Living Maintenance general maintenance topics and discussions

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Old 07-28-2008, 07:35 PM   #1  
Meg
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Default Study: More Exercise Is Needed To Maintain A Weight Loss

I was watching the local news tonight while I was making dinner and a story came on about exercise and weight loss maintenance. It featured a study conducted at the University of Pittsburgh tracking how much exercise is needed to keep weight off once it's lost. The study concluded that 275 minutes a week -- which is 55 minutes a day, five days a week -- correlates with the best maintenance results.

Dr. John Jakicic, one of the study's authors, was interviewed and he said several interesting things. First, exercise isn't all that important for the initial weight loss -- we can lose weight without exercise. But exercise is critical for weight loss maintenance and, in fact, is the biggest predictor of maintenance success. Anne Fletcher cites studies reaching the same conclusion in Thin For Life, so it was good to hear it reinforced. Also, the amount of exercise needed for weight loss maintenance is almost twice that recommended for general good health (55 minutes/day versus 30 minutes/day). This finding is right in line with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans that created such a hullabaloo when it recommended 60 - 90 minutes of exercise per day for maintenance of weight loss. Remember that?

Here's the study abstract: Effect of Exercise on 24-Month Weight Loss Maintenance in Overweight Women

and here's the news story on the local station's web site: Study: More Exercise Needed To Keep Weight Off

It was sobering to read that only 25% of the participants were able to sustain a 10% weight loss, even with the recommended 275 minutes of exercise a week. There are most definitely major health benefits to losing and keeping off 10% of your weight, but when I think about the goals that most of our members create for themselves -- are they realistic? Would it be better to set a smaller goal, like 10%, achieve it, and then focus on maintaining it for a while? It's not what I did, but I wonder if that would make sense for some people?

And back to the exercise issue, let's talk about our own experiences. How much exercise do you do for maintenance? I average about 90 minutes a day, seven days a week. Any less and I gain, even when I keep my calories as low as possible. My 630 minutes per week is a lot higher than the study's 275 minutes. How about you?
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Old 07-28-2008, 07:57 PM   #2  
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Interesting post, Meg.

I have been thinking along those lines--that I'd probably have to increase my work-outs somehow for maintenance. I already do about 90 minutes a day, so now I'm wondering if I will have to add on to that, or will more intensity suffice?

For instance, instead of adding another 20 minutes to my work-outs every day, maybe more intense exercises or more weight lifting will do the trick.


Last edited by Apple Cheeks; 07-28-2008 at 07:57 PM.
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Old 07-28-2008, 08:15 PM   #3  
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Apple, I'm not sure you will need to add any exercise to what you're already doing once you get to maintenance. Your (and my) 90 minutes is a lot by any standard already! More than that might be risking overtraining.

I actually do a little less exercise now than I did when I was losing (120 minutes/day vs. 90 min/day) BUT I increased the intensity, so it's probably about the same in terms of calories burned. So yeah, intensity is something you can play around with.

One thing I've noticed from the maintainers here is that very few decrease their calories burned through exercise once they reach maintenance. Most prefer to eat a bit more than to exercise less.

My advice to you is just wait and see. Maintenance is an experiment for each of us, of adding back a few calories at a time and seeing what happens. You can tweak your exercise routine too and see how that affects your weight. So long as you're tracking your calories and exercise and weighing regularly, you won't regain (everyone's biggest fear!)
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Old 07-28-2008, 08:24 PM   #4  
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Thanks Meg!
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Old 07-28-2008, 08:25 PM   #5  
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I'm not a maintainer, but when I clicked on "New Posts," this one caught my eye, so I hope you don't mind me responding.

At 4 ft. 11, my mother, who has never been significantly overweight (a bit chunky at times), has maintained a weight of about 115 (down from about 140 in her 30's; she's now 67) for years, and she only does 20 minutes of cardio a day. She does do much more exercise when she stays with my sister. They both get up early and walk for an hour. However, again, that is not her normal routine.

