New Parma /
After Christmas, New Year’s Day and the many social dinners usually given at the end of the year, people usually end up putting on some weight.. 1.5 kg is the average weight increase according to some statistics. This excess body fat is hard to get rid of unless specific strategies are carried out. Obviously, the first thing to do is to go on a proper diet. However, sometimes this may not be enough: it may help to stop putting on further weight, but it may not be sufficient to lose excess weight. So, body training becomes essential, and the first thing that comes to our mind are aerobic activities. Actually, the best thing to do would be to combine aerobic activities to anaerobic activities such as weightlifting. In fact, weightlifting is more effective to stimulate basal metabolism and to build muscle mass, thus increasing our metabolism as muscles are the main furnace to burn up body fat. We have to admit that training with weights is more demanding: it requires a certain technique, going to the gym or at least possessing complex equipment to use at home. On the contrary, aerobic activities – such as walking, jogging, cycling, going up the stairs – can be practised by anybody. What you need is some space in the open air or a simple exercise bicycle or treadmill at home. Now we might be given the usual piece of advice “practise at least 30 minutes a day”. Yet, I believe such wise advice is not enough. It is the same as when nutritionists advise to “eat a less amount of food but a bit of everything”, so people eat “some bread, some pasta, some sweets, some potatoes, some salami, some cheese” and still think they are on the right diet. It is wrong! I think more specific directions should be given. As far as aerobic activities are concerned, the question is “how much, how often, which and how”. As for “how much”, specific studies have demonstrated that oxidant metabolism against fat starts working about 20 minutes after we begin training. Before that, the consumption of energy is mainly addressed to carbohydrates – especially muscle glycogen -. Fat consumption is at its top only after 40 minutes. As a consequence, the ideal training would be to gradually reach 60 minutes of physical aerobic activity. As for “how often”, experiments are said to have proved that exercising 3 days a week is enough to keep reasonably fit. In order to lose weight successfully, exercising should be practised daily or at least 5 days a week. The best kind of aerobic activity – depending on one’s possibilities – is running. An experiment, carried out on different subjects divided in groups practising jogging, cycling and swimming, showed that the ones who lost more weight were the joggers. In fact, jogging involves many muscle groups, and even if practised at one’s minimum effort, it is still quite intense. The subjects who lost less weigh were the swimmers, probably because of their hypothalamic adaptation to the lower temperature of water, which tends to withhold more subcutaneous fat as thermal insulating. Of course, not everybody can go jogging. The approach must be gradual and if one cannot take up running due to overweight and because the joints of the lower limbs are adversely affected by it, running can be replaced by quick walks, better if uphill. The so-called “aerobics” music classes are not the best thing to follow as they cannot be adapted to the people’s special needs. So, we have seen how much, how often and which kind of activity should be performed. Next time we will give more technical advice concerning how and when.