Overweight and obesity are also spreading in our country. Although there may be several factors related to weight gain, the most frequent causes are overeating and sedentary lifestyle. People who do not suffer from particular diseases can lose weight by starting to exercise and taking a little less calories than they consume. However, in order to lose weight properly it is important both to know the principles of correct nutrition and to practice physical activity in the right way, following some very important rules.
Overweight, obesity and health risks
Obesity and being overweight increase the risk of contracting serious illnesses. The many negative health factors that accompany obesity make it considered one of the most important diseases of western society. Both as a young person and in adulthood (and even more with advancing age), both in females and males, obesity is associated with cardiovascular pathologies (such as heart attack, stroke and hypertension), type 2 diabetes, pathologies liver, metabolic syndrome, as well as debilitating problems such as osteoarthritis, gout, lung diseases, etc., up to colon, breast, gallbladder and endometrium cancer.
If you want to find out if you are obese or overweight, you can calculate your Body Mass Index or BMI yourself ( Body Mass Index ), which will allow you to have an indicative definition of your body weight . The BMI is calculated as follows:
Weight (in kg): height (in m): height (in m) = BMI
For example, a woman who weighs 75 kg and is 1.68 tall has a BMI equal to:
75: 1.68: 1.68 = BMI 26.58
A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates overweight, one between 30 and 40 (or more) indicates obesity (of I, II or III degree).
Excessive waist circumference is often observed in overweight or obese subjects. The abdominal circumference, as a rule, should not be greater than 88 cm for women and 102 cm for men. An excessive waistline is an indication of visceral obesity (fat located between the internal organs and the trunk), which increases the cardiovascular and inflammatory risk even more. Overweight and obesity must be treated by specialist medical experts with specific therapies ranging from low-calorie diet to drug and rehabilitation therapies.
In any case and at any level, physical activity is always a fundamental part of the weight loss process.
The importance of physical activity to eliminate excess weight and fat.
Often people go on a diet, sometimes even very restrictive (excessively low in calories) because they believe that eating little and starving is the only way to lose weight. Nothing could be more wrong. To lose weight you need to eat and move in the right way. Overweight or obese people who really want to lose weight and gain health must necessarily act on 2 fronts: nutrition and physical activity, both adequate and personalized.
To understand what happens when you lose weight with an excessively restrictive diet we need to know how much “it costs a kilo” of weight in energy terms. This figure is very variable, as it depends on what constitutes this “kilo”.
A kilogram of pure fat mass “is worth” in energy terms 9000 calories (kcal). Losing 1 kg of pure fat mass is however difficult: the body tries to keep the fat as much as possible as it considers it an energy reserve. “Burning” fat is only possible if you adopt a moderate low-calorie diet, accompanied by a good level of exercise.
The kilogram that is normally lost with a diet that is not excessively low in calories and balanced in nutrients, associated with an adequate physical activity program, is worth about 7000 Kcal and consists largely (75-80%) of fat mass and the rest (20-25%) from lean body mass.
On the other hand, if you make excessively restrictive (too few calories) or unbalanced diets (too few carbohydrates, too few or too many proteins, etc.) and you do not carry out an adequate exercise program you will lose more and more lean mass. Not only that, for every kilo of lean mass lost the metabolism is lowered by about 40 kcal. Therefore after a certain period of hunger and a few pounds lost, when the subjects return to eating “normally” they will find a slower metabolism, no longer stressed as when their body had more lean mass. In these conditions the kilos lost with interest will resume because drastic, unbalanced or monotonous diets are the main cause of yo-yo syndrome (weight fluctuations characterized by rapid drop and rapid weight recovery, often at a higher level).
We also remember that physical activity not only helps to preserve lean body mass more, but a certain workout, as described below, tones, strengthens and gives greater resistance to the muscles.
