly achieve significant improvements in their health. My definition involves some sweat as well because this attests to muscles working. It also takes care of the wise-guys who insist bungee jumping is exercise. Do not confuse exercise with stress riddled risk-taking culminating in exhilaration. But that's another column.

The activity is of lesser concern. It can take place in the gym, backyard or bedroom. Weight training has benefits similar to cardiovascular training. The type of activity will determine improvements in secondary goals such as flexibility, strength and stamina. However, I should premise the activity criteria with some examples. The following are NOT considered exercise: 1. Defining Dairy Queen as your club, and going for workouts three times a week. 2. Walking home from the beer store with a dozen cans. 3. Mowing the lawn on a tractor. 4. Getting up from the couch and walking to the fridge, unless the fridge is in the next city. 5. Thinking about going to the gym.

Many work activities do count. Garden work, laundry and housework if done with some degree of intensity are beneficial. Jobs that involve physical exertion also count. The benefits of exercise cannot be overstated. Exercise does not wear out the body. It is poor habits which lead to repetitive injury. The additional benefits of exercise include weight loss, a longer life span, less depression, improved stamina and enhanced immunity.

Some form of daily exercise is also important for children. We live in a routine where kids' activities are pre-planned and pre-packaged. There is less opportunity for the old form of "pick-up" games where children got fit and learned social skills. Handling minor spats on the sports field became a valuable and safe source for life lessons. But one thing is for sure: kids do pick up habits of their parents be that smoking, dancing or a sport.

Related resources:

Matt Earle: Internet Scams - 1 Trick of a Tiny Belly | 1 Tip for a Flat Belly Ads | Weight Loss Acai Berry Scams.
Food Pyramids: What Should You Really Eat? Nutrition Source from Harvard School of Public Health.
Fats and Cholesterol: Out with the Bad, In with the Good from Harvard School of Public Health.
Carbohydrates: Going with the (Whole) Grain.
Fiber: Start Roughing It! "... fiber refers to carbohydrates that cannot be digested. Fiber is present in all plants that are eaten for food, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes."
Fruits & Vegetables. "Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can help you ward off heart disease and stroke, control blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent some types of cancer, avoid a painful intestinal ailment called diverticulitis, and guard against cataract and macular degeneration, two common causes of vision loss."
All About Osteoporosis: Protecting Your Bones.
Vitamins. "Intake of several vitamins above the minimum daily requirement may prevent heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and other chromic diseases."
Healthy Weight. "If you are overweight, doing whatever you can to prevent gaining more weight is a critical first step. Then, when you're ready, shedding some pounds and keeping them off will be important steps to better health."
What Is Healthy Weight?
Contrex - Ma Contrexpérience - 97s. YouTube Video, 1:39 min. How to exercise with enthusiasm and burn 2000 calories - for ladies.
Healthy Eating. Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure, from National Heart Lung & Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Healthy Lifestyle Tips: You Are What You Eat by Daniel Sitter.
Tips for parents of overweight kids. How to handle your chid's obesity problem, from NBC News.

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