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No pain, no gain mentality not the answer to long-term health and well being

No pain, no gain mentality not the answer to long-term health and well being
February 21, 2011

Australia's peak health and exercise body suggests that unrealistic reality television programs that encourage extreme weight loss, achieved by an excessive restriction of kilojoules and vigorous exercise, are sending the wrong message to the Australian public about safe and effective exercise participation.

Anita Hobson-Powell, Exercise & Sports Science Australia (ESSA) Executive Officer, explains "it is clear that contestants on these shows are exercising at levels of intensity that are unsafe for their likely health status and level of fitness.

"This 'no pain, no gain' mentality displayed on (TV) shows leaves little room for encouraging healthy dietary and weight loss practices with an increased possibility of injury and risk to personal health.

"This message compromises the development of a long term change to make regular exercise apart of an individual's daily life."

ESSA believe that Australians looking to lose body fat and achieve weight loss should seek expert advice from university-trained exercise scientists and accredited exercise physiologists to tailor their exercise routine to their specific health goals.

ESSA are also critical of the Australian Government's National Physical Activity Guidelines, which, they believe "focus on maintaining an individual's current health status, rather than improving health and wellbeing.

The National Physical Activity Guidelines, recommend that, to maintain health and prevent a wide range of chronic diseases, Australian's need to undertake 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most, preferably all days. The Guidelines also recommend that, for best results, around 30 minutes of vigorous activity three to four days per week.

However, ESSA highlight that, until last year the definition of these intensity levels between providers of physical activity and exercise was inconsistent.

To provide clarity, in 2010, ESSA and Fitness Australia jointly endorsed their own guidelines for physical activity and exercise intensity, and for the terminology used between fitness and exercise professionals when reporting exercise intensity.

The guidelines define an individual's physical activity and exercise intensity according to objective, subjective and descriptive measures, across five categories of physical activity and exercise intensity.

Professor Kevin Norton, author of the ESSA/Fitness Australia guidelines, explains "the physical activity and exercise intensity guidelines define moderate intensity as an aerobic activity that is able to be conducted while maintaining an uninterrupted conversation and that can be sustained for about 30 minutes, for example walking, gentle swimming, and social tennis."

Hobson-Powell concludes that "achieving a healthy weight doesn't need to occur from drastic measures, and extreme weekly weight loss that can't be sustained, or maintained long term. We encourage Australians to use safe levels of exercise and well-balanced dietary changes so their health is improved, rather than compromised."

The position statement on physical activity and exercise intensity terminology has been published in Sports Medicine Australia's Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

For more information go to$File/adults_phys.pdf

Lower image shows Professor Kevin Norton. Image courtesy of ESSA.


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