We have yet to see a diet work in which exercise is not at least of equal importance with healthy eating. In the LEAN program, exercise is nutrition's close partner. If
you wanna lose it, you gotta move it. Why not just stay on the couch and eat less? Restrictions
on calories, the basis of most diets, are the main reason they don't work. Years of taking in more
calories slows your metabolism, sort of like a mechanic turning down an engine's idle speed.
When you turn down your idle speed, you burn less fuel, and therefore less fat. Burning calories
off by exercise boosts your metabolism. Combine this with a diet that emphasizes nutrient-dense
foods without empty calories, and you are much more likely to stay lean than you would if you
only cut back on calories. The good news is that the people who need exercise the most
(overweight, sedentary, poorly-nourished, etc) are the ones most helped by it. In a nutshell,
exercise contributes to your health by:
- burning fat
- decreasing the risk of nearly all major diseases
- releasing feel-good hormones that contribute to your overall sense of well-being.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF EXERCISE
Exercise will help you lose fat and become lean. But there are even more important reasons to
exercise. You exercise not only for health, but for life. Here are the main health benefits of
1. Resets your fatpoint.
Buried somewhere in the brain, physiologists believe, is a sort of
appestat that regulates how often and how much you eat. This appestat
control is the fat point (also known as the setpoint), the fat level your body has
gotten used to. Your body believes that it needs to maintain this fat level to protect you against
the day when food may not be so plentiful. It believes this fat level is important to your well-
being and it will strive to maintain this level of body fat. So, your body resists any attempt to
lose fat or to lower the fat point, which is one of the reasons why people who lose weight tend to
regain it. If you suddenly start to eat less, your body thinks "Oh, my goodness, there's a famine.
Hoard the fat." Your metabolic rate slows (like a hibernating bear's), and your appetite
increases. You may struggle to stay on your diet, but your fatpoint insists that you store fat
rather than burn it. Losing weight becomes very difficult. If, however, you follow your appetite
and eat more, you may push your fatpoint even higher.
What you have to do is trick the fatpoint by gradually lowering your daily calories. The fatpoint
gradually lowers and the appestat becomes more comfortable with the idea of burning fat stores,
because there seem to be adequate amounts of food available. When your body gets accustomed
to lower calorie eating, it becomes more efficient, using more energy instead of storing it.
The key to getting and staying lean is to set your fatpoint to fat-burn rather
than fat-store. How? By eating right and exercising more.
Exercise plays an important role in resetting your appestat. If you've been dieting and losing
weight steadily, but then you reach a plateau, your body has probably decided this is a good fat
balance for you. Stepping up the amount of exercise you do will push your body back into fat-
burning mode and you'll continue to lose.
2. Reduces the risk and severity of adult-onset diabetes.
Moderate exercise that burns just 200 calories a day, such as a brisk 30-minute walk, can lower
the risk of adult-onset (type 2) diabetes. Exercise boosts the efficiency of insulin, helping it
remove sugar from the blood before it can be stored as fat. (Insulin could be called the "unfair"
hormone. It sees to it that excess sugar is stored as fat, yet it blocks the conversion of fat back to
glucose.) Increased insulin efficiency has also been linked to lower blood pressure, higher levels
of the good (or HDL) cholesterol, and a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease.
3. Boosts immunity.
Regular, moderate exercise increases the
white cell count, improving the body's ability to fight off infection. Exercise also increases the
number of "killer cells," those special cells that are mobilized to fight serious diseases, and it
increases the body's production of the antibody immunoglobulin A. Another way exercise
boosts immunity is by reducing stress, since stress itself can depress the body's immune system.
4. Lowers cholesterol.
When combined with a lowfat diet,
exercise can reduce levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol twice as effectively as diet alone. Exercise
also increases levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. Exercise is one of the few things that
accomplishes both these goals.
5. Improves sex life.
One of the great perks of the LEAN program is
that it should improve your sex life. A study showed that a group placed on a program of
improved diet, stress management, and exercise had heightened sexual arousal and pleasure.
