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Biggest Loser? Get Moving!
Is extreme exercise—promoted by a popular TV reality show—the best way to shed pounds? Our Hopkins experts weigh in.

blank Ryan Andrews with Sharon Benzil
Ryan Andrews with Sharon Benzil.

If you’re among the millions who’ve watched The Biggest Loser on TV, you’ve seen the rewards of eating less while exercising furiously every day. Flesh seems to melt away; contestants gain a new lease on life. You’re duly inspired, but how will you find the motivation to slim down? We turned to Ryan Andrews, personal trainer and dietitian at the Weight Management Center, for advice.

Many of his clients are stirred to action as they watch contestants battle the bulge together, Andrews reports. In fact, the Center uses the NBC show’s workout DVD and incorporates some of its diet and exercise tips.

But, cautions Andrews, Biggest Loser weight loss—15 to 20 pounds per week—is too much too soon. And it’s hardly real life. After all, how many of us can leave our families and head to a ranch where low-fat meals are served and a personal trainer cheers us on through every grueling mile, four to six hours a day?

“Such an intense workout just isn’t possible for most people,” Andrews says. “Sure, you’ll lose it fast, but you’re not going to keep it off.” And keeping it off, as anyone with a weight problem knows, is the hardest part.

In 2002, Joyce Parks, a clinical nurse specialist on Meyer 6, dropped nearly 100 pounds through the Weight Management Center. Since then, her weight has fluctuated as much as 40 pounds. “It’s a constant struggle,” she says. 

Start slow—10 to 15 minutes at a time—and build up, advises Andrews. Combine weight training and cardio and aerobic exercises, like walking, dancing and swimming. Aim for an hour at least four days a week.

According to the National Weight Control Registry, the biggest factor in keeping weight off is exercise. Indeed, for attorney Sharon Benzil, also a Center client, the key has been “making exercise as important as brushing my teeth.” Benzil lost 70 pounds over the past year and dropped from size 16 to 6. She exercises at a gym three to five times a week.

“My arms have never been this shapely, and I feel so strong,” she says. The best part? “Because muscle burns more calories than fat, I get to eat more.”

—Judy Minkove


The Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, at Green Spring, also offers individual and group behavior sessions, nutritional advice and medical supervision. Employee discounts available. Info: 410-583-2860.
 
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Top Five Exercise Tips

1. Exercise at least four to seven hours a week. Spend at least half the time on weight training (free weights or machines).

2. If possible, work out first thing in the morning.

3. Warm-up for at least four minutes.

4. Make it fun. Devote 10 percent of your workouts to anything you enjoy, like gardening, walking the dog or dancing.

5. Find a workout partner. You’re much more likely to stick to a routine when someone else holds you accountable.

 

 

Johns Hopkins Medicine

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