The magical effects of functional fitness

The effort to lose weight has become a lifelong struggle for many people, bouncing from one diet plan to the next with little success. Ninety-five percent of those who lose weight through dieting regain the lost pounds, most within one year. This yo-yo syndrome of weight loss and gain is not only frustration but may be dangerous to long term health.

With regard to your body weight there is a simple fact that always holds true-consume more energy (calories) than your body uses and the excess will be stored as fat. That is a physiological certainty! One pound of body fat is equivalent to approximately 3500 calories of stored energy. In other words, for every extra pound of body fat you’ve gained, you must have somehow consumed 3500 calories more than your body needed to fuel basic body functions as well as daily activities. Accumulation of this “stored energy” may occur over a period of weeks, months, or even years. It is a cumulative process with no set time frame. The result is often slow, consistent, almost insignificant weight gain, commonly referred to as “creeping obesity”- it creeps up on you

The human body is amazingly sensitive to imbalances of calories-in vs. calories-out. For example, consuming an excess of only 60 calories per day (one extra small chocolate chip cookie) adds up to 1800 calories a month which translates into a fat gain of about 1/2 pound. You may not notice 1/2 pound a month, or even 1 pound every two months, but you will probably notice the change in your body shape soon after adding six pounds of fat in one year. Multiply that annual weight gain over a stretch of 5 years and the slim 22-year-old has suddenly become a greatly overweight 27-year-old.

Regardless of what certain fad diet plans may claim, the only surefire, guaranteed way to lose excess fat is to burn up more calories than you consume. In theory, this is accomplished by eating less, exercising more, or both. This is obviously easier said than done. Who wants to (or can) stay on a diet for a lifetime? After losing a few pounds most of us abandon the diet, revert back to previous eating habits, and regain the lost weight. The next step is to try another diet and repeat the cycle – hence the yo-yo syndrome. Aerobic exercise would appear to be the best solution. Its beneficial effects are well documented-burns calories, tones muscles, shapes the body, and reduces stress, We’ve all heard of the standard cure-all exercise program – 20 minutes of exercise 3 times per week guarantees lifelong health and weight control. Well, in reality, 60 minutes of aerobics per week doesn’t necessarily guarantee weight loss. One hour of energy burning exercise doesn’t make up for poor eating and activity habits during the remaining 167 hours of the week. In reality, the solution to permanent weight loss is not strict dieting, or squeezing 60 minutes of exercise into a relatively inactive week. The real key to success is to rev up your body’s energy burning capacity on a consistent basis. Remember–the more active you, are the more calories you will burn, and the more calories you burn the more weight you will lose.

A Case for Functional Fitness

If you already thrive on regular, structured bouts of aerobic exercise, please continue to do so. You probably don’t have a weight problem! But even if you’re not an exercise buff you can still adopt an active, energy burning lifestyle by incorporating “functional fitness” into your daily routine. Functional fitness is derived from activities that burn calories, enhance your physical status, and also have a functional purpose. For example, cut your grass with a push mower rather than a riding mower and you are practicing functional fitness. Burn just 100 extra calories per day and over the course of a year you will lose approximately 10 pounds of fat (assuming your diet remains the same). Double the calories burned and the time needed for weight loss is cut in half. Functional fitness activities are especially effective for shedding those “last few pound’s” that seem to be the most difficult to lose.

Incorporating functional fitness into your daily schedule is “simple and painless” (key words for long term success), and virtually guarantees that you will lose excess fat and keep it off. It is important that you add these activities to what you are already doing and not merely substitute them for your present exercise program. Otherwise, you won’t be any further ahead in the weight loss game. Remember your goal is to burn additional calories everyday without really changing your lifestyle

The following are a few examples of activities that will increase your caloric expenditure about 100 calories per day. They can be used individually or in combination.

The first step is to analyze your everyday behaviors and wherever possible replace “machine” work with “body” work. Listed (left) are just a few general guide-lines which, if adopted, will help to rev up your calorie burning engine. Be creative and you’ll be able to come up with many more.

The road to permanent weight loss does not travel from one diet plan to another. And you don’t have to workout six days a week for 60 minutes a day when you really hate to do so. The best solution is develop an active lifestyle that includes regular exercise, functional fitness activities, and a healthy diet. You are in control of your physical destiny. Make the decision to change. Identify your bad habits and replace them with good habits. Whenever you can burn extra calories, do so. Nothing drastic to begin with, mind you, just small behavior changes consistently applied over a long period of time. In doing so, you will gradually lose excess fat – your lifestyle guarantees it. And you will lose the weight in the same manner you gained it, slow and steady, but once the weight is off, you will be able to easily keep it off for a lifetime.

The solution to permanent weight loss is not strict dieting or squeezing 60 minutes of exercise into a relatively inactive week.

Whenever Possible

  • Walk rather than drive
  • Ride a bike rather than drive a car
  • Walk up stairs (or down stairs) rather than take elevator
  • Walk up the escalator as it is moving, get off the bus one block short of your destination and walk the remaining distance
  • Park at the far end of the lot and walk to the stare rather than look for a space right next to the door
  • Hand rake grass rather than use grass catcher on mower
  • Trim hedges with hand clippers rather than electric cutters
  • Split cordwood rather than buy it already prepared
  • Wash your own windows
  • Wash your own car
  • Volunteer to take the dog for a walk each day
  • Shovel the driveway after a snowfall
  • Mowing the grass for 25 minutes
  • Bicycling for 15-20 minutes
  • Weeding the garden for 20 minutes
  • Washing windows for 30 minutes
  • Walking for 20 minutes
  • Washing floors for 25-30 minutes
  • Chop wood for 15-20 minutes
  • Rake leaves for 25 minutes
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