Dieting by Working Out

At least in theory, losing weight comes down to a simple matter of mathematics. We gain weight because we are taking in more calories from food and drink than we expend through various forms of exercise -- be it running, swimming, or just walking down the street. Even breathing and eating uses up a certain amount of calories. Of course, the problem is that just breathing while laying on the couch and watching old "Star Trek" reruns isn't going to use nearly enough calories to prevent obesity, as we all know only too well.

The fact of the matter is that, for many of us, simply reducing the amount of calories we consume in the form of food and drink is simply too difficult. Our bodies and brains are, in many respects finely tuned instruments for persuading us to consume plenty of calories, particularly in the form of tasty fat and sugar. Evolutionary biologists tell us that this is because there was a time when starvation was a real risk for most humans, and consuming lots of calories was actually something that improved our odds of survival. Therefore, for a lot of people, it might be more attractive to, say, work out with a medicine ball than to cut out those burgers, fries, and sugary soft drinks we love so much.

Of course, we should really take both tacks, but even for those of us who are able to commit to a serious reduction in our caloric intake, dieting by itself is rarely sufficient. With or without the use of an medicine ball, getting more active brings with it a large number of weight loss benefits. On the most obvious level, increasing our activity level also increases the number of calories we burn, but the benefits don't end there. For one thing, exercise creates lean muscle mass, which burns up more calories than simple fatty tissue. (To complicate matters, muscle also weighs more than fat, which is why body fat readings and inches around your waist may be a more reliable indicator of your anti-obesity progress than simple weight loss.)

Exercise is also associated with a host of emotional benefits, including stress reduction and a notably improved feeling of well being. Since many of us resort to eating to cope with stress and a feeling of emotional emptiness, dealing with these issues is obviously all to the good.

Indeed, quite apart from aiding us in the battle against excess body fat, exercise brings with it a host of health benefits. Even if you do not lose a single pound, you will be far healthier and happier hitting the medicine ball and generally living an active lifestyle than if you simply focus all your energy on struggling to cut down on calories.

The main trick is finding a form of exercise that works with our lifestyle and that we actually will do. It's easier for the naturally athletic, who might love the competition of such highly vigorous sports as basketball or tennis or who enjoy running long distances for the sheer joy of doing so. For those of us with less skills -- and therefore less positive association with athletics -- finding strenuous activities that work into our lives can be a challenge, but there's really no excuse not to.

Even if it's only walking, increasing our level of physical activity is one of the best things we can do for ourselves. The good news is that, after a while, you'll find that you really want to keep doing it. Exercise isn't quite as addictive as food, but you'll be surprised at how much you start to crave it.

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