Looking for exercise advice

After lurking here (intensely) for more than a decade, I finally have a question that I’m hoping someone can help me with:

See, the thing is, I’m getting old and fat. I carry my excess weight in my stomach and waist, so I’m the unhealthy “apple shape”.

Recently, I’ve been making a concerted effort to lose weight and possibly re-gain some of the muscle tone from my youth, but I haven’t seen a lot of progress. I’m trying to watch my calories, fat and fiber, while getting more exercise.

My initial thoughts were that, since I used to walk regularly and didn’t have much of a weight problem at the time, then all I need to do now is start walking again. But I’m questioning whether this is going to do the trick. What I’m trying to figure out is, if my excess weight is parked around my middle, will exercising my legs (walking) help me lose my spare tire?

I mean, my legs are fine, weight-wise. I even have some remaining muscle-tone in my thighs. Am I wasting my time exercising my lower half in order to reduce my upper half?

One more teensy question: Does anyone remember back in the sixties, when you could buy a groovy little platform that had some sort of mechanism that would let you stand on it and “twist”? It was supposed to be a “waist reducer” thing. I used to have one when I was a teenager, and it’s occurred to me that maybe I should try to find one of those things.

Are there any other former “apple shapes” out there who might have some sensible advice? I’d sure appreciate hearing from you.


The way I understand weight loss, you don’t have to target a specific area of the body in order to lose weight there. Instead, doing cardio, like walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc, all burn fat from all parts of the body, assuming you are doing the exercise for long enough for the body to kick into fat burning mode. So, I can run, which mainly works my legs, and still lose fat from my belly.

Now, if you are looking to tone muscles, then you do need to target that specific muscle group.

BTW, good luck with wanting to get into better shape!

Maybe you should try the C25K starting next week. You can see a thread about it in MPSIMS. It’s a gradual approach to get you from couch potato to running a 5K. If my foot hadn’t been sore for the last three months, I’d be tempted to join them.

As far as losing the middle, I don’t think that targeted weight loss really works. Increase caloric burn and decrease calories is the way to lose weight.


Since walking is a target already, have a look at: Pedometer Walking: Stepping Your Way to Health, Weight Loss, and Fitness

Just gonna back up Peggy on this one. Extra weight in the form of fat only goes away when you metabolize the fat (well, I guess invasive surgery can do the trick too).

So, the trick is to operate your body on a calorie deficit, which is accomplished by

  1. eating fewer calories (lots of different diets out there)
  2. increasing physical activity

Walking again is a great way to get rid of the tire. Also, think of other enjoyable activities or hobbies that have kept you moving in the past. If the ‘waist reducer’ is both strenuous and fun give it a shot, but there are plenty of other equally effective options.

Personal theory time: while individual activities might seem like they don’t accomplish a lot if you look up data on ‘calories burned/hour,’ I think that they boost your metabolism throughout the day. The net effect is more beneficial than implied by using an exercise table to calculate hours/donut or something :slight_smile:

Had that same thing happen - which sucks when you’ve spent your life up to that point as a skinny thing.

It’s not nearly as easy once you reach a certain age. I managed to lose some of the fat (3" in waist size). I’m still not happy (yes, the six-pack would be nice, but doubt that’s gonna happen without surgery), but I’m in much better shape now.

But, it took a concerted effort, with rigorous diet, lots more cardio, and weight training.
Best advice … ditto the comments on the cardio. Build up gradually, but it will take time and perseverance. Also important to make sure there’s strength training (and don’t ignore the legs); muscle burns more calories than fat.

Good luck!

The amount of nutrition and exercise disinformation out there is truly staggering. It’s almost impossible to separate the flax from the chaff - so I encourage you to do your own research primarily and decide what works best for you. So, basically, take this with a grain of salt.

What isn’t disinformation is the fact that spot reduction is an unadulterated lie and anybody telling you otherwise is likely to try and sell you something shortly thereafter. Your unfortunate “apple shape” does indeed correlate with increased heart disease, but in terms of the absolute distribution of the jiggly stuff around your body, the golden rule is; first on, last off. If that extra oreo in your teens added the first tiny layer of adipose to your hips, that’ll be sticking around until last. Your body is genetically and hormonally predisposed to store fat in certain areas (which is why guys get love-handles and girls get badonkadonks) and there’s very little you can do other than approach the problem holistically.

Any chemist will tell you that it’s a simple matter of thermodynamics; energy in, energy out. The offset is what’s added or subtracted from your Belly Fund. By and large this is a good principle to work off of, but keep in mind that factors such as meal timing, frequency, and composition will all impact you to significant extents. The best single thing you can start doing right now, this instant, is to eat more often. Five or six meals a day is a vast improvement over the valley-and-trough bloodsugar spikes the typical carbohydrate heavy thrice-daily meal schedule induces. Stable blood sugar, in general, makes everything else run smoother and a lot more predictably. Start a food log.

