New Years affords a natural opportunity for reflection and planning - a chance to look back over the past year and forward to the next. One thing I will not miss is the myriad of TV shows on the Mayan apocalypse that seemed to run endlessly on cable channels in 2012. We certainly have enough real issues, big and small, to worry about without inventing end-of-the-world scenarios lacking any scientific validity. I fear that more people were more concerned about a misinterpreted 500-year old prophecy of a planetary alignment, solar storm, or other astrophysical catastrophe than the all too real threats posed by global climate change, a culture that increasingly devalues life, and even our economic problems. Perhaps it is just human nature to look toward impending doom we can do nothing about instead of doing the difficult and unpopular work on the things we can and must change to make a real difference. Case in point, dystopian fantasy has never been more popular than it is today. In 2013 let’s resolve to keep the genre clearly demarked as fiction.
As I mentioned in a blog entry in February, last year my top priority, as far as personal resolutions, was to lose weight - again. Unfortunately that had been an unfulfilled resolution for a number of previous years. While the first half of the year went by like the previous years with relatively little success, in August I discovered a free application call MyFitnessPal. Since I began using the app I have dropped fifty pounds. There is something magical about entering the food I eat to accurately track my calorie intake along with the exercise burning those calories off every day. Truth be told, it is much harder to convince myself that I can stay on track and have that extra helping of pie or cake for dessert since I spent some time at the gym, when the numbers are clearly saying the opposite. While I still have some fat to lose to hit my goal, I have lost enough to have fun running again. I have also taken up swimming regularly which has also helped in the shedding some of that fat.
Coincidently, a study conducted by Duke University Medical Center and East Carolina University published this month in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that aerobic exercise was more effective than resistance training at fat loss. Two hundred and thirty-four overweight participants were divided into three groups: one group participating in resistance training three days a week, another walking about 12 miles a week, and the third group doing both. The study found that the two groups that did aerobic training had significant fat loss while the group that did only resistance training gained muscle but did not lose fat. The group that did both lost fat and gained muscle but the fat loss was the same as the aerobic-only group even though they exercised twice as long each week. The researchers concluded that aerobic exercise was most effective at decreasing fat compared to resistance training.
This finding has also certainly been consistent with my experiences. In fact, I started gaining fat in 2004 when, after running two marathons in 2003, I devoted much of my exercise time to weight training. That ended this August when all my exercise time was devoted solely to cardiovascular work – jogging around Saint Vincent and Greater Latrobe, swimming in the Saint Vincent pool, or doing the machines in the gym, the elliptical trainer, stationary bike and rower – and the result has been wonderful. While I miss moving a loaded barbell around, especially the Olympic lifts, I found as the study recommends, focusing on cardio work for fat-loss is most effective for me. So, if you are looking to drop a few pounds in the New Year, I recommend looking at MyFitnessPal and aerobic exercise – they worked for me, along with generous portions of supporting friends and family and, of course, prayer.
Resolutions help us set the goals we need to keep improving ourselves. They should not be easy to accomplish if they are truly meaningful. Keep positive, keep balanced, know your limits, and respect moderation. See failures as temporary setbacks on the road to ultimate success. And remember Jesus taught, “with God all things are possible” Matthew 19:26.
Have a joyous New Year and good luck with your resolutions for 2013!
Dr. John Smetanka,
Dr. John J. Smetanka has been a member of the full-time faculty since 1997 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Academic Dean of Saint Vincent College, a position he has held since January, 2008.