Why we are fat, and how to do something about it

Here's a simple fact: Unless you're a trainer, or you're one of those guys who spend three hours in the gym, two of which you spend mooching off their wifi, you will spend approximately 6.5% of your day in the gym. That's if you workout for an hour a day, 7 days a week.

Now lets say you work out an hour a day, three times a week, which by the way is what I recommend (an hour is sometimes actually too long). One hour a day, three times a week will have you spending 2.6% percent of your waking hours in the gym (assuming you sleep 8 hours). That's right, 2.6%. Now I'm not saying that 2.6% is bad. Actually, that 2.6% might be the difference between a six pack and a beer belly. What I'm saying is that if you spend 2.6%of your waking hours in the gym, and the other 97.4% sitting in the office, or in the sofa, or in the car, or just sitting anywhere else, don't expect to see results in the scale. What I'm saying is that weight loss doesn't only happen in the gym, it happens in the 97.4% that happens outside of the gym.

So what can you do? You can add lifestyle activities to your daily routines. Lifestyle activities are not necessarily exercises in the sense that you won't be lifting specific reps and sets or following a circuit. They are activities that you can incorporate in your daily life to remain mobile and active. We tend to box mobility and "active work" inside the gym, when it really shouldn't be the case. The gym should actually be treated as more of a training facility where you can "practice" for the game of life. So it makes sense that you use what you gained during training for the actual game, right? That game is your everyday life, and it's that 97.4%.

Lifestyle activities don't need to be too difficult, in fact, the simple act of getting out of your seat and walking around for 5-10 minutes every hour is one of the easiest and best things that you can do. The WHO recommends this practice to break the monotony of sitting down which not only ruins your back, hips, and posture, it also slows your metabolism down to a snails pace which doesn't help in trying to shed weight. Aside from my Nike fuel band which tracks my daily movements, I keep myself in check by using the MET system. MET stands for the metabolic equivalent of tasks, a system which quantifies everyday activities into METs which give an approximation of the caloric expenditure of each activity.

In other words, if you want to know how much calories you use when you're washing the dishes, just check their compendium of physical activities, and you'll know. It's a pretty extensive list of activities which include exercises like circuit training, running, or biking; sports,and of course lifestyle activities.

The way it works is that it assigns a MET value for each activity. For example, the MET value of sitting down is .9. You multiply this MET value with your weight in kilograms and that is how much calories you use, per hour of that activity.

So in the example of sitting down; if a person weighs 80kg and sits down for 1 hour, he uses 72 calories. Now if he sits down for 5 hours, he uses 360 calories. Then he takes lunch which usually has 500-800 calories (let's be honest people, we as a nation, love to eat), then I sit down again for 4 hours (288 calories). Work ends, you spend an hour in traffic (72 calories) then get home and eat a 500-800 calorie dinner plus some ice cream (250-400 calories). Then you spend 2 hours watching TV (144 calories) before going to bed. Even with the lunch break walk to the fast food joint and the 5 minute walk to the car (lets say 70 calories) and the thermic effect of food which raises the bodies temperature due to the act of digesting food, thereby increasing calories burn, the balance is still one sided. This, people, is how we get fat. Throw in the penchant for processed foods and carbs, and the distaste for walking (Hello government! Walkable cities please aside from the Fort) and you get why the Philippines is not far from the US in terms of obesity.

The solution is simple: live a healthy and active lifestyle and you will lose fat. Read: lifestyle. I didn't say "live healthy and be active in the gym". It's supposed to be a lifestyle. Something that you adapt and sustain in your everyday life. Start walking more. Get a pedometer if you can and try to record at least 5,000 steps, the goal is to get to 10,000 a day and stay there. Spot the opportunities around you. If you see stairs, take it, that's four times the calories spent in walking. Run your own memos. A local study done by PASOO (Philippine association for the study of overweight and obesity) showed that in an office, the fittest people were the messengers. Makes sense, they were moving more. Bring an exercise ball and replace your office chair with it. You can do some core exercises while thinking of your next pitch.

But most important of all: never use that 2,6% as an excuse to be lazy for the remaining 97.4%.

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