Don’t condemn fat! Seriously! One of the most appalling nutritional debacles of the last twenty years has been the stigmatization of dietary fat. This has lent to a shift of snack foods from grease to corn syrup as the flab-expanding ingredient of choice and it’s not really an improvement. Definitely make sure that you’re getting proper amounts of fat, and a 40:40:20 ration of poly-, mono-unsaturated and saturated fats is a good place to begin. Consider adding a fish oil supplement, the stuff is absolutely incredible. Eat fewer carbohydrates and have protein with every meal. Start a food log.

Walking probably isn’t going to do a whole lot. Sure, it burns some mediocre amount of calories compared to sitting and doing nothing, but drastic body composition changes are (in my experience and semi-education) things that require, frankly, ass-busting. Humans are designed to walk - quite efficiently. This makes it a poor weight loss routine, you’re simply not going to burn the calories by strolling around every other day. High-intensity weight training is probably the best, in terms of metabolic impact. Cardio has its place, but don’t neglect acute, anaerobic workouts. The “fat burning zone” is a load of garbage.

Start a food log. Nutrition is by far the most significant factor in changing body composition - and while you mention “watching” your calories, fiber etc. it’s important to really quantify that kind of information. Your diet is probably nowhere near what you think it is.

Mid-40s pear shape chiming in! I recommend Nordic walking. It is an excellent way to get cardio for fat burning, while toning the core muscles and relieving strain off the knees and hips.

When I first came to this part of the island two years ago, I loved to walk along the Cape Lazo Road. I thought I was ambling along at good pace when I heard “On your right!” behind me. I edged over to the left and then turned my head to the right, expecting to see a bicyclist passing me. Nope. It was man in his late 80s (and very likely his into 90s) blowing by me, using Nordic poles.

Bicycling is good, but it’s hard on the back when you’re carrying a lot of weight in the stomach area, or in my case an excess of boobage. I lost quite a bit of weight first before I got back on my bike.

It is not possible to spot-reduce fat, short of surgery. Wherever you tend to gain fat first is where you will lose it last.

That having been said, brisk walking is a good, low-impact way of burning off body fat. Keep in mind that the slower you lose the weight, the longer you will keep it off.

No, don’t waste your money. Again, exercising your waist does not burn fat off your waist.

If you do crunch-style sit ups (which is free), you can both burn off fat (from your whole body) and increase muscle tone in your abdominals. Thus, if you have a pot belly from lax abdominals, you can reduce it, not by reducing the fat but by pulling in the muscles.

As mentioned, add some weight training to build muscle and raise your metabolic rate. It is also the case that stronger back muscles (for instance) can get you to stand up taller and improve your appearance even if your weight doesn’t change. Build up your shoulders, and your waist looks smaller even if it is the same size.

Two or three sets of 8-12 repetitions in the basic exercises three times a week is a good start - squat, bench press, pulldowns on the lat machine, calf raises, biceps curls, shoulder press, and crunches.


Got to disagree with you on walking. Walking burns roughly 100 calories/mile (compared to running which is around 125 cal/mile - certainly more but not by an order of magnitude). It is pretty low impact, everybody knows how to do it, it requires no special equipment aside from a decent pair of shoes and socks and you can do it anywhere, anytime, in any weather. These things make it an ideal activity for someone who is trying to get back into shape, especially if they are older and/or worried about getting injured by doing too much too fast.

We’ve done some of this stuff to death in the monthly weight-loss thread but I’ll throw out some numbers again just as an illustration - let’s say Portwest wants to lose a pound a week; that’s a very sensible goal (general recommendation is 1-2lbs a week is a healthy and sustainable rate). A pound of fat is about 3500 calories so that’s 700 calories per day.

Obviously diet and nutrition are an important part of the equation - like you said it’s a good idea to keep a food log or some other way of tracking what you actually eat, there’s undoubtedly plenty of junk food that can be gotten rid of or portion sizes that can be controlled. Trimming intake by a few hundred calories a day is pretty simple for most people, given what most folks eat (ditch the soda, substitute an orange for a glass of OJ, have some popcorn instead of that bag of chips, etc). Let’s say that’s 400 calories per day.

Walking 3 miles/hour is a nice pace (4 isn’t hard but it’s brisk), so walk an hour a day - make it your lunch break and then pick up a salad on your way back instead of having that McBurger. So there’s 300 hundred calories of exercise per day.

Voila, simple, small changes that theoretically will get you into the 1lb/week range. Which may not sound like much short term but keep in mind that this kind of thing is a long-term (lifetime, IMHO) change to lifestyle. 50lbs per year sounds much better than 1lb per week. I know plenty of people who have lost large amounts of weight and kept it off with walking as their primary form of exercise.

