2005-03-10 / Medical

Which Kind Of Exercise Should I Use?

By Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN

Q: Will I lose more body fat with low-intensity or vigorous exercise?

A: Despite claims that manufacturers make for some exercise videos and workout equipment, describing low-intensity exercise as “fat-burning” exercise, if you have too much body fat, you’ve stored excess calories. To lose that excess fat, you’ve got to burn more calories than you take in. Although a higher proportion of the calories you burn in low-intensity exercise (like walking) comes from fat, research clearly shows that in an equal period of time vigorous exercise (like running) burns so many more calories that it also burns more total fat. However, vigorous exercise may not be the better choice for you. If you’re out of shape, pushing yourself to workout vigorously will limit how long you exercise and, consequently, the number of calories you can burn. When exercise is painful or unenjoyable, it’s also tough to make it a lifetime habit. And making physical activity a habit is important for long-term weight control and good health. In addition, pushing yourself too hard can put your life at risk. If lower-intensity exercise is a comfortable match for you, just remember that the lower the intensity of your activity, the more time you will need to put in to burn that excess body fat. As a guideline in developing your healthy lifestyle, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends reaching for an hour a day of moderate exercise like brisk walking and an hour a week of vigorous exercise. These amounts will lower your cancer risk, boost your overall health and promote a healthy weight.

Q: Are bran cereals and other bran products whole-grain products?

A: Bran products can be nutritious foods that are excellent sources of fiber, but they are seldom whole-grain foods. A whole-grain product includes all three layers of a grain: the outer bran layer, the larger inner part called the endosperm and the tiny center called the “germ.” Refined grains like white flour and white rice include only the endosperm. They lack the fiber and wide range of nutrients and phytochemicals found in the bran and germ. In comparison, bran products contain the bran layer of the whole grain, a major source of fiber, but they often lack the inner germ layer, which is the primary source of vitamin E. Bran cereals and other bran products are healthy choices, but look for true whole-grain products that you can eat every day, too.

Q: How does the weight-loss supplement called chitosan work?

A: Chitosan comes from chitin, a substance taken from the shells of crustaceans like shrimp. Producers of this product claim that chitosan binds or “traps” fats that we eat, preventing them from being absorbed. However, several controlled studies have found that chitosan has no significant effect on fat absorption. In the most recent study, men required seven months to lose one pound of body fat. Women lost no fat at all. If you eat too many high-fat foods, you should choose lower-fat versions or eat smaller portions, rather than spending money on this questionable supplement.

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