In one of their latest commercials, Coca Cola asks,"What if there were a new, fun way to pay for a Coke?" No, they're not talking about Monopoly money. The company actually set up a jumbo stationary bike rigged to some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption, which spat out a can of Coke after each rider cycled for 23 minutes.
While the Coke was probably quite warm once it made it's way through the machine's slides and doodads that sunny day, the message was clear: If you want to work off the calories in a can of cola, be prepared to exercise for more than one-third of an hour (or even longer if you weigh less than their estimated 140 pounds).
Of course, that's just one can, which at 12 ounces is among the smallest packages of Coke on the market. Chug a 20-ounce bottle (labelled as just one serving), and you'll feel 240 calories rush right down your throat. That would take the same 140-pound person nearly 40 minutes to work off on that stationary bike.
But from a fitness standpoint, why spend your exercise time working off your dietary mistakes or "earning" a can of what's essentially liquid candy? Coke still supplies nothing but empty calories, as it has no vitamins, minerals or other nutrients -- just a whole lot of sugar.
And what if you skipped that Coke entirely but stuck with the exercise? You'd end up losing weight, not just breaking even and feeding an unhealthy habit. One pound of body fat contains about 3,500 calories; by burning off an extra 140 calories per day, you'd lose that pound in 25 days.
And by working off the caloric content of a 20-ounce Coke per day (without actually drinking the soda), it would take you just under 15 days to lose a pound -- so by the end of the month, you'd be two pounds lighter.
Weight aside, exercise comes with a plethora of health benefits -- and the Coca Cola Company does deserve a bit of credit for encouraging aerobic activity. This type of workout, which includes biking, brisk walking, jogging and swimming, is shown to help prevent some major illnesses such as Type 2-diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and even certain types of cancer. It also helps keep your immune system strong and your arteries clear of plaque.
Exercise is even good for your brain. It's shown to elevate mood and help combat depression, and also helps your mind stay sharp as you grow older. In fact, aerobic activity may be one of the best ways to fight Alzheimer's disease in old age.
The truth is that exercise doesn't make up for a poor diet, no matter how many calories you burn. But by adopting healthier eating habits and engaging in regular exercise at the same time, you can make a significant difference in your weight as well as your overall health. So say "no" to the Coke and "yes" to the exercise, and you'll truly feel good about your choices.
Nina Kate is a certified fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM). She also studied journalism at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and has contributed to numerous major publications as a freelance writer. Nina thrives on sharing nutrition and fitness knowledge to help readers lead healthy, active lives. Visit her wellness blog at BodyFlourish.com.