Yes there are much more intensive forms of exercise but if you are intimidated by them, or get injured, or it seems like there’s all kinds of startup barriers (like classes, expensive equipment, limited time to do it, etc) then you probably won’t engage in that activity and so it does no good at all. So definitely, start walking a lot. As you lose weight and gain energy you may find that other types of exercise come easier to you and you’ll start going to the gym or whatever, but it’s not critical to find “the best” exercise and go all out on that from the beginning.

ETA - ditto on spot-loss of fat, just get your food under control and your activity level up, the fat will come off but you don’t get to decide where from.

Wow. Quite a solid thread of responses! I believe I’ve been given some very sensible advice here. Thank you all. I really appreciate your taking the time.

I’m not much of a runner – actually, I hate running – but I could easily add a bit of cycling, “fast walking”, and maybe even a swim now and then to get my cardio up. Weight training is do-able, too.

As for the pedometer, I’ve never found one that actually works. I already take a fish oil supplement; I already keep a food log. I eat more fresh veggies than most people, and haven’t had a soda, potato chip or “McBurger” in years.

But to reiterate – I truly appreciate all the advice. I’m definitely going to switch it up a bit and add some new moves to my routine. Next time I post on SDMB, you’ll see how much slimmer I am. :slight_smile:

  • Portwest

You might try tracking your food at this site. For me, it was a real eye-opener…I thought I was eating healthy, but I was eating too much. Once I started keeping track, that plus the exercise finally began to make a difference.

Thank you. I really love dialogues on nutrition and exercise, so it’s hardly an altruistic endeavor.

If I may, (and I’m assuming you’re male) I would recommend weight-training above all else. Prolonged periods of cardio tend to raise cortisol levels - a stress hormone - which promptly kicks your body into “omg emergency lipogenesis go go go!” mode. Learning to properly preform the squad, bench press, and deadlift will recruit pretty much every muscle in your body and burn way more calories than traditional “aerobic” routines. Aside from the simple energy expenditure, lifting increases your metabolic rate for prolonged periods, adds lean mass, and stimulates testosterone and growth hormone release. So not only will you look better nekkid, but you’ll be manlier besides.

Of course once you real a certain level of baseline fitness (and I don’t really know where you’re starting) it will quickly become difficult to simultaneously add muscle and remove fat - but that’s a distance off still, I’m assuming. Just make sure that your nutrition plan doesn’t merely involve you removing calories, but rather displacing them with higher-quality food. The former will tank your metabolism, the latter, enhance it.

Good luck! Most people overestimate how hard it’ll be and underestimate how long it will take. Getting into shape is (much as a despise this term) a true and honest lifestyle change. It’s not a temporary stopgap.

Not just a personal theory…

When you turn fat into muscle, you burn more calories just sitting around doing nothing, as you body needs to “feed” muscles, but it does not need to feed fat.

So, all things being equal, a person with good muscle tone (note I did not say a muscle-bound person) will have a higher resting metabolism than a fat person.


Nitpick…fat doesn’t turn into muscle. Fat is fat and muscle is muscle. Getting muscles bigger by working them out converts them in to more efficient metabolizers. Muscle weighs more than fat, so don’t fret if you gain weight…break out the tape measure and watch your progress that way.

FWIW, I’m female. Interconnected Series of Tubes, the last thing I want to do is look “manlier,” but I get your drift: I need to build up some muscle.

I like the idea of building enough muscle that I can sitting around burning more calories. :slight_smile:

Ivylass, that SparkPeople web site is amazing. I signed up and started tracking my nutritional intake, and can see that I’m not actually doing too badly, food-wise. Certainly, I could cut back and see faster results, but I believe it’s the exercise part that I need to pump up.

Thanks again, everyone!

In that case, you should -still- be lifting weights like an animal. Please don’t become one of those girls in the corner doing squad-deadlift-shoulder press-overhead tricep extension combinations with pink 2lb dumbbells while standing on a swiss ball. Men - who have those niftily high testosterone levels - struggle with diet and balls-out exercise for years to pack on a few pounds of muscle. Ladies could do the same thing and add a fraction of the mass - I really hate it when I see females shortchanging their gym experiences because of some unfounded belief that pumping a heavy weight will instantly turn them into veiny slabs of beefcakette.

Once again, good luck! I’ll, uh… go do some work, or something, now.

Although this may be accurate, it strikes me as slightly misleading in presentation. Assuming you walk at a pace of 4mph and run at 8mph, an hour of walking = 400 lost calories, an hour of running = 1,000 lost calories. A significant difference.

I have to ask for a cite here. While strength training is certainly a good thing and can increase basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories you can burn in a given hour of exercise is miniscule compared to a vigorous cardio workout. If fat loss is the goal, then a primary regimen of cardio plus strength training to increase your metabolism seems the most reasonable plan to me.