6. Builds stamina.
People who begin an exercise program often discover, "I have so much
more energy." At the muscular level, exercise improves the efficiency with which the muscles
can use oxygen. Exercise also helps the body deliver more oxygen to vital organs, such as the
lungs, brain, heart, and muscles. In a nutshell, exercise helps transport the oxygen through the
body and into the cells more efficiently.
7. Builds a healthy heart.
Exercise builds muscle, and when
you exercise you build the heart muscle. A stronger heart is able to pump more blood per stroke,
and thus it requires fewer beats to pump the same amount of blood. In a study of 13,000 men and
women divided into categories of fitness ranging from sedentary to well-conditioned, those who
walked 30 minutes a day, three to four times a week, were half as likely to have a heart attack or
develop cancer. In people with high blood pressure, regular exercise has been shown to lower
both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of ten points. Exercise also reduces the
tendency for the blood-clotting cells, called platelets, to stick together, and thus prevents blood
clots that reduce the blood supply to the tissues of the heart, brain, and other vital organs, causing
strokes or heart attacks.
8. Slows aging.
Nearly all the physiological changes that are associated with aging are
improved with exercise, including decreased muscle mass, increased body fat, reduced muscle
strength and flexibility, decreased bone mass, decreased metabolic rate (which promote fat
storing), decreased cardiovascular fitness, sleep difficulties, reduced sexual performance,
diminished oxygen utilization by muscle, and reduced mental acuity. Exercise acts like a tonic,
improving many of the symptoms of aging.
9. Increases lifespan.
A Harvard Health study of 17,000 male Harvard alumni, ages 35 to 74
showed that men who exercised regularly lived longer. The death rates declined as the number
of calories burned in exercise increased, up to a weekly calorie expenditure of 2,000 calories
(which would be an average of 40 minutes of moderate exercise per day). New studies have
shown that reducing calories can also increase a person's lifespan, so the combination of a low-
calorie diet with exercise to burn off calories brings double benefits. Between 20 and 80 years of
age the average male may lose a quarter of his total muscle mass, which leads us to conclude that
the amount of exercise you do should increase with age rather than decrease. The LEAN
program is likely to help you die young - but at an old age.
10. Builds muscle.
Exercise builds muscle, and muscle is the biggest
fat-burner in the body. Muscle burns calories, not only during exercise, but while you are resting.
It's automatic. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories (and therefore fat) you burn,
even during your sleep. This is why one goal of the LEAN program is to replace fat with
muscle. Consider these fat stats: With moderate exercise (you don't have to be an Olympic
weight-lifter), you can increase your muscle mass enough to automatically burn over a hundred
extra calories a day, which translates into an automatic fat loss (or lack of fat gain) of a pound a
month. So once you become lean, you increase your chances of staying lean. The best exercise
for building muscles is resistance training in which the muscles work against gravity, such as
weight-training with free weights or a resistance machine. Even senior citizens can build more
muscle with resistance training. So you could say, "lift weights to lose weight." Exercise
enough to build the muscle and maintain the muscle, and it keeps right on burning the fat to keep
you lean. Exercise speeds metabolism. You not only burn fat while you're exercising, your
metabolic rate remains elevated for six to twelve hours after you exercise. You're still getting
the fat-burning benefit of your morning workout in the early afternoon.
11. Exercise also builds bone.
Astronauts working in zero gravity in space lose bone mass.
Weight-bearing exercise here on earth makes bones stronger. Weight-bearing exercise is a good
way to prevent osteoporosis, or softening of the bone. One reason why
exercise helps build bone is that exercising bodies tends to excrete less calcium through the
kidneys than sedentary bodies do.
GAIN MUSCLE - LOSE FAT
The best nutritional deal in the body is the more muscle you put on, the more
fat you're likely to take off. The reason is that muscle tissue, even just resting
there, burns more calories than fat tissue, which essentially burns very little.
