Working Out in a Winter Wonderland: A Live Chat with Rich Weil, MEd, CDE

Maintain that workout this season -- and feel great!

By Rich Weil, MEd, CDE
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Live Events Transcript
Event Date: Dec. 3, 2003

The time and energy demands of the season mean even a basic fitness routine is tough to stick to. But keeping up your workout is a great way to reduce stress and stay on a healthy track. For our Holiday Survival Guide cyberconference, WebMD Weight Loss Clinic's own exercise physiologist, Rich Weil, showed us how.

The opinions expressed herein are the guest's alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Member question: How many sit-ups equal a large slice of cheesecake? How much exercise do I have to add to compensate for holiday goodies?

Weil: This is a good question. The benefit from the exercise will go beyond the calories burned in relation to how much you eat. Exercise certainly burns lots of calories and you can figure that you will burn 100 calories for every mile that you walk if you weigh 150 pounds, but even more important is that the walking or any other exercise will help keep you focused on staying healthy during the holiday period when food is abundant.

Don't underestimate how important staying active is, not only for calories burned, but also for staying in the mindset of eating healthy.

Research shows that active people do tend to eat fewer calories, and we all know that exercise relieves stress. Stress is a big factor in how much we eat, particularly during the holiday season. If you can try to get in even a 20 to 30-minute walk on five or more days of the week, it will help a lot in getting you through this food-difficult period.

So hang in there, with at least 30 minutes of activity each day, and the holidays should be kind to you in terms of how much you eat and how many calories you take in.

Member question: How many calories does an hour of aerobics burn?

Weil: One hour of aerobics, for a 150-pound person, will burn anywhere from 400 to 600 calories. Keep in mind that you not only burn the extra calories while you're active, but people who exercise regularly tend to move more, walk more, and are more active during the day. So it's not just the 400 to 600 calories you might burn during the bout of exercise, but you will burn more if you climb the stairs and other activities of daily living that people who exercise regularly tend to do.

The bottom line to losing weight and maintaining weight is to, No. 1, eat fewer calories than you burn, and No. 2, at the end of the day, make sure your "24-hour energy expenditure" is more than the number of calories that you ate all day. The 24-hour energy expenditure is really where it's at, and with an hour of aerobic exercise and more lifestyle exercise, you should be able to manage your weight just fine.

Member question: I'm so short on both time and energy at this time of year. How can I manage to fit a workout in with everything else I have to do?

Weil: This is one of the most difficult periods of time for staying active and healthy. Not only are there parties and lots of food, but also it's also colder, so people tend to stay indoors more, and eat more.

The schedule is very busy, but what is important to keep in mind is that you don't need to do a full 60-minute workout at the gym, even 10 minutes several times per day will help you stay fit and healthy.

It doesn't have to be all or nothing. If you can go out for a brisk 10 to 15-minute walk or a jog and then come home and do one set of push-ups and one set of abdominal crunches you will be amazed at how effective this can be to keep you on track. People tend to make the mistake that you need to do the full workout every time. You don't. You will gain the fitness benefits and the emotional stress relieving benefits if you can do even just a brief 10- to 15-minute workout.

In addition you can try, on the weekend or other times when you are off from work or away from other responsibilities, to go ahead and get your full workout in. But again, during the busy week, even just 10 to 15 minutes will make a very large difference. So don't think all or nothing; think smaller doses and staying in the groove that way, until your schedule lightens up and you have more time again.

Member question: I have synovial fluid on the back of my knee, and because it's getting worse my exercise motivation has seriously declined. I don't want to take the pain pills I was prescribed because once they wear off I am in more pain than I started with. Would a knee brace help?

Weil: Probably not, but you should see your physician for clear guidance on this particular issue. There are treatments for synovial fluid that can be effective, but need to be managed by your physician.