When it comes to weight loss, an often-overlooked factor is long-term success. The National Weight Control Registry maintains data on Americans who have lost more than 30 lb. and have maintained their weight loss for more than a year. Of these Americans, 90 percent exercise an average of one hour a day. Exercising every day within your target heart range conditions your body to burn calories more efficiently so that you can lose weight and keep it off.
Weight loss requires changing your calorie balance so that you burn more calories than you consume. Daily exercise helps you create a calorie deficit so that your body burns stored fat -- provided that you control your calorie intake. In addition to burning more calories every day, engaging in vigorous exercise and strength training elevates your metabolism so that you burn more calories all the time. This will help you lose excess weight and, ultimately, maintain a healthy weight long-term.
Exercise intensity provides a key to effective weight loss. While any form of physical activity will burn calories, aerobic exercise -- also known as cardiovascular exercise or "cardio" -- offers the best means to lose weight. For an exercise to count as aerobic, it needs to provide continuous rhythmic movement. Aerobic exercises include bicycling, rowing, jogging, aerobic dancing and brisk walking. Stop-and-start activities don't elevate your heart rate continuously, so while all sports and recreational activities burn calories, many of them don't provide aerobic benefits.
Harvard researchers followed the exercise habits of more than 34,000 women for 13 years. Women with a normal body mass index of less than 25 who spent 60 minutes or more a day exercising at moderate intensity gained less weight than less active women. Women with a higher than normal BMI gained weight even if they were among the most physically active group. The researchers concluded that overweight women require calorie restriction in addition to physical activity, the March 2010 "Harvard Gazette" reports. To succeed at losing weight, you need to create a calorie deficit by limiting your intake of calories in addition to exercising.
Your daily exercise session should consist of five to 10 minutes of warming up with gentle exercise such as slow walking, followed by at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise and a five minute cool-down of slow movement. Start slowly if you've been inactive. Taking three 10-minute brisk walks will give you 30 minutes of exercise every day. As you become fit, increase the time and intensity of your walks.