From the GIC Fall 2009 Newsletter pdf format of fybfall2009.pdf

Chances are high that you can stand to lose a little weight. In fact, more than one third of Americans are obese, which means they have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Another 33% of U.S. adults are overweight (with a BMI of 25 and 29.9). Obesity accounts for 9.1% of all medical spending in the United States, according to a July Health Affairs study. Applied to the GIC's FY10 budget, this translates into over $120 million annually.

So how does one lose weight? Use more calories than you take in. One pound equals 3,500 calories; you must reduce your caloric intake by 500-1,000 calories per day to lose one to two pounds per week - the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Eating less food and healthier food is crucial to accomplishing weight loss. But, exercise is equally important and all adults should avoid inactivity. Some physical activity is better than none, and adults who participant in any amount of physical activity gain health benefits.

The CDC recommends that inactive people begin physical activity slowly, gradually increasing how often and how long the activities are done. If you have a chronic condition or symptom, always check with your doctor first before beginning any exercise to find out the appropriate activities for you.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC report that regular physical activity:

  • Produces long term health benefits, reducing the risk of the following adverse health outcomes:
    • high blood pressure
    • risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke and several forms of cancer
    • arthritis pain and associated disability
    • risk for osteoporosis and falls
    • symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Provides additional benefits as the physical activity increases (intensity, frequency, and/or duration)
  • Should incorporate both aerobic (endurance) and muscle-strengthening (resistance) physical activity

CDC Guidelines for Important Health Benefits

Complete the Following Activities Every Week

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and

2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms)

1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity activity every week and

2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups

An equivalent mix of moderate-and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week and

2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups

For even greater health benefits and weight loss, the amount of aerobic time should be increased. Aerobic activity makes you breathe faster, increases your heart rate, and makes you sweat. The talk test will help you determine whether or not you are performing moderate or vigorous aerobic activity. If you're doing moderate-intensity activity, you can talk, but not sing, during the activity. If you're doing vigorous-intensity activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without taking a deep breath.

Moderate aerobic activity examples include:

  • walking briskly
  • water aerobics
  • tennis (doubles)
  • bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour
  • general gardening

Vigorous intensity aerobic activity examples include:

  • race walking or running
  • swimming laps
  • tennis (singles)
  • bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster
  • jumping rope

Strength training at any age is both safe and beneficial, according to a July study by the Cochrane Collaboration, an international not-for-profit organization that provides information about the effects of health care. To gain health benefits, muscle-strengthening activities need to be done to the point where it's hard to do another repetition without help. Each exercise session should be hard enough so that you can only do three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of the weight bearing lifts. Once the weight is not a challenge at that number of repetitions, increase to a heavier weight or more difficult resistance band.

Muscle strengthening activities can be done with your own weight (see photos), free weights, weight machines, resistance bands, and yoga. Kenny Lovetere, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and National Strength and Conditioning-certified Personal Trainer at Caritas Health & Athletic Club in Norwood recommends that - whether it is weight lifting or aerobic activity - you use multiple joints and muscles operating at the same time to maximize the workout.

Examples of these types of exercises include squats, with or without weights, push ups, and lunges with weights. Resistance bands and dumbbells can be purchased inexpensively at sporting goods stores and some off-price retailers, but it's important to get instructions on proper form to avoid injury. Certified trainers at your local recreational facility, YMCA or gym can tailor an appropriate routine to your ability and show you the correct form. Trainers can also help motivate you to exercise and stick to a program. Check with your local recreation center for affordable yoga and other resistance training classes. Many of the GIC's health plans offer discounts or rebates for certain exercise programs; contact your plan for details. Exercise books and DVDs can also be helpful.

Physical activity guidelines for older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, as well as a step-by-step guide to help you on the road to weight loss and better health, can be found on the CDC's website.

The bottom line - for the good of your health and well being, physical activity combining aerobic activity and strength training should be included in your daily schedule.

This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .