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Are You Fit Enough to Lose Weight?

11/08/2008 Family Fit Gamer Article
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Being a personal trainer I am always on the look out for relevant stories in the press. I read in the paper about Britain's fattest girl (linked below), who at 464 lbs is heavier than every pro wrestler in the WWE, and she's not even 16 years old.

As a fitness professional there's a lot of emotions that go through your mind when you read a story like this. You are shocked, appalled, even angry, but ultimately you feel very sad. Sad because you know it is so easy for people to get out of condition and so very hard for them to stay motivated to get back in shape.

The girl has just one problem, eating too much and not getting enough exercise. Although that sounds like two issues, it's actually just two sides of the same coin. Your weight gain or loss is determined by calories consumed against calories burnt. This girl has both sides of the balance going in the wrong direction.

Most people jump on an exercise machine or go out jogging with the misconception that if they run they will loose weight.

There is a real problem here though - she can only walk a few steps before she is out of breath. The plans mentioned in the paper to take her to a fat camp and walk 10,000 steps per day will simply not work. She is too unfit to lose the weight.

Let me explain, most people jump on an exercise machine or go out jogging with the misconception that if they run they will loose weight. Now, I could go into great technical detail here about metabolism, variation of exercise duration, cardio fat burning zones and maximum heart rates; but let's put it simply.

Exercise does not know your intentions! In heart rate terms, if walking makes you more active, then jogging will make you fitter and running will lose you weight. Your heart has an equally as simplistic view, it does not care if there is a flat screen in front of your nose or not, and reacts to exercise in the same way. Enter active gaming.

Exercise for this girl would be almost impossible, but active gaming could solve this problem for her. If you read the story you'll see the girl spends most of her time on the Internet, escaping reality. So what better way of getting her moving than letting her carry on with something she clearly enjoys, but getting her active at the same time.

I have scoured the options available and there is really only one, the PC-Sport from Gamercize. There is the excellent PC GamerBike by 3d Innovations, but this is racing focused and will not interact seamlessly with online reality games. The Gamercize kit gives the player the chance to be immersed in the virtual world while all the time requiring a steady rate of exercise. It becomes second nature to keep moving so she wouldn't notice the effort.

If I had the chance, in conjunction with both a dietitian and a physician, to work with her then this is how I would start her off. Use the PC-Sport stepper, while seated, at its lowest level for two to four weeks in order to raise her awareness of being active. She's happy that she can go online as normal, and the exercise is not a great effort.

Next, after checking what maximum heart rate her health could sustain, I would increase the intensity to get some extra cardio fitness into the deal - like jogging.

Look after your real life before you start your second life and learn to walk before you run.

There is no point in trying to get her to lose weight with exercise alone at this stage because of the stress on her internal organs. When the diet has reduced the fat around the organs and the fitness benefits of online active gaming slowly kicks in, that would be the time to ramp up the exercise to fat burning levels.

Although this particular girl goes way beyond my own expertise and requires expert medical help every step of the way there are lessons to be learnt for everyone. Look after your real life before you start your second life and learn to walk before you run.

Written by Luke Pyper

You can support Luke by buying Are You Fit Enough to Lose Weight?

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Luke Pyper writes the Fit Gamer column.

"As a trained professional fitness coach I bring an informed and balanced take on fitness video games. I cover Xbox 360, PS3, Wii-Fit, DS lite and PSP games from a gym, health and fitness angle."

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