Exercising for weight loss
When it comes to successful and lasting weight loss, eating well is only
part of the battle. Physical activity will help you inch closer to your goal by
burning calories and building muscle. However, that’s not the only reason to
make exercise part of your daily life. Exercise also helps prevent many health
conditions, decreases stress, and makes you feel better.
How much exercise is
You don’t need to join a fancy gym or buy expensive home equipment to build
a good fitness program. Daily activities that count as physical activity
- cleaning your house
- walking to and from work
- taking the stairs instead of the elevator
You’ll want to get your heart pumping and break a sweat to
burn a significant amount of calories.
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages healthy adults to
complete at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per
week. Moderate aerobic activity includes many forms of exercise, such as brisk
walking, using an elliptical machine, or swimming laps. Alternately, you can
complete one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week, such as
running or cycling.
It’s best to spread your exercise out throughout the week.
Aim to get 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity on most days. The CDC also
recommends doing strength training, such as weightlifting or yoga, at least
twice per week.
You have many options for aerobic activity. For example, you can:
- play basketball
- play volleyball
- play soccer
- play tennis
You can also look for aerobics classes, yoga studios, or karate dojos in
your area. When it comes to exercise, there’s something for everyone.
One excellent, widely available option is walking. Its low-impact nature
makes it gentle on your joints, and you can do it anywhere. You can walk:
- around your neighborhood
- at the local mall
- during your lunch break
- while on vacation
- while waiting to board a plane
Walking can raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein
cholesterol, which is often called "good" cholesterol. It can also
lower your levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or the
"bad" kind. Walking can reduce your blood pressure, lower your risk
of type 2 diabetes, and boost your mood.
When you go for a walk, be sure to wear comfortable shoes
and weather-appropriate clothing. If you’re walking at night, choose to wear
items with reflective material to help drivers see you in the dark. Start with
five minutes of slow walking to warm up, concentrating on long strides to
stretch your muscles. Once you’re warmed up, pick up the pace. For the most
benefits, walk at a pace that challenges you but still allows you to talk
without feeling breathless. Cool down at the end of your walk by strolling at a
slower pace for five minutes, and then stretch afterward.
You also have other options besides walking. Just make sure to start slowly
and gradually build up your fitness level. Beginning an exercise program too
quickly is a recipe for injury and could set you up for failure. By building a
solid fitness base, you’re more likely to make exercise a lifelong habit rather
than a fleeting phase.
Benefits of exercise
Regular exercise has many benefits:
You must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. Exercise helps
you do this. The more you exercise, the less you need to reduce your food
intake. Instead of eliminating 500 calories from your food choices alone, you
can cut 250 calories from your daily diet and work off the other 250 calories
at the gym. That may be as simple as removing a bag of chips from your menu and
using the elliptical machine for 30 minutes.
Aerobic activity is great for burning calories, but strength training can also
help you lose weight. By increasing your muscle mass, you increase your metabolism.
When you replace fat with muscle, your body burns more calories at rest.
Increased energy levels
Regular physical activity helps you:
- oxygenate your blood efficiently
- deliver nutrients to your tissues
- rev up your cardiovascular system
- boost your circulation
After following your exercise routine for a while, your
heart and lungs won’t need to work as hard to function. This can give you more
energy to propel you through your day.
Exercise also improves sleep quality. It can help you get a better night’s
rest and leave you feeling ready to tackle the day.
In general, people who exercise regularly are healthier and get sick less
often. Regular workouts can help you prevent and manage many health problems,
- high blood pressure
- cancer, including colon and breast cancer
- type 2 diabetes
- rheumatoid arthritis
By increasing your activity levels, you improve your blood circulation
throughout your body and improve your coronary artery flexibility. This
promotes good blood flow and lowers your risk of heart disease, including heart
Exercise also increases the number of white blood cells in your body. These
are the cells that fight off pathogens, which can cause illness.
Whether you prefer a fast-paced spin class or a relaxing
mind-body yoga workout, exercise can help you relieve stress and feel calmer.
That’s because physical activity stimulates the release of feel-good brain
chemicals, including endorphins. These chemicals create the so-called “runner’s
high” that many people experience after exercise. Using your muscles can also
help ease tension, which often accompanies stress.
After your workout, you may find yourself feeling less
stressed, more focused, and more optimistic. Regular physical activity can also
increase your confidence. It may even help prevent depression. For example, a Duke University Medical Center study found that a
brisk 30-minute walk or jog three times per week may be just as effective as
medication for relieving the symptoms of major depression in certain people.
Always speak to your doctor before making changes to your medication routine.
Exercise for life
Maintaining a daily fitness routine often requires careful time management
and dedication. But the benefits of exercise are worth every moment you spend
on it. From weight loss to disease prevention, exercise is a natural and proven
health elixir. Make it a daily part of your life to reap the benefits for
years to come.