Q. I have followed several "health programs" on and off and all of them emphasize two things: aerobic exercise and dieting or calorie restriction. The Longevity Lifestyle Matters program doesn't seem to emphasise those two areas and I'd like to know the reason.

A. Obtaining appropriate physical activity and exercise is an important component of a longevity lifestyle—in balance. Dieting or routine calorie restriction is not, although appropriate quality nutrition and portion control are. A plethora of studies have shown that while aerobic exercise can be helpful in maintaining one's weight within an appropriate range, it doesn't seem to help all that much over time in dropping pounds. Returning to an optimum weight requires a balanced and comprehensive approach of key elements. As one writer put it, although aerobic training does burn calories, it is nowhere near as effective for weight loss as simply eating fewer calories. It takes a solid 30 minutes of running on a treadmill to burn 300 calories, but takes you less than 30 seconds to eat a 300-calorie chocolate bar.

You probably know individuals who "over-exercise" in order to, as they put it, "Eat whatever I want." They can often sustain this for a while but not in the long term. One woman stopped her high level of gym and jazzercise exercise over the holiday season and gained 50 pounds in 4 months—because she kept eating "whatever she wanted" in the same amounts she had while exercising two hours a day. Slow and steady with components present and in balance appears to be the best bet for overall success in the long term.

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