If you've been inactive, getting back in shape can be challenging. Maybe you've added several pounds to your frame and are sporting that infamous beer belly that plagues many men. Gradual dietary changes and slowly starting to exercise can get you back in shape and improve your quality of life. You'll look and feel better as well as reduce your risk of health conditions, such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Plan Your Approach
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, sticking to an exercise routine is easier if it's feasible, proven, accessible and enjoyable. They recommend planning ahead of time and setting short- and long-term goals. This should include consulting your doctor, especially if you have health concerns or injuries. You should also schedule your workouts on a calendar so they conveniently fit into your days and don't clash with work and family obligations. A short-term goal can be to exercise for 30 minutes on five days of the week, and a long-term goal can be to participate in a 5K run in 6 months. Monitor your progress for extra motivation to stick to your exercise routine.
Vary Your Cardio Routine
In addition to improving the health of your lungs and heart, cardio burns calories that can help reduce belly fat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests gradually working your way up to doing at least 30 minutes of cardio a day. You can split this up into three 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Aside from using an elliptical machine, stationary bike, rowing machine and treadmill, cardio can also include a game of basketball, soccer, racquetball or boxing. The key to sticking to your routine is adding variety so you continue to get results and don't get bored.
Incorporate Strength Training
Strength training can give you that often-desired muscle definition that's perceived as a sign of masculinity. It can also help reduce belly fat because the muscle tissue you build speeds up your resting metabolism, so you burn calories even when you're relaxing. The CDC favors strength training that targets your large muscle groups at least twice a week. They suggest slowly working your way up to doing two to three sets and eight to 12 reps of each exercise, and state that you should use enough weight so you can't do another repetition after finishing a set. Exercises can include bench presses and pushups to develop a well-defined chest; lat pull-downs, pull-ups, and biceps curls, for your upper back and arms; crunches and planks for your abdomen; and lunges and squats to balance out your lower body.
Make Gradual Dietary Changes
In addition to exercise, dietary changes can also help you get back in shape. Rather than adjusting your diet overnight, make gradual changes so you can slowly get used to them without feeling deprived. For instance, eat more vegetables, and start using olive oil instead of butter. Also, emphasize lean protein, reduced-fat dairy, whole grains and fruits. Limit sugar, as too much sugar can increase that fat around your middle. Consume no more than 1,500 to 2,300 mg of salt, because too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.
- The President's Challenge Program: Benefits of Being Fit & Eating Well
- American College of Sports Medicine: Starting an Exercise Program and Sticking With It
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Starting an Exercise Program
- Helpguide.org: Healthy Eating
- Harvard School of Public Health: Salt and Sodium