After his heart attack, my dad lost about 30-40 lbs. He was exercising regularly for a while. Then, he stopped. He started getting looser with his eating as well, but he was still eating much better than he was prior to his heart attack. After stopping the exercise, my Dad regained about 10 lbs., but no more than that.

I'm not questioning the validity of the study, but I think that one size doesn't fit all. My concern would be that someone who needs to lose weight would see this type of study and be discouraged about exercising because 55 minutes, 5 days a week seems daunting. I just got back into exercising after about a two-year hiatus. Prior to that hiatus, I was exercising 5-6 days a week, 60-75 minutes a day. I got burned out, and stopped (I did exercise sporadically during that two years, but not consistently). I've currently restarted, and the only way I was able to get myself back into the gym was by telling myself that I will only do 20 minutes of cardio along with some push-ups, sit-ups, and some walking lunges. During the last three weeks or so, I've only missed one day. I credit this enthusiam and consistency to the fact that I'm committing myself to something that I know I can easily do. Many times during this three weeks, my alarm clock has gone off, and I've been so tempted to shut it off and go back to sleep. The only thing that gets me out of bed during those times is thinking, "I only have to exercise 20 minutes."
And I know that I won't be going back to an hour of exercise a day, and if I thought I'd have to in order to maintain a weight loss, I'd probably quit now.

Also, I ask myself sometimes why "naturally" thin people don't have to do an hour a day in the gym. But then again, I know that there are many things that "naturally" thin people get away with that I can't. However, I just question this massive exercise difference.

Anyway, I'm really glad you posted this, Meg. It's quite interesting, and it raises some important questions about the requirements for maintenance.

Last edited by lynnm39; 07-28-2008 at 08:26 PM. Reason: typos
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:10 PM   #6  
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This is interesting. I have been thinking of posting a question here about increasing my exercise time. I have been working out 4-5 day a week for 5 months. I typically do 45 minutes of cardio twice a week and light weights and do 30 minutes of cardio three times a week. I have lost inches, but I haven't been able to jump start any weight loss. I was going to post the question, do I need to increase? If so, to what? After reading your posts... 90 minutes a day?!? I don't know if I can do that! I already get up early and work out, then I am typically done for the day. I don't want to quit, I enjoy my workouts, I just wish I was having more weight loss results! My husband keeps telling me he can see the difference... but I think he doesn't want me to give up.
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:18 PM   #7  
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I didn't start off doing 90 minutes. At first I was just doing about 45 minutes in the morning. After a month, I started jogging (very slowly) in the evening before bed for 20 minutes. I have gradually built that time up to 40 minutes.

But this is something that I wanted to do, since I knew it would really help me. I never felt like I had to do it, so it's not a chore for me.

I know that 90 minutes a day sounds daunting, but if you break it up into smaller work-outs throughout the day it's not so overwhelming to think about.

So, if you did a short 15 minute walk at lunch and/or after getting home in the evening, then you would be adding to your daily exercise, too.
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:27 PM   #8  
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When I was losing, I did an intense one hour weight/cardio circuit in the morning, then walked for about 45 minutes with my neighbors (which I had alway done)5 days a week, and played tennis for an hour 3 time/week. What enabled me to lose, IMO, was not so much the exercise, but a single minded focus on staying on my food plan, no matter what.

My maintenance exercise looks completely different and has varied slightly over the years. My current schedule is 45-50 minutes of cardio (usually the elliptical, usually intense) in the early morning 5 day/week, and a 40 minute lifting session 4 times a week at lunch time, with an hour plus leg session on most Saturdays. I'm pretty sure I could maintain my weight on a bit less exercise, but not my size.

I first starting lifting really heavy when I hit my goal weight and was dismayed by my body shape and condition. Scale weight turned out to have very little to do with my goal. Exercise, particularly weight training, enables me to maintain the conditioning, shape, size and health that is truly my goal.