Every pound of extra muscle you put on automatically burns 50-100 extra
calories a day. So, just by adding an extra pound of muscle to your body you
could automatically fatburn as much as ten pounds of fat a year. The
cellular basis for the term "beef up" is that exercise causes an increase in fat-
burning enzymes in the muscles, so that "beefing up" really means increasing
the body's ability to fat burn. As you can see, one of the main goals of the
LEAN program is to change body fat into muscle.
12. Improves mood.
Exercise releases endorphins, the body's own
internal opiates, or mood-elevating, pain-relieving hormones. It's on the days when you least
feel like exercising that you'll notice the endorphin effect the most. It relieves tension and
soothes out stress. Endorphins even curb food cravings. The neurochemicals that are released
during exercise not only calm an anxious person, they can also pull you out of a depression. Studies shows that depressive symptoms decrease in women who engage in
regular exercise, such as walking briskly, jogging, lifting weights or dancing, three to four times
a week for eight to ten weeks. Psychiatrists often prescribe exercise to combat depression. It's
cheap and the side effects are all good ones.
13. Sparks the brain.
Because exercise increases blood flow to the brain, it's as good for the
head as it is for the body. Exercise can help you concentrate and also helps your brain relax when
it's time for sleep.
14. Gives a good "gut" feeling.
Exercise improves digestion and speeds the passage of food
through the intestines. Constipated persons often notice a return to regular
bowel movements during the LEAN program. So, exercise regularly to stay regular.
15. Reduces the risk of cancer.
Exercise not only reduces the risk
of colon cancer, a study of 13,000 men and women followed for fifteen years by aerobics expert
Dr. Kenneth Cooper showed that the incidence of all forms of
cancer was reduced. The fitter the subjects were, the less their risk of cancer.
Exercise and a low-fat diet are partners in health. Dieting without exercise leads to little or
no permanent fat loss, and possibly a fat gain. Exercise without good nutrition equals little or no
fat loss. Dieting plus exercise equals lots of fat loss. You don't burn off much fat while you're
doing the exercise. While you exercise, you burn mostly carbohydrates. The fat-burning occurs
during the twelve hours after exercise when your metabolic rate is elevated. This is why morning
exercise is likely to yield a greater fat loss than exercise in the
evening or before bed. Sleep depresses your metabolic rate. So, the best time for exercise is first
thing in the morning. Late afternoon, before dinner, is also a good time to exercise; you'll eat
less at dinner and burn calories all evening long. This metabolism speeding is especially
important for the 40 somethings and older, since metabolism begins to slow down once you hit
middle age, and exercise speeds up this natural slowdown.
THE HAZARDS OF BEING A COUCH POTATO
Just sitting on the couch will get you in trouble. Sitters are fat storers, and
they're less healthy than people who move. When a couch potato sits there,
eyes fixed on the TV, his breathing becomes more
shallow. In time this reduces the vital capacity of the lungs, which means
there is less oxygen available to the intestines, muscles, heart, and brain. The
heart, like all the other muscles of the body becomes weaker, so the heart
works harder to pump less blood, further depriving the other parts of the body
of oxygen. Inactivity raises the level of all the bad fats in the blood and
lowers the level of good cholesterol. Even the muscles of the intestines slow
down, increasing constipation, contributing to fatigue. The combination of a
tired heart, tired brain, and tired gut motivate the couch potato to spend even
more time on the couch. The sad result is that the couch potato is more likely
than his longer-living lean friends to wind up in the permanent state of
Picture the difference. It's Monday night and Mr. Couch Potato is watching
football. He lies on the sofa with a beer, potato chips, and onion dip. Mr.
Lean Machine is outside on the lawn tossing a football with his kids after a
brisk walk around the neighborhood. He comes in, grabs some fruit for a
snack, and watches the second half of the game while doing an upper body
workout with his weights. Obviously, Mr. Lean Machine is likely to be
rewarded with a longer life and more Monday night football games than Mr.