Cumberland Times-News

Bob Doyle - Astronomy

March 30, 2013

Hard as it may seem, you can lose weight

I have had some problems with my legs and back for about a year. In the process, I have gained about 10 pounds. This might not sound like much, but my weight has stayed nearly constant for decades.

So this Lent, I have really tried to cut back on what I eat. But it seems as if my body likes the weight it now has.

Reading the magazine covers in the grocery store check out lines where beautiful women claim to have lost 30, 50 or ever 100 pounds is frustrating.

This brings me to a new library book that may have some useful advice. The title is “The First 20 Minutes” by Gretchen Reynolds, who writes a ‘‘Phys Ed’’ column for the New York Times which appears in the Science Times (printed version).

Her byline has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Oprah Magazine, the AARP magazine and Popular Science. Gretchen lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The book has ISBN 978-1-59463-0434 and was published by Hudson Street Press in May, 2012.

In Chapter One, Gretchen reports on a CDC study involving nearly 200,000 American adults regarding their exercise habits and their health.

This report was published in the official journal of American College of Sports Medicine. 18 per cent of those polled reported no planned physical exercise, 66 per cent completed at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise and 42 per cent reported vigorous exercise (such as jogging) at least once or twice a week for 20 minutes or more.

When quantitative measurements were made (with pedometers), those who were moderately active on most days of the week barely reached 50 percent. What’s surprising is the appraisal of those surveyed regarding how well they felt.

Nearly 30 percent of the sedentary people reported being sick or uncomfortable for 14 days a month. This matched the sickness frequency of those who exercised vigorously multiple times a week (even as much as 90 minutes per day). So it seems as if too little exercise or too much exercise is ill advised.

The latest big study was in 2008 with “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans” where the U.S. Department of Human Services used an advisory committee of physiologists, cardiologists, epidemiologists and nutritionists.

This report specifies that a minimum of 500 MET minutes of exercise per week is optimal for health. A single MET (Metabolic Equivalent of Task) minute is the amount of energy a person uses at rest.

Walking at 3 miles an hour is 3.3 MET activity while running at 6 miles an hour is a 10 MET activity. Easy jogging would be a 6 MET activity.

For most people, 500 MET minutes per week would take about 150 minutes a week, in three to five sessions that might include walking, bike riding, hiking, etc.

If you don’t have such blocks in your schedule, you could, in one day spend ten minutes walking briskly in the morning, take a 10-minute walk with some friends after lunch and do ten minutes of bike riding after dinner.

These MET’s would add up, just as if you had done all these activities in one half hour period.

My own choice is walking my dog each morning for about 15 minutes (as a warm up) and upon returning home, getting on an exercise bike in my cellar for 20 minutes, using both food pedals and arm levers (estimate of 7 MET).

I have a kitchen timer to keep track of my time on the bike while I listen to a local rock station. This will be more than 500 MET minutes per week, but I am also trying to burn off my excess weight in the next two months.

Some other issues addressed in “The First 20 Minutes” include: Desirability of Exercising Prior to Eating Breakfast (so you burn off fat from your previous dinner), Static Stretching hurts but doesn’t help you prepare for Exercising, Carbohydrate Loading doesn’t Work, Drinking Too Much Water during a long race can kill more readily than Dehydration and lastly an impressive set of core muscles (six-pack abs) doesn’t ensure better performances.

SKY SIGHTS AHEAD: Tomorrow at dawn, the planet Mercury will be at its greatest angle from the sun but only 10 degrees above the horizon at the 7 a.m. sunrise. (Try looking for Mercury very low in the east at 6:30 a.m.)

On March 27 at dawn, the moon will appear half illuminated in the southern dawn. In the early daylight hours, you can observe the moon’s lava plains and its larger craters through binoculars. (Don’t even think of turning your binoculars on the sun as you could become blind in seconds!)

As it begins to get dark, the Big Dipper’s bowl is upside down high in the north, pouring soup onto the North Star below.

Bob Doyle invites any readers comments and questions. E-mail him at rdoyle@frostburg.edu . He is available as a speaker on his column topics.

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Bob Doyle - Astronomy
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