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TC's Ciccolo: Body Composition Beats Weight in Tracking Benefits of Exercise

Joseph Ciccolo, Assistant Professor of Applied Exercise Physiology in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences, in an interview with US News & World Report's health desk, says tracking body composition through measures such as lean body mass or bone density may be a better way to track progress in an exercise program than simply measuring weight loss. People who exercise regularly may expect to lose weight, but weight loss isn't the best measure of overall health.

LINK: Don’t Let the Scale Hijack Your Exercise Plans (U.S. News & World Report)

In the article, Ciccolo says a person may not necessarily be losing weight while building muscle tone, and get the mistaken impression they're not making progress, even if their overall health is improving, “If muscles start to get tighter and grow, you can definitely feel that,” he says.

One way to measure progress in an exercise regimen is by calculating changes in Body Mass Index, or BMI, which is a simple ratio of weight to height. But to get a more accurate measure body composition – such as a lean body mass, or muscle-to-fat ratio – requires sophisticated technology, Ciccolo says, such as a DEXA, or duel-energy X-ray absorptiometry scan that also looks at bone density.

Ciccolo says a BOD POD system, which measures body volume and weight, and bioelectrical impedance analysis, which uses electrodes to circulate a small electrical current to detect fat and muscle, also offer reliable ways to measure body composition. He says one might access such technology through a university or health care-based program, or through gyms or certified fitness trainers.

Ciccolo, director of TC’s Applied Exercise Psychology Laboratory, is co-editor with William J. Kraemer of Resistance Training for the Prevention and Treatment of Chronic Disease (2014, CRC Press, an imprint of the Taylor and Francis Group). The book includes chapters from 29 contributors on how resistance training can help deal with a dozen major chronic conditions – including cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s, and depression and anxiety.

Ciccolo's research investigates the physiological and psychological effects of resistance training for apparently healthy and known disease populations. He is a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and the National Strength and Conditioning Association, and he has authored or coauthored more than 35 papers in the areas of physical activity, public health, and resistance training. He is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist.

Published Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2015

TC's Ciccolo: Body Composition Beats Weight in Tracking Benefits of Exercise

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