By: Sarah LoBisco, ND

Anyone been in the health and fitness aisle of Borders lately? That aisle is enough for even a doctor who specializes in nutrition and lifestyle factors to feel overwhelmed, as one is successfully bombarded by mass marketing. In fact, the media is great at portraying various “experts in nutrition, health, and exercise” as the leading authorities. These gurus seem to have achieved book sales based on popularity and trends verses expertise and wisdom.

Now, it’s not enough to question everything that goes in our mouth, we have to question how we are exercising. We purchase pedometers and Microsoft software to form charts, plot our progress, and calculate the exact rate of our warm up, peak, and cool down. Thank God our ipods now have a calculator, stop watch, and heart rate monitor in one, or we’d fall over from all our gadgets.  I picture the future us walking through the gym door in a resemblance of a space suit that magically absorbs sweat and stench and increases calories burned by 200% on the treadmill, so we only have to walk for 2 minutes to obtain optimal results.

Hold up!! Stop!! Folks, we aren’t going down, we are going up!

With our manic society approaching an obesity epidemic, we would never stop to consider that the answer may not be found in yet another book.  I also doubt that the answer to long term health will be found in a book by another celebrity or any other “authority” who has no clinical expertise. We are in a race to yet another panacea from the outside world instead of tuning into our own innate rhythm. The question on how can we keep up our unbalanced lifestyle and have a perfect figure with the least amount of effort or by following the coolest new trend, is becoming what exercise is all about. Surprise, surprise, it’s not working!

According to the CDC website:

American society has become ‘obesogenic,’ characterized by environments that promote increased food intake, nonhealthful foods, and physical inactivity.

A 2010 report in JAMA stated that approximately 1/3 of adults are overweight. This translates to 30% of the adult population having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30. Since 1980, obesity rates have doubled in adults and tripled in children.

Health and Human Services reports:

As a major contributor to preventive death in the United States today, overweight and obesity pose a major public health challenge.

The CDC is calling obesity an epidemic. I’m calling it scary. Michael Neil, author of Supercoah and Effortless Success, discusses what are normal reactions verses what’s natural. He points out that the normal thing to do is stress about our weight and health, worry about if we are doing it right, eat the diet, and force ourselves to fit a mold held by standards set outside ourselves. If we live up to it, we feel good about ourselves; however, if this method is not our natural state, inevitably we become un-inspired, discouraged, and self-critical.

The latest trend for fat burning is peak exercise, or interval training. A good amount of research is supporting this. Still, for those who have chronic fatigue and burnout, this could be counterproductive. Excessive exercising in burnout can cause more inflammation and actually keep weight on for protection, as the body can’t keep up with clearing toxins. For my burning the candle at both ends clients, I recommend gentle exercise or yoga.  Yoga has been found to be beneficial for not only weight loss, but for arthritic pains, and for mental health improvement.

So, what’s the answer for the best workout regime? Dr. D’adamo  believes blood type and temperament are the keys to affect exercise results. As an Integrative Practitioner, Naturopathic Doctor, and one who practices Functional Medicine, you know my line by now.  I,  too,  believe “it is based on the individual.” This is why the same diet won’t work for everyone and the same exercise won’t either.

No matter what form, there is good scientific evidence of the benefits of movement. A study in the International Journal of Epidemiology reported that even moderate activity lowers all-cause mortality. Other benefits of exercise include better brain function, decreasing inflammation, and stress relief; therefore, exercise is still an important component to weight loss and overall health.

Not everyone can be a size 2, but everyone has a natural state of wellness where they feel good and their body hums for them.   If you still are lost, consult a true expert, a doctor who will listen to you, your needs, knows your history, temperament, biochemistry, and current health conditions. If you have a hard time accepting this, maybe that smart Naturopathic Doctor of yours can help. This can be done through balancing your neurotransmitters and overall biochemistry so that you are set up for success and are better able to shift your beliefs into a health-focused lifestyle vs. a fear-based rat-race.   

My suggestion: if what you are doing isn’t working, try something different, not more of the same. Consider tuning into your body, enjoying your movement, and going inside yourself. You may not feel like working out, but your probably will want to based on the results. Go with that.

Be flexible, exercise could change with time. I personally am shifting from extreme exercise to more gentle yoga and martial art forms. I’m finding that for myself and my clients when the focus changes from seeking external perfection to health and self-care, amazing results follow.

For references and the rest of the blog, click here.

UPDATE: Why Recovery and Mixing it up is important.