Many patients over the years have asked me what exercise they should do to lose weight or how much exercise they need to do to lose weight. In a nutshell, the answer to that question is, how long is a piece of string? In the last one hundred years or so, there have been many types of exercises that come and gone, all purporting to be the newest and best technique for stimulating maximum weight loss. Look at pictures of old gyms and you will see pictures of rowing machines or think about all those soldiers doing star jumps in their boots. So uncouth these days! We have seen the fad of aerobic classes come and go to be superseded by box fit, cross fit, this fit and that fit. Then we have power walking and now Zumba dancing has come along. There is so much to choose from.
I don’t confess to being a sports exercise physiologist or specialist or even having tried any of these other fads but common sense will prevail – any exercise is going to help. Don’t quote me on the reference, but I read a research report probably over twenty years ago where a group of physiotherapists worked out a formula to lose weight. It involved jogging for a 40 minute session, four times a week which led to steady weight loss. Once you reached your target weight goal that you desired, then you were to continue to jog for 30 minutes three times a week.
This approach sounds good in theory, but the problem is that most patients wanting to lose weight, come to see me when they are in their fifties and haven’t exercised for thirty years or so. Patients in their sixties and older, are more likely to have some level of degeneration of their lower spine, hips or knees so taking up jogging is probably not the best option.
Ok, so you can’t jog, what about walking to lose weight?
You will need to walk for two hours for five to six days a week depending on how fast you will or can walk. Many people won’t be able to make the time, or live in the wrong environment or will just give up because the results are too slow. Walking up hill will burn more calories so you might be able to get the same benefit but with less time spent.
Back in Sydney when I was treating many competitive boxers and kick boxers, I learnt from them the benefits of skipping over jogging. Skipping, they said, is more effective when you have a busy training regime and especially when weight loss is also of paramount importance. They couldn’t afford to spend 40 minutes jogging to lose weight because they would have to sacrifice their other training regime which involved weights, the punching bag, stretching exercises, spa work etc. Well-known fitness coaches also says that research has shown that about ten minutes of skipping is the equivalent of thirty minutes jogging.
Kick boxers also recommended using a heavy rope with as heavy as you can get handles, as a skipping session should workout your arms and shoulders as well. They also said that anyone can run or jog, but it takes practice to get the coordination of skipping down pat, especially when you start going from one foot to the other and do cross arm skipping.
Skipping also has less potential to do structural harm when compared to jogging. Matt Callison, well-known US Sports Medicine Acupuncturist based in California puts it this way: “Skipping (jumping rope) has less ground reaction force (GRF) than running. GRF is the amount of energy that is propelled into the body via the foot and lower extremity from the hitting the running surface. The GRF is based on how hard the person lands on their foot during running. Running has a greater GRF than skipping rope. This can have deleterious effects on the body especially if the alignment of the musculoskeletal system is imbalanced. Skipping rope, although a very different exercise, can still burn calories and has less GRF to compensate for.”
The body builders have also taught us a lot about how to maximise weight loss. Studies have shown that high repetitions of weight training can keep your metabolism elevated for up to 38 hours after a workout, so therefore you are still getting some benefit from the exercise that you did yesterday!
Improving metabolism is what it is all about for weight loss. As we age, metabolism slows down because the muscle mass decreases and fat increases. There are multiple reasons for this such as naturally declining levels of human growth hormone. This is why it is so important to stay active and exercise – as the body ages, it stimulates the Basil Metabolic Rate and therefore decreases the amount of calories needed to take in with your diet.
Can we increase our metabolism through herbal intervention?
It has been hypothesized that Gracilis Tincture may stimulate metabolism as well as other body functions along similar lines to exercise.
Are there any other exercises that may stimulate metabolism and hence weight loss?
Dr Oz supports Tai Chi because it can help lose weight and build muscle tone. It surprises many people that when they take up doing regular Tai Chi they actually lose weight and body fat, yet the exercise itself involves no strenuous activity such as in skipping and weight training. Chinese medicine has the view that Tai Chi opens and regulates all the meridians of the body including the Triple Burner meridian that is sometimes regarded as being part of the modern scientific interpretation of metabolism.
Yoga expert Kimberly Fowler has ten basic yoga postures that she recommends for weight loss. Though some people have stated that because yoga slows you down and relaxes you, it therefore can’t increase metabolism. Yet 20 million people in the United States practice yoga and many will swear by its benefits for overall health as well as weight management. In particular, some regard that weight bearing postures such as the bird pose are best for weight loss.
One of my personal exercise favourites to stimulate weight loss is the martial art Wing Chun. Of course many of the other freestyle kung fu styles can also be taken up, but I have reasons why I prefer Wing Chun for weight loss. The basic stance of the Wing Chun martial art involves standing in a sort of pigeon toe position. This posture will stimulate the Yin Qiao Meridian (translated as the Yin Heel Vessel) which according to the classic acupuncture texts, will make the body light and strong. Elderly people do not need to worry taking up Wing Chun. The beginning of the Wing Chun form is not overly active and only in its later stages does it get more intense and may be more difficult for elderly people to handle. I have recommended to many elderly people that they learn the initial series of Wing Chun moves and they have done so with no problems. Yet I wouldn’t recommend the same person take up jogging for fear of them getting an injury.
Gracilis Health believes in helping encourage people to create their own positive feedback loop. Whether that be buying a diary to start writing down your dreams and plans down or start exercising to improve your health. Once you take the initiative to make a small step for a positive change, then the positive feedback loop will kick in and generate further success to create more success. As Nike says, “Just do it!”