In the past 20 years, obesity has become a major concern for Americans. In 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 33 states had at least 25 percent of their population considered obese. Excess body fat increases your risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and certain forms of cancer, and can shorten your life. An exercise program can help you lose weight and improve your health.
How to Lose Weight
Five days of cardiovascular exercise for at least 30 minutes is a good start to losing weight, but it is not the only component of a weight-loss plan. The National Weight Control Registry is a database that studies long-term, successful weight-loss and maintenance. According to their research findings, most members report maintaining a low-calorie, low-fat diet and doing high levels of physical activity, usually about an hour per day. There is a lot of variety in the activities reported, but most say that their preferred activity is walking.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends cardiovascular exercise three to five days per week, for 20 to 30 minutes each time, to improve health. For weight loss, they advise increasing the duration to 50 to 60 minutes per session, which coincides with the Registry findings. Your intensity should be moderate to difficult, but progress gradually if you are new to exercise. Cardio five days per week for 30 minutes a day may show you results at first but may not give you long-term success.
Use Interval Training
If time is limited, interval training can help you reach the maximum amount of intensity and calories burned. The University of Rochester Medical Center points out that most runners would find a two minute sprint difficult. Yet adding a 20 second sprint every five minutes, or six times, during a 30 minute jog allows the jogger to receive the benefits of a two minute sprint without becoming exhausted. This principle may be used at the office, by running up a flight of stairs, then walking back down the stairs, repeating several times for the greatest benefit, or at the gym by alternating high energy exercises with low- to moderate-level activities.
Add Resistance Training
A resistance-training program can have a significant effect on your weight loss. Resistance exercise adds lean muscle tissue to your body, which increases your metabolism so you burn more calories even at rest. This is because muscle tissue is metabolically active and requires more energy than fat tissue. Resistance training will also increase your overall strength and give your body a firm, toned look.
Intensity Plus Duration
The intensity with which you perform your cardiovascular exercise can be as important as the duration. One person who walks for one hour may burn 300 calories, while another may burn the same amount in 30 minutes of running. Make your workouts challenging but not exhausting, and add variety to prevent a weight-loss plateau. Exercise variety also makes exercise more fun and helps keep you motivated.
Create a Calorie Deficit
To lose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit through diet and exercise, consuming fewer calories than you burn on a daily basis. Monitoring your food intake with a journal will help you track your progress and hold you accountable. Beware of cutting calories too much, because this can actually slow your metabolism. Low-calorie has different meanings for everyone, and you need to feed your body adequate calories to lose weight safely.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: U.S. Obesity Trends
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription; American College of Sports Medicine
- National Weight Control Registry: NWCR Facts
- Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook; Nancy Clark, MS, RD
- University of Rochester Medical Center: Interval Training Can Spice Up a Workout
- Precision Nutrition: All About High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)