How to approach physical activity
If you have a sedentary lifestyle, before undertaking any type of physical activity it is important that you undergo a medical check-up which will assess your physical state and in particular the health of your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems: an electrocardiogram below effort can also tell you what is the maximum intensity that your body can withstand. It is also important to pay attention to the quantity and quality of physical activity. A good training program must be done by experts, such as a doctor in physical activity or a certified personal fitness trainer. There is not a single solution: therefore try to talk to the expert in order to choose a physical activity that you like, that you can practice constantly and that is compatible with your schedules and lifestyle habits. In any case, remember that if you are obese, overweight or have not practiced physical activity for a long time, you will have to start cautiously and reach the goal that you have gradually set yourself. If you did sports, remember that some “ground” sports, such as running or football and other typically competitive sports, may not be the ideal solution, at least initially, as they can exert excessive stress on the muscles and joints overloaded with weight in excess. Prefer activities like walking , cycling , swimming or water aerobics : these activities have the advantage of allowing significant energy expenditure without exerting excessive joint stress.
Physical activity to burn fat
The most suitable physical activity for burning fat is aerobic (such as walking, cycling, etc.) practiced at moderate intensity. At this level of intensity, a slight increase in muscle tone also occurs and cardiovascular adaptation begins. To understand what is the right intensity without measuring or making calculations difficult to follow, you can carry out the talk test yourself which, through the “observation” of your breath, will help you understand if you are maintaining the right intensity or not. As mentioned, remember that to “burn” fat your metabolism must work; therefore, to better preserve muscle mass, you will have to dedicate some time also to muscle strengthening exercises (see following chapter).
How and how much physical activity to do
In addition to intensity, regular training is important. According to the guidelines of the SIO (Italian Obesity Society) and ADI (Italian Dietetic Association) in adults, in order to prevent weight gain, in addition to the balanced diet, at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity are recommended, practiced for at least 10 consecutive minutes. For overweight and obese subjects undergoing a balanced low-calorie diet, it has been observed that the benefits in terms of weight loss increase with increasing time reserved for physical activity:
- 150 minutes a week result in a minimum weight reduction;
- 150-250 minutes a week lead to a modest reduction (2-3 kg in 6-12 months);
- 250-400 minutes per week offer a reduction of approximately 5.0-7.5 kg in 6-12 months.
A help to lose weight better
To improve the speed and quality of weight loss, aerobic work can be integrated with an activity anaerobic of muscle strengthening. With an increase in muscle mass there is an important increase in basal metabolic rate, i.e. the consumption of calories consumed at rest increases.
Another positive aspect of muscle strengthening is a greater stability of the joints, in particular for the lower limbs which are the most stressed by the load of the body weight. Anaerobic activity, performed free-body or with weights, must also be performed gradually and under the supervision of an expert to avoid musculoskeletal damage and inadequate efforts to your physique. Also in this case the constancy rewards, a good training must include at least 2 sessions per week with a number of exercises appropriate to your strength. The anaerobic exercise should be preceded and followed by periods of warming and lengthening muscle (stretching).
All the rules to keep in mind
- Before embarking on any type of physical activity, it is best to undergo a sports-medical examination.
- Avoid activities with a strong joint impact (at a certain age, running too) that can stress the joints excessively; prefer sports such as swimming, cycling and walking, remembering that ground sports are the only ones capable of promoting calcium metabolism and fighting osteoporosis.
- If you are out of training, practice aerobic activity first with a low intensity and then try to gradually reach an adequate intensity, for optimal fat consumption.
- Plan initially for small 10-minute sessions that can be interspersed with short breaks. Then slowly increase the duration of the aerobic work by continuing it continuously for 20 minutes, 30 minutes and so on, as far as your state of training arrives without causing you too many difficulties.
- Include some stretching exercises to improve your flexibility, but avoid do it yourself, muscle and tendon elongation must be taught by an expert. If the exercises are not practiced correctly, they can cause stretching and other joint damage.
- The muscle strengthening exercises, as well as increase the basal metabolic rate, generally can increase muscle mass in young people and tone, make it strong and resilient that of older people.
- Avoid training during the hottest hours of the day in summer or in too humid or cold environments in winter;
- Drink at least 2 liters of water per day and during workouts make sure you drink small quantities frequently at a time.
- Choose the right equipment and clothing. In case of walking or jogging choose flat surfaces, with appropriate footwear to avoid inflammation or muscle pain. If you ride a bicycle, bring a helmet.
- Don’t limit yourself to just sitting in the gym or to your minutes of daily sports: take advantage of every opportunity to move.
- Combine a balanced diet with exercise, which is rich in water, fiber and nutrients in balance with each other. For slimming diets, contact a nutritionist. If you want to know how many calories you need to eat in one day and receive personalized menus.
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