For years, educated fitness instructors have been recommending a combination of dietary intervention and low intensity aerobic exercise to change body shape, reduce the level of body fat, reduce blood pressure, increase aerobic capacity, reduce the harmful types of cholesterol (Low Density Lipoproteins, or LDL), and increase the beneficial types of cholesterol (High Density Lipoproteins, or HDL).
At times, we felt like we were talking in a wilderness.
The mainstream media and health education programs covering fat loss and a lowering of heart risk factors seemed to have all their emphasis on reducing total food intake ("dieting"), and neglected to add in an increase in physical activity.
For example, in 1987 the American National Institute of Health put out a report called the National Cholesterol Education Program, with guidelines for the detection, evaluation, and treatment of high blood cholesterol in adults, which had not even a mention of the therapeutic potential of increased exercise levels.
And yet, studies have consistently shown that increased physical activity and physical fitness are strongly associated with the loss of bodyfat and a decreased risk of coronary heart disease. To be truthful, studies have shown that a modified diet alone is able to significantly reduce body fat in men and women.
However, although body fat is reduced, there are no significant changes in body shape unless exercise is added to the program. The main reason that people get involved in modifying diet and starting exercise is because they want a more desirable body shape.
A body fat reduction diet must be high in complex carbohydrates (55 percent of total energy intake), low in fats (30 percent of total enemy intake, with saturated fats reduced to 10 percent or lower), with dietary cholesterol less than 300mg per day.
If you are a man or a woman interested in changing your body shape to get a slimmer waist, then add an exercise component to your fat-loss program.
The Stanford experiment showed clearly that men get reductions in their waist measurement by diet alone, but women don't! If you're female, and you want a slimmer waist, then you must be exercising regularly.
The exercise must be aerobic exercise.
Aerobic exercise uses fat as a fuel, is low intensity (no muscle fatigue in any muscle, and slow enough so that you don't get out of breath), uses a combination of large muscle groups, and is long duration (with a minimum of five minutes of preparation, 20 minutes of exercise, and five minutes of recovery).
You just can't spot reduce the size of your waist by doing lots of situps or trunk twists, or spot reduce your thighs by doing lots of leg raises. Specific muscle exercises will tone the muscles under the fat, but won't reduce the level of fat.
This combination of exercise and dietary modification is the basis behind the development of "New Body" style exercise classes. In order to be effective these classes must be low intensity and go continuously for at least 30 minutes.
Increasing the intensity by carrying hand weights heavier than one kilogram (2.5 pounds), or running during the class, or by trying to "burn out" the muscles with sustained muscle contractions, will reduce the fat reduction effectiveness of these classes.
Long, slow, and low is the best prescription for using exercise to produce a shapely, lean body. The study also showed that men and women react differently to dieting, and to diet and aerobic exercise.
Adding exercise will increase the rate of fat loss.
In this study, adding aerobic exercise to a diet program increased the total fat loss in the men over a year by 81 percent and in the women by 38 percent. Men get a slimmer waist by diet alone, but women need regular aerobic exercise to reduce their waistline.
In women, dieting alone reduces the amount of total cholesterol in the blood, including the level of the good cholesterol (HDL). This happens even though the women have lost bodyfat.
This means that if women diet and don't exercise, then they may be putting themselves at a greater risk of coronary heart disease than if they did nothing! So if you're a male, a few changes to your diet and regular aerobic exercise will get you lean, looking good, and lower your risk of cardiac disease.
If you're a female, you're going to have to make the same changes to your diet, but you will have to do more work. Don't exercise at higher intensities, but exercise at lower intensity more often (5-9 times per week), and for longer at each session (from 30 to 60 minutes).
Whatever your age or sex, the study also showed that regular aerobic exercise and diet modifications will reduce your blood pressure, reduce your risk of coronary heart disease, and increase your ability to get physically involved in everyday activities.
They even found that the 119 male and 112 female subjects got to the stage where they enjoyed the exercise program, even though they started off as sedentary and overweight. So there's even hope for you.
Get out there and start on your modified diet and regular aerobic exercise program today.