Saskatoon

Choose walking over lifting? Not so fast: Saskatoon-based physical trainer

A Saskatoon-based physical trainer is unconvinced that one single way is the best approach for people to lose weight.

Says not to count out group and mental aspects, too

Saskatoon-based personal trainer Harvest Stack says that brisk walking, though effective, isn't the be-all and end-all for weight loss; other physical activity is effective too. (Eric Anderson/CBC)

Pump that iron. Push it on the bike. Give it one more rep on the bench press. 

Or, go for a quick walk outside. 

Unlike a crusty old gym coach fixated on a sure-fire way to lose weight, a Saskatoon-based physical trainer is unconvinced that one single way is the best approach for people to lose weight.

Amid a growing number of people in the health and fitness industry who say that brisk walking, not lifting heavy iron, is the best way to lose weight, Harvest Stack spoke with Saskatchewan Weekend host Eric Anderson.

Stack is based at Saskatoon's Freedom Fitness. She said she came across a London School of Economics study published recently that says people are "more likely to have a lower weight if they regularly engage in high impact walking," instead of other "vigorous activity like going to the gym."

What she found was that the participants in the study were measured by body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. BMI is a measurement that takes into account a person's height in relation to his or her weight.

"BMI only accounts for height and weight. So if you're a power lifter who has a ton [of] muscle and is 5'6", you're going to be considered obese, according to the BMI scale," Stack said. 

BMI only accounts for height and weight. So if you're a power lifter who has a ton muscle and is 5'6", you're going to be considered obese, according to the BMI scale.- Harvest Stack

Her concern with using BMI as an indicator in the study is that such a measurement tends to over-predict or under-predict for a lot of people in a given pool of research.

The study in question found that men and women who regularly did brisk walking for more than 30 minutes, three times per week, had smaller waists and lower BMIs than those who did regular sports or exercise.

Stack admits she was somewhat surprised with the results of the study. 

"Upon further reading of the actual journal article, at the end in the conclusion, it states that 'although yes, the brisk and fast walking was the highest level of weight loss, and lower BMI,' it also said that sports and physical activity was close behind it too," she said. 

She noted what this leads to is that "when you pick and choose bits of that, you can pull it out as this is the best one, you don't need to do sports or physical activity.

"But, if you look into it further, it says that they're right behind one and other," she said. 

Her recommendation?

Do whatever physical activity — whether it's walking, lifting, spinning or elliptical training — that you're most comfortable with. And don't count out the mental or the communal aspects.

"As far as the group setting goes, you tend to push yourself a little bit further," she said. Like in a group spin class, "the tendency to push harder or work harder is always way higher."

That tendency, she says, comes from being in a group and being mentally focused on showing other group members that one is trying as hard as possible, and not lagging behind.

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