The activity fact file

KNOWING WHAT all those strolls in the park and jogs around the school ground mean in terms of calories leads to a sensible level of expectation from your exercise routine. It will also help you make informed decisions about changes in your diet to suit your goals and exercise needs. A leisurely amble around the city park for a distance of around three km will burn the equivalent of 27 grams of fat, or the calories hiding in three medium-sized boiled potatoes.

If you keep your daily calorie intake constant at a healthy level, this level of activity will lead to your shedding nearly 10 kilos of fat in a year. An hour of brisk walking everyday will do it in half the time. Jogging for half-an-hour everyday at nearly 9 km/hr will achieve the same in eight months. Cycling at nearly 10km/hr is the calorie-equivalent of walking slowly. Do it at twice the speed and you are in the brisk-walking league. Swimming at 25 yards per minute is marginally better than walking slowly, and swimming at the twice the speed burns 60 calories more per hour than brisk walking.

Beginners find that as they become used to a particular intensity level of activity, they need to train harder or for longer to hit their target heart rate. This is natural. Like a fully tanked up Formula One car on its first lap, a beginner's body also burns more energy for a given distance simply because of the extra weight. As the body becomes lighter and more used to exercise, it burns less fat for a given level of activity. The body cells become more energy-efficient. On the other hand, exercise leads to a rise in the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): for example, a lean, physically fit person will burn more calories than the usual 55 calories/hour while sleeping. Robert De Niro, who put on all those extra kilos for the role of Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, once said that the last few pounds were the hardest to knock off on the way back to fitness. The body will always put up a fight for those last few pounds, and few have the strength of purpose to see themselves through this last barrier.

If losing weight were easy, there wouldn't be any over-weight people around. Maintaining an exercise and diet regimen demands a constant war with past habits, impulses, boredom and temptation. Keeping yourself motivated requires being in love with life and a desire for all the physical and mental gifts that only a healthy body can bestow.


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