Safely Lose Weight This Season
Monday, May 13, 2013

Dr. Gregory Barone

Now that springtime has finally arrived, more and more people are beginning to focus on shedding those last few pounds leftover from the winter. With the weather warming up, most of us are eager to get outside and exercise.  Not only is exercise crucial for maintaining health body weight, but studies also show a decrease in heart disease and stroke, decreased risk for diabetes, decrease in blood pressure, improvement in depression, and a decreased risk for osteoporosis, among other notable benefits. In fact, I harp on this fact with most of my patients, especially those with diabetes. Any activity you choose to do will burn some calories and potentially help with your weight-loss efforts. But here are some tips to exercising safely.

First, it is important to understand the difference between exercise and activity. Exercise is defined as any activity structured for the purpose of conditioning. Walking two flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator increases your activity level, but really serves to get you from point A to point B. Aerobic exercise, in general, achieves and maintains a specific heart rate. Usually, this threshold is defined as 55-85% of your maximum heart rate, which can easily be calculated by subtracting your age from 220.

Resistance exercise is any activity that causes repetitive contraction against weight or resistance. This could be weight lifting, stretch cords, resistance bands, or even your own body weight (think push-ups, pull-ups, jumps, etc). To see health benefits from exercise, it’s recommended that you get 30 minutes of exercise daily. And within that, there should be a combination of both aerobic and resistance exercises. For weight loss, you may need to increase the duration or intensity.

But, if you have been in a winter hibernation, dropping right back into an exercise program could prove to be more detrimental than helpful. This is the so-called “weekend warrior” mentality. Asking your body and muscles to work at a level it is not used to can quickly lead to overuse injuries. Inflammation of joints and tendons -- and even muscle tears -- is far more common in an untrained body. So it is always a good idea to start out slowly and build yourself up. Start by walking, biking, or swimming at a slow pace, for perhaps 15-20 minutes. Gradually increase your duration to 30 minutes, and then begin to increase your intensity. It is very important to find an activity that you enjoy so that you will stick with it. I also recommend finding an exercise program that does not depend on the weather. While it is always nice to be outside, it becomes too easy to take a day off if it is raining, or too hot, or too cold. And don’t forget: before starting any exercise program, it is always a good idea to check with your physician.

Dr. Gregory Barone practices Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism with Kennedy Health Alliance in Cherry Hill. To reach him, please call 856-406-4091 or click here to visit the Kennedy Health Alliance website.