Does Exercise Matter?

In a recent post entitled Good News for a New Year I introduced “Cathy and Augusta” who made major changes to their diet and joined a gym, accomplishing extraordinary weight reductions and well being. Could the changes be attributed to the exercise?

In the followup series entitled Lose Weight and Keep it Off , I explained that the majority of credit goes to diet. However that does NOT mean that exercise is unimportant. So lets talk about why that is.

Your body has a lot of muscles keeping you upright and functional — or failing to do that. Imagine that you spend a few weeks confined to your bed for some reason. In this case, as described by Dr. Ted Naiman in his book The PE Diet, your body responds to the disuse of your bone and muscle by reabsorbing the muscle/bone protein and minerals and using them for keeping you alive. In other words, burning muscle.

About 20 years ago I was hospitalized in a coma for almost two months. When I awoke I couldn’t sit up without help, walk, or climb a single step. My rehab took almost as long as my coma.

Those of us who are sedentary have continuous deterioration of our bone and muscle mass which ultimately makes us unstable, susceptible to osteoporosis and falling, weak and energy deficient. There is a reason why any significant illness or hospital stay calls for “rehab.”

If you arrive on the ground for some reason do you require help to stand up? Do you break bones when you fall? Do you lean heavily on a chair arm to get upright? Is walking to the mailbox exhausting? Perhaps you need help carrying your groceries into the house.

Does a shopping trip require frequent stops to “rest”? If someone snatched your purse at the mall, would you chase them down or just throw up your hands in frustration. Have you lost muscle mass?

It is true that the older we get the more we tend to lose muscle mass. Its just part of the deal. But also true is that wound healing, immune response, and blood glucose management is negatively impacted by muscle loss. So don’t give up that muscle without a fight. When it comes to muscle, what we lose can be regained.

Building muscle is likely to make you sore. This reminds me of a comment in the article The Cure for Everything published in the November , 2019 edition of AARP magazine. The comment – “But exercise for me is unpleasant and uncomfortable.” The author’s response – “So is heart surgery. Which would you prefer?”

Cathy and Augusta weren’t old but they were sedentary. When they added activity to build muscle mass while burning fat, they did it in just the right way. They started slowly and then expanded their activity.

I recommend their method. Start from where you are and don’t expect a quick fix. More trips to the mailbox, then quicker trips. Practice standing up from a sitting position until you don’t need the chair arm, then faster up and down. Walk around in your house a lot. Add a walk around the block and then several blocks.

Lift weights. Maybe you start with a can of vegetables (about 1 lb) and then get yourself something a bit heavier. Ever and perpetually increasing the demand on your muscles.

It may be helpful to get involved with others with the same interest – just as Cathy and Augusta did with their gym. If joining a gym is not an option for you then connect with an Extension GetFit group in Mount Ida or another town. Call 870-867-2311 for information.

The YMCA in Hot Springs, AR and other areas in the country have helpful programs. Many other communities including DeQueen, AR (Cathy and Augusta’s favorite) have gyms. If you don’t need the help of a professional Effird Fitness and Fun (870-867-3647) in Mount Ida is open 24 hours to fit your schedule.

Remember this. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet. But allowing your muscles to deteriorate will have long term consequences.