Sleep is vastly over-rated anyway

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Old 07-28-2008, 09:30 PM   #9  
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This is why I read the maintainers section....

I'm not at maintenance but I want to know what I'll need to do to maintain when I get there.
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:53 PM   #10  
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I'm also in the club of those exercising intensely 90 min's 7 days a week but I'm currently trying to take off a regain. I was hoping that once I was back to goal that 90 min's 5 times a week would work to keep me maintaining. Hmm, maybe not.
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Old 07-28-2008, 09:56 PM   #11  
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I actually exercise less now then when I was losing. Towards the end I was exercising, if I remember correctly, anywhere from 2 - 2 1/2 hours a day. I knew that there was no way on earth that I would or could keep that up. So, my exercise has definitely decreased. I would say now I exercise an average of about an hour and a quarter a day, at least 6 days a week.

Like Mel, it wasn't the exercise that enabled me to lose like I did, (though it certainly didn't harm, well, duh). It was indeed staying on my food plan, no matter what.

And now, it's pretty much the same. The major key for me will ALWAYS be the food that I eat - or DON'T eat.

I'll never know the exact role that exercise played in my losing the weight and now maintaining it. I've heard many times that it's 80% food/20% exercise. Who knows?
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Old 07-28-2008, 10:54 PM   #12  
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I remember hearing that 60-90 min of exercise per day recommendation and being really discouraged by it. Even now, I think it is a mistake to tell people they need to exercise that much--not because I think that amount of exercise is bad, but because I think it is overwhelming and discouraging. When I first heard that recommendation, I immediately thought that a healthy level of exercise was simply out of the question for me. The thought of having to exercise that much just seemed exhausting and impossible. As a result, I chose not to exercise at all. I think the Dietary Guidelines would be more successful if they recommended something that felt reasonable to someone who currently isn't exercising at all--like maybe 30 min a day, 3 days a week. If that had been the recommendation, I would have been encouraged to exercise.

Even now, hearing that this study found that people needed to exercise 55 min a day, five days a week, my initial reaction was to panic! That is less exercise than I currently do and I feel like my current exercise routine is totally doable long term. Even so, my first thought when I read that was "OMG! I can't do that amount of exercise! I'm going to gain all my weight back!" It just sounds like so much exercise. And if it sounds that way to me--and I'm already doing more exercise than that--I can only imagine how discouraging and disheartening it is to someone who isn't exercising that much (or at all).

The gym is like a black hole where time stops for me. I swear, my workout should only take 45 min, yet I'm in there for two or three hours. I do some form of intense exercise six days a week and then I swim one day a week.

Does yoga count as exercise? If I count those classes, my exercise works out to be about 90 min per day, seven days a week (assuming I make it to all the yoga classes that I intend to go to, which is the case only about half the time). If I only count cardio and strength training, then my average is 60 min a day, seven days week. I am counting the swimming in both of these averages.

I'm sure I could maintain my weight without the yoga classes, so 60 min per day/7 days week would be fine for me for maintenance. And I suspect that I could maintain my weight on even less exercise.

In fact, my trainer has told me I would probably lose weight if I stopped exercising. The problem is that all the weight that I would lose would be muscle, which isn't the kind of weight that I want to lose. He has another client that had to stop exercising for six weeks due to major surgery and she lost a lost around ten lbs, a lot of it most definitely muscle. It would be interesting to see if he is right, but I'm not curious enough about it to try.
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Old 07-28-2008, 11:01 PM   #13  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jenskihere View Post
This is interesting. I have been thinking of posting a question here about increasing my exercise time. I have been working out 4-5 day a week for 5 months. I typically do 45 minutes of cardio twice a week and light weights and do 30 minutes of cardio three times a week. I have lost inches, but I haven't been able to jump start any weight loss. I was going to post the question, do I need to increase? If so, to what? After reading your posts... 90 minutes a day?!? I don't know if I can do that! I already get up early and work out, then I am typically done for the day. I don't want to quit, I enjoy my workouts, I just wish I was having more weight loss results! My husband keeps telling me he can see the difference... but I think he doesn't want me to give up.
Jenny
What are you doing for your diet? That level of exercise sounds find to me for weight loss (note, however, that I am not a nutritionist, personal trainer, doctor, or anyone else with any professional knowledge of weight loss strategies, so take this for the amateur, inexperienced, and completely unqualified opinion that it is). I suspect that you probably need to make some changes to your diet if you want to lose weight. There's also nothing wrong with losing inches and not losing weight. If you are losing inches, then you are losing fat, which is the only kind of weight you want to lose. You could probably lose more fat, faster, if you changed your diet, but if you are happy with the rate at which you are losing inches, why bother? In the end, isn't it about how you look? You're the only one who sees the number on the scale.

