I’m about to give you some bad news. Recent studies now show that exercise actually isn’t the best way to lose weight. In fact, it accounts for a very small portion of your daily calorie burn, around 10 to 30 percent. So where do we spend most of our energy? Basic functions when our body is at rest, otherwise known as our basal metabolic rate. This accounts for about 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure!
While still preliminary, a growing body of research now shows that exercise by itself is pretty much useless for weight loss. So why exercise then? Well, for one there are still many health benefits associated with exercising such as reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack and even Alzheimer’s.
And while exercising might not be great for weight loss, it seems to help with weight maintenance when used along with watching your calorie intake. More importantly, for many people the reason they work out isn’t necessarily to lose weight, it’s to look and feel good about their body.
Losing weight definitely has its own health benefits so if your doctor has suggested it, you’ll need to focus more on your diet than anything else. One of the first steps to take on your weight loss journey is getting a good scale. Awareness is key to losing weight and it’s important to monitor it closely and consistently.
Exercises for Healthy Body
Okay, so while exercise might not help a whole lot with your weight loss, it’s still important to get your body moving. Luckily, you don’t have to do Spin classes or Hot Yoga to see the benefits of exercise. In fact, you don’t necessarily even need to go to the gym if you don’t want. You can do all of these in the comfort of your own home so long as you have the necessary equipment and drive.
You don’t have to sprint for long distances to get the benefits of cardio. Instead, the trick is to add in intervals to get your heart pumping. If you’re just getting started with cardio, you can start with a 30 minute walking session. Every 5 or so minutes try jogging for 30 seconds. As you increase your fitness level you can increase your speed or interval length. While most people hate cardio, it improves heart health and also can help elevate your mood as it helps release endorphins into your bloodstream.
You don’t have to hit the free weights section to get in some good strength training. In fact, there are many strength training workouts you can do at home just using your own body weight. Things like pushups, pullups, squats, etc. all only require some time and a little bit of space in your home. If you’re not sure how to get started at home, there are dozens of fitness videos online that will teach you the correct posture and exercises. The key to any kind of exercise regiment is to stay consistent.
Building muscle may actually help you lose some weight as well since one of the variables that affect your resting metabolic rate is the amount of lean muscle you have. The more muscle, the higher your metabolic rate. So if you really want to lose weight and keep it off, you need to implement strength training into your exercise regiment.
So aside from building your muscles, why should you strength train?
- It makes you stronger and fitter. This in turn makes it easier to do things on a day-to-day basis, especially as you get older.
- It can prevent loss of muscle mass as we get older.
- It improves bone density, structure and strength – especially important for post-menopausal women.
- It can improve your balance, coordination and balance
- Regular strength training can help decrease arthritis pain and improve glucose control
Strength and cardio are great, but you also need incorporate stretching into your daily regimen. Why? It keeps your muscles flexible, which allows us to maintain the range of motion in our joints. Without this, the muscles shorten and become tight. So when you call on the muscles for activity, whether it’s to go up some stairs or jog, they are too weak and cannot extend all the way. This leads to a higher risk of muscle damage, strains and joint pain.
Luckily, you don’t have to stretch every muscle in your body if you don’t have the time. Instead, focus on areas critical to mobility like your calves, hamstring, quadriceps and hip flexors. Of course, stretching your shoulders, neck and lower back are also beneficial.
One of the best activities for stretching is yoga. Many gyms offer yoga classes, but you can easily find beginner videos online if you want to try it out in the comfort of your own home. The benefit of going to an actual studio, however, is learning the correct posture and poses. That way, you can get the full benefit of the activity and reduce chances of injuring yourself. You can also wear wrist supports to further prevent potential injuries.
Just make sure to stretch AFTER you’ve warmed up as stretching cold can actually lead to injury.
Exercise and eating right are the two fundamental pillars for a healthy lifestyle. And while you’ll see the benefits more if you begin early, it’s never too late to start.
Disclaimer: This answer should not be taken in lieu of a trained medical professional’s advice. If you want to lose weight, speak to your doctor for information on best practices.