July 20, 2008
A new study from Israel shows us once again that dieting without exercise does not work. The participants took off only six to 10 pounds in two years. No matter what diet they were on, most regained some of the weight they lost in the early months by the end of the study (NEJM, July 17, 2008). It didn’t make any difference whether the overweight person was on a low-fat or low-carbohydrate diet, or the healthful Mediterranean-type diet that stresses fruits, vegetables, whole grains beans, seeds, nuts and seafood. However, their small weight loss did result in improved cholesterol and blood pressure readings.
If you really want to lose weight for good, you have to exercise. Appetite is controlled in a part of your brain called hypothalamus. If you try to lose weight just by eating less food, your hypothalamus makes you miserable when you see tasty food and know that you shouldn’t eat it. If you exercise, you will eat more, but you will not increase your intake of food to equal the extra calories that you burn when you exercise. After you have been exercising for a few months, your muscles will be stronger, you will feel and sleep better and you can actually start to enjoy your new activity. Then you are set for a life-long pattern of burning up the calories you take in.
Unfortunately, the majority of older people who start exercise programs drop out in the first six weeks. People are more likely to stay in an exercise program if they have company and find a sport that is fun for them. The best success comes when a husband and wife exercise together. You can also increase you chances of sticking to an exercise program by having a personal trainer, going to regular exercise classes, or joining an exercise group that is also a social club, such as Road Runners, a bicycle club or a square dancing society.
Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is one of a very few doctors board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. www.DrMirkin.com