You also might try replacing some of your steady-state cardio with high intensity interval training. For example, if you are running, sprint for one minute, then walk fast for one minute, sprint for one minute, walk fast for one minute. Do this for 15 to 30 min. Adding this to my workouts has been very helpful for me in terms of weight loss/maintenance.

Last edited by BlueToBlue; 07-28-2008 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 07-29-2008, 08:17 AM   #14  
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I'm another one of those who work out at least 60 minutes every day. I run 3 to 4 days per week, averaging 25 miles per week, longer in marathon training season. The other days include a variety of activities: strength training, yoga/pilates, step aerobics, etc. I just bought a kayak, so am now out kayaking every weekend. And for vacations, we like to bike, and hike, and backpacking/camping and such. It's a very rare day that doesn't involve some kind of fairly vigorous activity. That's just my lifestyle now, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I think it still is all about "calories in vs calories out". It makes sense that people who exercise more keep the weight off better because they can eat a little more, which may be easier to sustain in the long run. Plus it's good for your mental attitude, maintains muscle mass, is part of a healthy lifestyle and all of those other good things. But you can't go wild and eat everything you see just because you're working out, or you'll gain no matter how much you exercise. Our daily lives in this present-day society are too sedentary for that -- one hour in the gym simply doesn't make up for the rest of the day at a desk job.

So I don't know that a specific targeted quantity of exercise is the magic bullet, it's more about finding that balance between intake and calorie burn, whatever that is for your metabolism and activity level. Unless you are keeping a food journal and religiously counting calorie intake, it's VERY easy to underestimate how many calories you are ingesting. I suspect that often with re-gainers, they are slipping into higher food intake patterns without realizing it. So even though they continue to exercise, they gain weight because the calorie in/out ratio has shifted.
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Old 07-29-2008, 08:37 AM   #15  
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My amount of exercise has fluctuated wildly due to health problems, injuries, and various major life changes. When I was losing, I started out with 30-45 minutes 3 days a week. Eventually I was up to 45-60 minutes 5 days a week, but then I started having injuries and health problems, so I dropped back down to 3 days a week.

When I started maintaining, I was working out for about 45 minutes 3 days a week. During my best period of exercise since entering maintenance I worked out about 45 minutes 4-5 days a week, plus did active things on the weekends. Since getting a dog, I stopped going to the gym. Now I would say I work out 25-30 minutes 4 days a week and on the weekends I usually take a long walk or bike ride, about 60-75 minutes.

There are all sorts of ups and downs in my exercise schedule. When I was losing, I was a grad student, and didn't have to be in to work early, so I worked out in the mornings. Now I work full-time and I get my exercise after work, which is much harder for me. I'm trying to get up the motivation to wake up an hour earlier and work out, but various medical issues conspired to make me extra sleepy.

I would definitely say that the more I exercise the less I need to watch what I eat. When I'm getting good workouts, my body just WANTS to eat healthy. When I've been lazy and haven't gotten any exercise, I tend to eat crap. So in that sense, yes, exercise is essential to my maintenance, and the more the better. On the other hand, I can maintain without much exercise if I keep close track of my diet.
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