Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Exercise: A Matter of Priority

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Overall, women and men seem to have very different views on how exercise best fits into the weight-loss equation. Several studies have found that men prioritize exercise first and food second; women pri- oritize food first and exercise second.
Why do men have a tendency to start with exercise when they need to shed some pounds? One logical answer is that many men have more experience with exercise, going back to their boyhoods. In addi- tion, men who exercise regularly often see physical results. The major- ity of men typically gain weight in their midsection or stomach (taking on what is commonly referred to as the apple shape), a fat-deposit area that puts them at increased risk for certain diseases, such as heart dis- ease and diabetes (see chapter 2). Studies have shown that regular exercise has a strong effect on reducing waist circumference in men, and that in turn helps reduce their disease risk. So when guys are suddenly able to buckle their belt a notch or two tighter or fit into a smaller-size pair of pants, they see the effects of exercise and are likely to discount the impact of eating less.Although women are definitely on the right weight-loss track when they cut back their calories from food, eventually they will need to add some exercise, especially if they seem to find themselves in a weight- loss rut. That is when most women could use some help from the guys. A 2006 Weight Watchers study discovered that womens awareness of the need for regular exercise is high and even comparable to mens, but awareness is not the same as action. As we saw in chapter 5, women in general tend to be less physically active than men. When women watch the needle on the scale fall, they are more likely to attribute their weight loss to their diet than to exercise, and they are correct in making that assumption. But when women reach a point where their weight loss levels off or stalls, they have a tendency to restrict their calories from food even more rather than adding exercise to their weight-loss regimen.
Since its next to impossible to lose weight using only exercise, the female eat-less approach is going to be the better strategy and result in greater weight loss—provided that the reduced food intake is done in a healthy and balanced way (see chapter 8). Down the road, though, the male exercise-more approach helps enhance weight loss and will be one of the key strategies for keeping pounds off for good.
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