The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Physical Activity Déjà Vu

Posted in
Move more

Monday, Oct 12, 2009

Talk about a blast from the past.  I was going through some files and found a paper I wrote when I was in graduate school 26 years ago.  The title was, “The No-Diet Method for Weight Control.”  Here are the key concepts from the paper.

  • The extra weight we tend to put on as we age is due to a gradual decline in metabolism which occurs because people lose muscle mass.  A drop in metabolism means a drop in total calories your body burns each day.
  • People lose muscle mass as a natural part of the aging process AND because they usually are less physically active as they age.  So being a couch potato as an adult is a double whammy with regard to total calories burned in a day. 
  • People don’t usually balance their calorie burning decline by reducing their calorie intake.  This leads to a calorie imbalance.  That is, the extra calories that are not burned are stored as body fat.
The “no-diet” solution I proposed back in 1986 was to maintain one’s youthful level of physical activity over time or if one was inactive, to get active.  Here is what I suggested.

Incorporate more ways of putting exercise into your everyday life:

Walk to work and other places whenever possible.  Get off  the bus or train a few stops from your destination and walk the rest of the way.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Prop up the back tire on a bicycle and pedal away while you watch TV.

Do more vigorous physical activities such as jogging, aerobic dance, swimming, and strength training each week to burn off more calories and to help retain or even build muscle mass.

Does this stuff sound familiar?  It ought to.  It is precisely what fitness and health professions tell people today.  In fact, these are several of the key concepts on which the federal physical activity guidelines and  Stand Up & Eat web site are based.

What is the point of dragging you down memory lane with me?  To point out that the basic principles of physiology have not changed in the last quarter century – or the last couple of millennia for that matter.  No matter what new gadgets, gizmos, books, programs, and what not we develop to combat the growing obesity problem, weight management still comes down to calorie balance through regular activity and moderate food intake.

Are you as or more physically active today than you were 26 years ago?  If so, how have you stayed active as you have aged?