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 Programs for Special Populations : Exercise: Does It Work For The Overfat Population? 

As illustrated in Figure 1, the men who began the program with higher percent fat scores lost more fat weight and gained more lean weight. As this finding was consistent category by category, it seems that excess fat did not limit the effects of the exercise program. In fact, the results of this study indicate that people with more bodyfat may experience a higher rate of improvement from a basic exercise program than those with less bodyfat.

A parallel study of 749 women divided into five initial percent fat categories produced similar results (Westcott and Guy 1996). That is, the women who began the program with more fat generally achieved better body composition improvements.

So, does exercise work for people who are over-fat? Yes, and it works much better than dieting. Unlike dieting, which reduces lean weight, exercise programs that include strength training add lean (muscle) weight which increases resting metabolism and burns calories all day long for better weight control. Unlike dieting, which cannot be continued very long, exercise can become a permanent part of your lifestyle. Unlike dieting, which needs attention all day long, exercise requires only an hour of your time, two or three days a week. And unlike dieting, which subtracts something good from your life (food), exercise adds something good to your life (physical activity).

While dieting alone is not recommended, a sensible eating plan coupled with a basic exercise program is probably the best way to attain and maintain a desirable body weight. The American Heart Association guidelines of 20% fat, 20% protein and 60% carbohydrate provides heart smart nutrition with limited fat calories. This is a sustainable nutrition program, that combined with regular strength and endurance exercise, can contribute to better health as well as improved body composition.

The exercise protocols in our studies are consistent with the recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine (1990). The endurance training program consists of about 25 minutes of continuous treadmill walking or stationary cycling at approximately 75 percent of maximum predicted heart rate. The strength training program consists of one set of 8 to 12 repetitions of 12 exercises for each major muscle group. Every repetition is performed at a slow movement speed through a full movement range.

The participants perform the following exercises in general order of larger to smaller muscle groups:

Nautilus Machine Target Muscles

Leg Extension Quadriceps
Leg Curl Hamstrings
Leg Press Quadriceps, Hamstrings, Gluteals
Double Chest Pectoralis Major
Super Pullover Latissimus Dorsi
Lateral Raise Deltoids
Biceps Curl Biceps
Triceps Extension Triceps
Low Back Erector Spinae
Abdominal Rectus Abdominis
Neck Neck Flexors and Extensors

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 About The Author
Wayne Westcott PhDWayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the......more
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