Does The Intensity Of Exercise Matter?

We have always heard that the approach to weight loss is “diet and exercise”.  This makes it sound like an equal equation sort of thing where both components carry equal importance.  This is not the case as the dietary aspect is much more important than the exercise component.  If a person exercises like crazy but does not follow a prudent dietary approach, weight control will probably not occur.  Conversely, if a person follows a strict dietary approach and doesn’t exercise at all, significant weight loss will likely still occur.

We certainly encourage exercise for all of our patients but also understand that due to orthopedic issues, other medical problems or time restraints, significant exercising may not occur.  However, I always query our patients as to whether they are exercising and when I hear the answer “yes” I will then further the discussion by asking what type of exercise the person is doing.  The answers range from:

  • I walk my dog every day
  • I take the steps at work
  • I work hard in the garden
  • I go to Pilates, Yoga or Barre classes
  • I run outside or on a treadmill
  • I bicycle
  • I work out on an elliptical machine

A “fat burning” exercise consists of getting the heart rate of at least 80% maximum for age (100% is 220-age) and keeping the heart rate at that level for at least 20 minutes.  Clearly, the more intense exercises such as running, biking, elliptical or rowing machines will get the heart rate up much higher than the less intense exercises.

A study came out of England looking at over 88,000 people explored whether people performing more intense exercise had less cardiac problems than those involved with less exercise intensity.  No surprises here:  The study results showed conclusively that those people performing more intense physical exercise had a much less rate of heart disease than those people that were either sedentary or performing less intense exercise.

Please do not take this entry as my admonishment to get out there and start pushing yourself to exercise levels that could hurt you.  However, if you can gradually increase the intensity of your exercising, that can translate into a less risk of heart disease regardless of your weight.

And here is a song used in Forrest Gump about “Running (On Empty)”.  Enjoy an old Jackson Browne song: