Fit and Fat? What's Important to Your Health (cont.)

Critics worry that the very idea of finding an hour and a half a day for fitness is enough to make some folks throw in the towel. But fitness and weight loss results are highly individual. Something as simple as a 30-minute walk each day may be enough to do the trick for some people.

At the WebMD Weight Loss Clinic, we advocate doing something physical each day. Start where you're comfortable, and slowly build your fitness level. If you're accustomed to sitting all day, taking 5- to 10-minute walks a few times a day is a great beginning. Remember that any exercise is better than nothing, and that you can break up your activity into increments that add up to 30 minutes daily.

As you become more fit, increase the length or intensity of your workouts to build your fitness level (if you're not sure where or how to begin, consult our fitness guru, Rich Weil, on his "Exercise and Fitness" message board).

Everyone Is Unique

If all this confuses you, you're not alone. New information about the relationship between diet, exercise, weight management, and overall health is continually emerging.

While the simple formula of "calories in minus calories out" is the foundation for weight management, people come in all shape and sizes. Everyone burns calories and exercises at different rates, which affects weight control. Add in genetics, and you can see how hard it is to come up with single, weight loss formula for everyone.

The thing to remember is that healthy eating and regular exercise are great for your health whether or not they lead to weight loss. And losing just a little weight can boost your health without necessarily moving your BMI into the "normal" range. Losing as little as 5%-10% of body weight is linked to improved cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels.

This is not a justification to promote excess weight, just a recognition that improving your habits -- especially eating more healthfully and getting regular exercise -- are more important than the numbers on the scale.

Published June 9, 2005.

SOURCES: Clinical Guidelines on the Identification, Evaluation and Treatment of Overweight and Obesity in Adults, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and National Institutes of Health, June 1998. Journal of the American Medical Association, April 20, 2005. WebMD feature, Focus on Fitness, Not Fatness by Daniel DeNoon, published Aug. 9, 2004.

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