This may seem an odd concept. Getting fit means losing weight, doesn't it?
Well, as those rental car commercials like to repeat.. . not exactly.
As you follow the programs described later in this book or come up with your own, you may find that you are not actually losing weight. If this is the case, don't panic—you're probably healthier than you think. Studies have shown that people who are a little overweight but in good physical shape are healthier than people who are not overweight but not in shape.
This means that the person in the next cubicle at the office who skips lunch two days a week and just nibbles at his/her food the rest of the time may fit into smaller clothes sizes than you, but is not necessarily healthier— especially if you are exercising and he or she is not. Just because you may not achieve your "ideal weight" right away—or ever, perhaps—does not mean that your exercise program is not providing you with tangible benefits like lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and increased cardiovascular efficiency. Keep in mind, too, that muscle weighs more than fat.
The relationship between exercising and losing weight will be addressed in more detail in Chapter 11 on nutrition. The best way to lose weight is to combine exercise with a decrease in the amount of calories you consume each day.
We all know that consuming fewer calories is easier said than done, especially since people who are more active need more energy than people who are sedentary. But it doesn't have to be a Herculean chore. For instance, if you take 15 minutes to walk a mile, you'll burn about 100 extra calories. If you walk a mile every day, this amounts to 700 extra calories a week and about 35,000 calories a year! That's equivalent to losing 10 pounds, since each pound of fat your body stores represents 3,500 calories of unused energy.
On the flip side, you can easily add 10 pounds in a year just by eating 100 extra calories a day without increasing your level of physical activity. An extra slice of bread or an extra soft drink a day is all it takes. To gain weight that is lean muscle mass and not extra fat, however, you need to increase the number of calories you consume at the same time you are exercising regularly.
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