Move it to lose it: Exercise and weight loss

When you want to lose weight, moving more increases the number of calories you burn. The burning of calories combined with reducing the number of calories you eat results in weight loss. This is nothing new, but it is a new year and you might be looking for something new to get you moving. I’ll tell you what a wise person once said: The best exercise is the one you’ll do.

It just so happens that cardiovascular exercise has a little to offer to everybody. All types of exercise are beneficial – aerobic, strength and flexibility – but aerobic or cardiovascular exercise is king when you talk about losing weight.

Lose it for good
Evidence shows the only way to maintain weight loss is to be engaged in regular physical activity over time. In addition to losing weight and maintaining weight loss, increased physical activity also helps you:

  • Reduce high blood pressure
  • Reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and several forms of cancer
  • Reduce arthritis pain
  • Reduce risk for osteoporosis and falls
  • Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Slow and steady wins the race
If you haven’t been exercising regularly, start off by focusing on cardio training and then add other types of exercise, such as strength training. The important thing to remember, if you want to succeed long term at losing weight, is to make your exercise program a slow and steady process.

The standard goal for weight loss is losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. It’s a numbers game: 3,500 calories equals one pound. In order to have a deficit and help you lose weight you have to 1) eat fewer calories, and 2) increase your physical activity.

The national guidelines recommend reducing your calories by 500 to 1,000 calories a day to be able to lose 1 to 2 pounds. To shed pounds, and keep them off, you need physical activity. In the cardiac rehab program at Baptist Health we use .5 pound to measure weight loss because it is achievable. It might take a little longer, but the important thing is to do it.

Balance the equation
To get to a deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories, identify food items to cut back. If you drink two cokes daily, eliminate one coke, reduce your snacks, add 30 minutes of exercise and you’ll get to 500 fewer calories. The national recommendation for amount of activity is 150 minutes every week of moderate-intensity aerobic/cardiovascular activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic/cardiovascular activity, or an equivalent mix of the two each week.

This recommendation is just to maintain weight loss. If you want to lose weight, we’re talking about 300 minutes of exercise per week. That means 60 to 90 minutes per day most days of the week. That’s an eye opener for most people. But break it down: If you walk one mile, you’re burning about 100 calories. So, is it worth eating that bag of candy at 250 calories? If you do, you’ll be walking three miles to get ahead. That’s where change starts to happen. You begin to see eating and exercise as a balanced equation.

Working up to your goal
The general goal is to start off with 30 minutes of daily exercise. Work yourself up to attain and maintain 30 minutes of activity at least three times per week. Then sneak in a few extra minutes and add a fourth day. It’s a process that takes time. Keep in mind that just 10 minutes of cardio is beneficial to your health. So, you can break it down into 10-minute increments. There are other small things you can do to incorporate exercise throughout your day. For instance, you can park farther from the store entrance and walk a little more. Make these small changes a part of your daily routine.

The payoff is good health
Make an appointment with yourself to keep up your exercise routine. Think of it as a job for your health. Slowly build your exercise time to 30 minutes. And make it 30 minutes of something you like. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to commit to doing it. The first thing is to pick an activity you find enjoyable. Can you do it with a buddy? It can be dancing, biking or power walking. It can be inside the gym or outside. You’re looking for consistent rhythmic motion that uses the major muscles of your body and that you can sustain for a minimum of 10 minutes. We’re always looking for that magic, but there is no magic other than your own determination and discipline.

The Good News

Just losing 3 to 5 percent of your initial body weight will yield healthy results without dramatic weight loss. If you’re able to get to 10 percent, you really start to see significant health benefits. See related story.

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