Question: My son in college tells me that I am wasting my time doing cardio on my treadmill for 45 minutes per day because it won’t help me lose weight. Is that true?
Heidi’s answer: Not really. You certainly are not wasting your time! And I want to congratulate you for creating a habit that will serve you well for the rest of your life. Cardio exercise is the most researched and well-proved type of exercise and is associated a list of health benefits that fill a whole page.
For some reason there has been a lot of negative press lately regarding this type of exercise. Why? Because our culture is obsessed with weight loss these days and cardio (walking on your treadmill) alone is the not the best way to shed pounds. You might be better off to do 20-30 minutes of your cardio each day, do it more intensely with some intervals, and then add some full body resistance training 2-3 times per week to rev up your metabolism.
In summary, the benefits of cardio exercise are extremely valuable. Don’t give that up! However, your son is right in that you’ll get better results by modifying your workout.
Question: Is it beneficial to get my body fat percentage checked and, if so, what method provides the best result?
Jay’s answer: Whether or not you get your body fat checked depends on how meticulous you are when it comes to your own health and wellness. Some people are perfectly content to just work out and watch what happens. Others want to track and analyze. If you’re in this latter group, then go ahead and get a test done.
There are numerous ways to analyze your body fat percentage, from the very expensive to the ridiculously inexpensive, and the very accurate to the incredibly inaccurate. Some of the best methods include getting a DEXA scan, a Bod Pod measurement or getting weighed underwater.
However, these are the more expensive options and require sophisticated equipment and skilled technicians. The method we use in our facility is brand new and it employs ultrasound technology. It’s accurate and inexpensive. You also can use bioimpedance or skin fold calipers, neither of which are your most accurate option.
However, the initial measurement number isn’t necessarily all that important anyway. You just need a reproduceable starting point — then, as long as that number trends down over time, that’s all that really matters, right?
You are on the right track with the idea of checking your body fat. Fat is way less dense than muscle and takes up way more space. You can conceivably lose only a few pounds in body weight and still dramatically affect the shape and appearance of your body. Tracking with the body fat test will help you see that you are making progress without relying on the scale, which only tells part of the story.
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