‘Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.’ Jim Ryan
Are you afraid to exercise in case it makes you hungry so you eat more? Although it’s logical to assume that exercise stimulates appetite, this doesn’t seem to be the case. In fact, when you exercise with high intensity, your appetite may even be suppressed for a short period of time.
When it comes to losing fat, diet and exercise work best together. In one study, over 400 women were divided into four groups.
- One group followed a calorie-reduced diet
- One group exercised for 45 minutes a day, five days a week
- One group exercised and followed a low calorie diet
- One group made no changes to their usual diet and lifestyle.
After a year, those in the exercise-only group lost around 2kg each, those in the diet group lost 7kg, while those who did both lost an impressive 9kg over the year. Not surprisingly, those who did nothing lost no weight at all.
So which exercise is best to burn those pounds? Those who were most successful took part in regular, moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, cycling or using gym cardio machines. They started slowly and gradually increased to 45 minutes activity a day. Interestingly, the women who lost the most weight and body fat were those who kept a food journal in which they wrote down everything they ate and drank, and who ate more home-cooked meals rather than eating out in restaurants.
Take exercise in your stride
Walking is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of increasing your fitness level – use a pedometer to count the steps you take, and aim to walk as fast as is comfortable. Brisk walking is better for weight loss than dawdling.
Using a pedometer is great for setting goals and targets such as beating the number of steps you walk in a given time. As well as keeping up your motivation, it will help you push towards reaching your fitness goals.
The ultimate aim is to achieve at least 10,000 steps a day, every day, which is equivalent to around an hour of brisk walking. But don’t push for this straight away, or you may end up feeling stiff and sore – especially if you already have a touch of osteoarthritis.
Start by wearing the pedometer for a few days and record the number of paces you normally take in a day, without attempting to increase your level of activity. Round the average number of paces you take up to the next 1000, then, try to increase it by 10%.
So, for example, if you are used to only taking up to 4000 paces, aim for 4,400 over the next week, and so on as follows:
|Current paces per day||Aim for 10% more|
|Optimal paces per day for weight maintenance||10,000 plus|
Once you’re comfortable with the number of paces you’re doing, increase by another ten per cent until you feel you’ve reached your limit which, ideally, will be 10,000 steps per day or more. Over the course of the month, try to gradually build up the time and intensity of your walking.
It’s amazing what a difference simple things can have on your fitness and weight, such as always taking the stairs rather than the lift, or walking to places rather than relying on your car.
Are you doing too much?
You know exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and managing your weight, but is it possible to exercise too much? Unfortunately, the answer’s yes – especially when combining vigorous exercise with careful dieting. But everyone’s body is unique, making it difficult to pinpoint exactly what constitutes ‘over-exercise’ for you. You may even have varying tolerance to exercise at different times of the month, depending on hormone balance, your recent calorie and nutrient intake, if you’ve been ill and so on. There’s no hard and fast rule about how much is too much.
The key is to remain aware of your own physical signs when your body is struggling with your current exercise schedule. Things to look out for include:
- lack of energy
- general fatigue
- aches and pains in muscles or joints
- delayed soreness the next day
- broken sleep patterns
- Irritability and mood swings.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it could be a sign that you’re over-exercising, or not getting enough energy or nutrition to sustain your current exercise regime. If it seems like you might be overdoing it, the best thing is to stop rigorous exercising for a few days, and switch to something lighter like walking. And pay attention to your diet and hydration levels – are you getting enough vitamins and minerals by eating at least five servings fruit and veg per day? If not, you might benefit from a multivitamin supplement.
The most effective form of exercise for weight loss is, undoubtedly, high intensity interval training, or HIIT, which you can read about here.