By Dr Kenneth Gardner
At this time of the year, many of us could still have some energy stored in our body from the excess calories that were ingested during the holiday season. If this extra energy is not utilised quickly, it will be converted to fat very soon.
At that point, we will find it more challenging to convert the fat to energy. This will result in, weight gain via an increase in our fat mass. If this continues without some meaningful weight-management intervention, the risks of obesity will increase.
Persons who are overweight as a result of excess body fat, or are obese, basically have increased health risks for a variety of lifestyle health issues and an increased mortality rate.
Being overweight can make it more difficult to detect tumours in their early stages so they can be managed more efficiently. Excess body weight from fat can speed up and increase the development of cancer of the colon, breast, prostate and uterus. Excess body weight is also a significant contributor to heart disease, diabetes, respiratory distress during sleep and infertility. Obesity also takes a toll on our joints, especially our knees. It enhances the development of arthritis. The result is a vicious cycle, as the joint pains then make it more difficult to do physical activities to shed the extra pounds.
Lean body mass
Physical activity is critical to losing weight, as well as maintaining it. Not only will physical activity maintain lean tissue but it will help us to use more of our body fat to produce energy. In our quest to lose weight, a combination of aerobic and strength-training exercises work best because they make us burn more calories.
Therefore, we should always adjust our exercise programme so that it is commensurate with our caloric intake. It is necessary for us to increase our physical activity in order to use most of the calories we consume and store less so that we maintain our initial weight or reduce it.
We use up a larger number of calories when we do low-intensity activities and these are basically from fats. When we use up more calories each day than we consume we reduce our weight. The more calories we burn, the more fat we lose.
The only healthy way to gain weight is through strength exercise activities and a slight increase in caloric intake. If we gain weight first by overeating, that will increase our fat component, not our lean component, which is not the path to better health. Exercise is the best solution to fat-weight reduction and lean weight gain likewise.
Persons who want to increase their weight can follow a strength-training programme that includes at least two exercises of three sets, for each major body part. Each set should consist of about 10 repetitions maximum. In our pursuit, if the higher caloric intake is not accompanied by strength-training activities, the increase in body weight will be in the form of fat, not muscle tissue.
Dr Kenneth Gardner is an exercise physiologist at Holiday Hills Research Center; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.