Highway to Fat Loss

Aerobic exercises and weight training can help you shed fat effectively.

ExercisingA certain amount of fat is necessary for both men and women. It helps maintain body temperature by acting as insulation and protects vital body organs by acting as a shock absorber.

When fat is adequate

For people in the sub-continent 15-20 per cent of body weight [in men] and 20-25 per cent of body weight [in women] is considered to be within limits. Body fat percentage in excess of these limits will call for efforts to bring it within limits. Even for those who are within limits, effort should always be made to be closer to the lower range of this acceptable fat percentage.

Hypertrophy and hyperplasia

Increase in the size of fat cells [hypertrophy] and increase in number of fat cells [hyperplasia] become stagnant by age 10. Beyond this age, the number of fat cells cannot be reduced; only its size can be controlled. Fat cells [in terms of their number] reduction can be achieved only by surgical methods like liposuction. However, the size of the fat cells can be reduced by a systematic exercise regime and dietary control. So, to avoid adulthood obesity it is necessary to check childhood obesity, especially during the formative years up to age 10.

Body weight

Body weight is made of two parts - lean body mass and fat. The weight which we get when we stand on the weighing scale is the sum of these two. So, in weight loss programmes, the target is to achieve fat loss.

Importance of body composition analysis

Fat content as a percentage of total body weight can only be ascertained by sophisticated methods like Body Composition Analysis. This determines the exact level of fat percentage, and the areas in which it is deposited. It, thus, helps your trainer to finalise the exercise regime that will give you the best possible results in the shortest time possible.

Calorie imbalance

It is important to understand that fat loss can be achieved only when there is negative balance of calorie requirement of the body. In short, if calorie requirement, for instance, in a healthy adult is 2,000, then the calorie intake should be less than 2,000. This negative balance will prompt the body to dig into reserves for fulfilling the calorie requirement which can only be made available by breaking down the fat deposits.

Simple Exercise Plan

Physical activity of any kind, heavy-duty exercises such as jogging, or bicycling, to easier efforts like walking, is good for you to maintain weight. However, speak to your doctor before you start any exercise plan

  • While vigorous exercise can help strengthen your heart and lungs, a brisk walk would do us all a world of good. Walking also helps you lower your risk of heart disease, and depression
  • Some simple, but neglected exercises, such as climbing stairs, aerobics, or even ordinary housework, can increase your strength, stamina, and self-confidence
  • As for those who fancy being fit, weight-lifting and strength, or resistance, training offers a very good avenue. It helps stop muscle loss and slow down bone loss. Muscle and bone loss problems often occur in old age
  • Active exercise like swimming and running raises your heart rate. This helps you to greatly reduce your risk of atherosclerosis [hardening of the arteries]. Atherosclerosis, as you know, can trigger heart disease and/or lead to heart attack and stroke
  • In fact, exercise can lower your levels of anxiety in an increasingly stressful world. It also helps you face life as it is, not what it could have been
  • It's also a simple premise. There is nothing better than regular, active exercise to keep your weight down.

- Ashwini Ranade

Exercises to achieve fat loss

Fat loss can be achieved by doing either cardio [aerobic] exercises or by weight training [resistance] exercise programme.

Fat is burnt during cardio exercises only while working-out and the process stops immediately when the exercise stops. Even for this, the cardio exercises must be performed with full permissible intensity. The benefits of cardio exercises are maximum when the work-out is performed at the minimum 65-80 per cent [Training Heart Rate Zone] of one's Maximum Heart Rate [220-Age] continuously for 20 or more minutes. Walking/running on tread mill, cycling, working-out on cross trainers, brisk walking, swimming, and aerobic dancing are some of the exercises that are called cardio exercises.

Fat loss can also occur by doing weight training. However, unlike cardio exercises fat loss occurs not during the work-out, but during the 24 hours resting period after the work-out. Here glucose is used by the muscles as an energy source and after the work-out fat is used by the muscles as an energy source to support the heightened metabolic rate achieved by the intense work-out.

Therefore, to achieve the best results in a fat loss programme, a combination of cardio and intensive weight training exercises is suggested to be performed on alternate days. Ideally, one should not mix cardio and weight training exercises on the same day since it may compromise the intensity of the exercise.

Importance of intensity

Any exercise done without achieving full intensity required for the work-out will always produce sub-optimum results. For continuous and steady improvement in results over a period of time, even current levels of intensity need to be increased since the body gets used to a particular level if performed over a longer time and stops yielding results expected from such work-out.

Intensity can be increased in cardio work-out either by increasing duration or difficulty level like inclination/electromagnetic resistance. Intensity can also be increased in weight training exercise by altering any or all of the three variables - i.e., weight [poundage] or repetitions [number of times muscle contraction is achieved; ideal, being 6-8 repetitions], or by sets [number of times such repetitions are carried out; ideal being 2-3 sets].

Nutritional needs for fat loss

When a person embarks on exercise regime, the body's nutritional requirement goes up; however, since s/he is also expected to achieve fat loss, there is also serious dietary restriction on intake. Thus, it is necessary to consult a dietician, or nutritionist, to determine and finalise the food intake that will fulfil all the nutritional requirements of the body during this fat loss exercise regime and yet achieve negative calorie balance.

8 Tips for Speedy Fat Loss

  • Create a negative calorie imbalance
  • Do cardio and weight training exercises with optimum intensity for suggested durations
  • Do not mix cardio and strength training on the same day
  • Work on larger muscle groups in the initial phase
  • Take the help of personal trainers to encourage you to increase the intensity levels
  • Take proper nutritional guidance and ensure its implementation throughout the work-out period and even afterwards
  • derstand that exercising and staying fit is not a short- term goal, but a holy duty for the rest of your life
  • Your body is a machine - if you want good service from it, you must maintain it well.

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Dhananjay More is Director-Fitness, Talwalkars Health Complex, Mumbai and Fitness Consultant, All India Association for Advancing Research in Obesity. He is also a Clinical Exercise Specialist from the American Council on Exercise.

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