Getting Down to Business
by Timothy Heinrich

Seems that everyone needs a gimmick nowadays. Every day I turn on the television, I see hordes of infomercials peddling one product after another. "Use this to take INCHES off your midsection," says the perky spokesmodel as she gleefully demonstrates the use of the new step master/ab device/cross-country skiing simulator. What ever happened to good old-fashioned exercise? You know, in that mystical, oft-forgotten place called "the outdoors"? I am convinced that a good portion of Americans wouldn't even venture outside if weren't to go to their cars.

But back to infomercials. While it may sound as though I loathe them, I actually support most of the products they sell. They may look cheesy and are always over exaggerated, and they are shamelessly trying to make a quick buck, but in doing so, they are experimenting with ways to motivate people to exercise. They know as well as most that the number of overweight individuals in the United States rises with each passing day. Some estimates state that as much as 2/3 of the American population is now overweight. And while there are many factors that are contributing to this outbreak, the one that many experts believe to be the most significant is this: NOT ENOUGH EXERCISE.

One reason for the epidemic of overweight individuals is the fact that many people believe simply dieting will solve their problems. Many people view exercise as an arduous task better left undone. However, what these people don't realize is that exercise is the most effective way to shed excess pounds and keep them from coming back. The reason for this is that everyone's body is programmed for one thing: survival. When an individual begins to diminish his or her caloric intake, the body senses this and thinks that there is a shortage of food. In order to keep itself functioning properly, it will hold on to as much fat as it can. The only way to keep the weight off by dieting is to keep dieting…forever. I don't know of any people who want to restrict themselves to 1000 calories a day for the rest of their lives.

As many have already discovered, as soon as the diet has been abandoned and the normal eating habits return, so does the weight. The body, now with an abundance of fat to work with, will stockpile it in case there's another shortage. This cycle will continue every time a new diet is experimented with and then abandoned.

This is why exercise is so important. The body will only burn through a small number of calories each day when one embraces a sedentary lifestyle, and putting on weight comes down to a very simple equation: if you consume more calories than you burn off, YOU WILL GAIN WEIGHT. If your body normally burns 1500 calories a day, and you're eating 3000, then your body must find something to do with the extra 1500. Some of them will be disposed of, but many of them will be stored as fat. In order to lose weight, you need to be burning more calories than you're consuming. If you want to continue eating 3000 calories a day, you'll have to find a way to burn off more than that.

Fortunately, there are many things you can do to shed pounds. Exercise doesn't have to be a chore. Anything involving physical activity elevates your metabolic rate and causes you to burn more calories. Start by simply changing a few minor things about your day. Instead of driving down the street to rent a video, walk. Then take a longer route home. Eventually you can start walking just for hell of it, and make it part of your weekly routine. Exercise can be as simple as that.

There are dozens of activities that can help keep you active, such as sports, hiking, yoga-again, anything that requires physical activity. Even using one of the devices on those cheesy infomercials would work. It can be hard to get started, especially if one of your favorite things to do is sit and watch TV. But once you develop a routine of at least a couple days a week of some form of exercise, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it. It will give you a great feeling of accomplishment, and give you healthier, more positive outlook on life. But first you have to make the decision that you want a change in your life. The only person who can make the decision to lose weight is YOU. Why not start today? The only thing you have to lose is weight.


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