Weight loss is given as one of the main reasons why people exercise. But what type of exercise is most effective if you have a couple of pounds or a stone or more to lose, and how long should you work out for? You can exercise all you like, but if you consume too many Units you will not win the battle.
Equally, diet alone will not work in the long term. Research shows that people who lose weight by dieting alone are significantly at risk of putting most of it back on within a year. You need to exercise to activate your muscles as much as possible. This will burn fat and reduce weight. To do this, we need to focus on intensity, duration and type of exercise.
For simplicity, think of your exertions on a 1-10 scale of intensity: 1 is totally at rest; 10 is completely exhausted. At 6 you are exercising mildly; at 7 you are becoming hot and perspiring; at 8 you are working hard but can still talk; and 9 is close to exhaustion and talking is not easy.
If you are just starting an exercise programme, you need to stay at about 6 or 7 on the scale. This is good news because you don’t need to reach the levels of intensity that make you feel significantly uncomfortable at the early stages of your fitness programme.
If however you are out of condition, as a result of illness, injury or obesity, this type of intensity could easily become quite a challenge after about 15-20 minutes. You may need to start at a lower intensity doing an exercise such as walking for a few weeks and then begin to raise the level.
Is it enough to exercise for 10-15 minutes? And is intense exercise that is done in short bursts of 2-3 minutes worthwhile? The answer to these questions is that any exercise will raise your metabolism and you will start to burn calories. If you follow the intensity rules – working out at 6-7 on the scale if you are just beginning exercise, pushing yourself harder if you are fitter – you will be able to continue for 10-15 minutes, and if you can manage 30 minutes or more, then even better.
You should aim to work out for at least 20-30 minutes three to four times a week.
Doing short bursts of activity, such as 2-3 minutes with a rest in between, over a period of 20 minutes, is known as interval training. This is a phenomenally good form of training to increase the strength and fitness of your cardio system. The intensity is higher when active, perhaps 8-9/10 (maybe running), and lower when resting, say 5/10 (steady walk). You will feel tired more quickly, so if you are starting from a low fitness base, wait until week 3 or 4 to do this.
TYPE OF EXERCISE
Finally, the type of activity that you do is important. If you want to lose weight you should do an exercise that will use as many muscle fibres as possible during the movement. Swimming is an excellent activity and rowing is particularly good at burning calories because its physical demands are so broad and challenging. Unfortunately, most people don’t like going on the rowing machine for more than a few minutes or can’t keep it up for long before becoming exhausted. This, therefore, may not be a wise choice.
You need to choose an exercise that you can sustain enjoyably for the duration, whether that is running, power-walking or working out in the gym, and then intersperse it with short periods doing something more difficult such as sprinting, or if you are in the gym, working out on the rower. And if an activity such as gardening causes you to work out at an intensity of 7, it may be that this is enough for you.
KEEP PUSHING YOURSELF
If you are reaching the desired targets, you are helping yourself enormously. Just don’t fall into the group of people who become comfortable doing activities that were once enough but that you have outgrown. Constantly monitor yourself and ask yourself: “Am I truly testing myself?” If the answer is “yes” and you have control over your diet, you will almost certainly lose weight!
What type of exercise do you do? Tell us all about your fitness routine in the Unislim Forum!