It has been 6 weeks since your last assessment and you feel GREAT. More energy, stronger in activities of daily life, you look different, and your clothes are starting to get loose. As you walk in the door at AFS you feel confident that validation for all of your hard work is near. Then the numbers are printed and you look at the paper in disbelief, weight is the same and body fat percentage is only down 2 percent (based on a 160lb individual losing 3 lbs of fat and gaining 3 lbs of lean mass). You did not come close to your weight goal and your body fat percentage loss is less than half of your goal percentage. Thoughts of frustration race through your head, “What the …. ! Barely any change!?? I have worked this hard for nothing!!??!?!” Well not exactly. 3 pounds of fat loss shows that you were definitely in a deficit and consuming less energy than you were expending. In addition, a 3 pound gain in lean mass is beneficial in that you will be burning more calories at all points in the day increasing future fat loss. While our assessments are critical to assessing progress they are not able to show the entire spectrum of adaptions from exercise. Below are other adaptions from exercise that we do not measure. Next time your assessment numbers do not turn out exactly how you want, or you feel like you are in good shape so you don’t need to exercise, read this list and realize that you are still making significant changes to your HEALTH!
• Increased bone mineral density:
o Exercises that load your bones such as squats, lunges, overhead pressing, etc, can maintain bone density or stimulate bone growth. As we age weakening bones are more susceptible to fracture from relatively low impact events.
• Preventing muscle loss:
o We lose 1-2% of muscle per year after age 40. This reduces our metabolism causing weight gain and reduces our ability to complete every day activities. Resistance training can PREVENT this loss of muscle and even increase muscle tissue in most individuals. Maintaining muscle mass allows us to maintain independence as we age which not only has physical health benefits but also significant mental health benefits.
• Improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity:
o Regular exercise significantly increases insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. This means our body can more efficiently transport glucose into the cells of the liver, muscle and adipose tissue. Without transportation into these cells blood sugar circulates in our bloodstream and increases our risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
• Maintenance or gain of lean mass:
o Just because you didn’t lose weight doesn’t mean you wasted your time. It is a positive that you did not gain weight and lose even more ground in your attempt to reach a healthy body fat percentage. Maintaining weight until the right calorie goal is discovered IS an accomplishment!
• Better mood:
o Physical activity has been shown to stimulate chemicals (dopamine and serotonin) in the brain that enhance mood. It is rare that someone leaves a workout feeling worse. In fact, I don’t think I have EVER had someone tell me they feel worse leaving AFS then when they arrived (I ask this frequently).
• Increased cardiovascular health
o Exercise increases many aspects of your cardiovascular system including:
oxygen carrying capacity of your blood
amount of blood the heart is able to pump with each beat
beneficial increase in heart muscle size and strength
ability for your muscles to extract oxygen from the blood
• More energy:
o Activities of daily life (grocery shopping, cleaning the house, yard work, etc) all the suddenly become much easier. Improved muscular strength and endurance reduce the stress these activities put your body under.
• Better sleep:
o Recent research out of Northwestern has shown that not only does exercise help individuals fall asleep but also increases the quality of sleep. Better sleep means more energy the following day and usually more activity (more calorie expenditure?).
• Better sex life:
o Research has shown that women have an easier time being aroused and men have a reduced incidence of erectile dysfunction compared to their sedentary counterparts.
• Improved blood lipids:
o Exercise boosts high density lipoprotein (HDLs) “good cholesterol) and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This combination can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease.
This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits from exercise that we are unable to measure. As you can see there are TONS of significant adaptations occurring in your body from exercise that not only have the potential for increasing the length of your life but more importantly the quality of your life. Next time your assessment does not go exactly how you want remember that if you achieved your exercise frequency goal you have made very significant improvements to your health.