In the fifth installment of Maryon Stewart’s weight loss guide, she discusses exercise and finding the perfect fitness regime for you.
Incorporating regular exercise into your daily life is one factor that can improve the control of blood sugar, speed up your metabolic rate and help you to lose weight, as well as having many other health benefits. Exercise increases the sensitivity of the body’s response to insulin, leading to smoother control of blood sugar levels. Ideally, you should be doing at least four sessions of exercise per week to the point of breathlessness.
All too often our exercise regimes go out of the window at the first sign of stress. This is the opposite of what we should be doing, as physical exercise is one of the best stress busters there is. Research shows that regular activity helps to speed up the metabolism and encourages the release of endorphins, the body’s own feel-good hormones, which improve our mood and put us in a better frame of mind for dealing with difficult situations.
- 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week is a healthy goal to aim for.
- Choose an activity you like, as you are more likely to stick to it. Walking, cycling, jogging, dancing, swimming or following a workout on TV are all good choices.
- If you prefer exercising with other people, you could join an exercise class, work out to an exercise video or simply get singing and dancing to your favourite music.
- It will really help to note down how much you do so you can take pride in your achievements.
Measure your fitness level
Getting fit and staying fit through exercise is essential to a long and healthy life, and a vital aid to losing weight and keeping the excess weight off in the long term. Not only is exercise necessary for the optimum function, structure and preservation of muscles, joints, bones and heart, but it also does wonders for your mood and hormones, and can send energy levels soaring.
In addition it boosts circulation, keeps your skin looking healthy and helps to burn calories. If you do an hour’s vigorous exercise instead of sitting in a chair you could burn up to 200 calories, which otherwise may have gone on to your waistline. It has long been known that men tend to burn calories more easily as they have a higher muscle to fat ratio. So, if you are female and if weight loss has been difficult in the past, increasing your muscle mass through exercise will allow you to lose weight with less difficulty.
As in every area of your lifestyle, when it comes to exercise, balance is key. It is all very well encouraging people to exercise to the point of breathlessness but you need to build up stamina before attempting to do this for any length of time. If you start off exercising too vigorously you risk ending up feeling achy, tired and disappointed. On the other hand, if you don’t exercise hard enough to stimulate your limb and heart muscles you might as well not have bothered. If you haven’t exercised for a long time or are receiving medical treatment it is best to check with your doctor before embarking on a vigorous exercise regime.
Unless you are exercising regularly and feel comfortable doing so, consider that there is room for improvement. And even if you are fit, you need to bear in mind that you may need to work harder to stay fit and keep your metabolic rate ticking over at an optimum rate as you get older
If you are very overweight and unfit
- You should check with your GP before starting on a fitness regime. Then you can start exercising gently for 5–10 minutes a day and gradually build up the amount over a month.
- Walking and swimming are good stamina-building exercises.
If you are moderately overweight and not as fit as you should be
- You should start exercising gently, perhaps by going for a walk each day for at least half an hour. Gradually increase your pace to the point where you are walking briskly and you can feel your heart pumping away efficiently. You should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If you can’t you are could be overdoing it and should relax your pace.
If you are mildly overweight and exercise occasionally
- If you reckon you are a little overweight for your height and could do more exercise than you do, you need to follow an improver’s programme. This means stepping up your pace gradually and increasing the number of times you exercise a week.
- Swimming or aqua fit classes will get your muscles working without putting you at risk of post-exercise aches and pains.
If you are overweight but fit
- If you are on the heavy side but exercise at least four times a week, you should carry on with your routine, gradually increasing your pace and maybe adding another session. Continue to stick to a balanced eating plan.
The secret to sticking to any exercise programme is to choose an activity that you enjoy and one that you are physically capable of. That way you are more likely to stay motivated and look forward to doing it each day. There is little point in arranging to play squash if you hate the game or promising yourself you will go for a jog each day if you loathe running.
Remember that the aim of your activity is to get to the point of breathlessness. This type of exercise, known as aerobic exercise, stimulates the large groups of muscles in your body, getting them to contract rhythmically. Over time these muscles, including the heart, which is a muscular organ, become more efficient. And once you have achieved improved cardiac function you will start to feel better physically and mentally – instead of feeling sluggish you will feel energised and happy.
It is also a good idea to vary the type of exercise you do on different days of the week to stave off boredom. Good aerobic options include running, power walking, cycling, swimming, cardiovascular machines at the gym, tennis, squash, badminton, dancing, roller-blading, hockey, football, rowing, rope skipping or an aerobics-based exercise class. Alternatively you can just stretch and dance to your favourite music. I tune in and work out to Planet Rock on my digital radio before the day begins, and I swear I feel 20 years younger as a result. If you haven’t got an established exercise routine I recommend you give it a try.
Try to fit some exercise into your routine on a daily basis and chart the amount you do each day on your charts in the diary section. If you are concerned you may be not be able to stick to an exercise routine it may help if you plan out your week’s activity in advance in your diary or on a wall chart. It can also help to exercise with a friend. It’s more fun, feels less like a chore and you can catch up on gossip at the same time. You can also motivate each other – you are less likely to cancel your regular workout if you feel you are letting the other person down.
Keep the benefits of exercise uppermost in your mind until your regime is firmly established. When you have reached your goal of doing four or five sessions of exercise a week, work to maintain it but don’t exceed it on a regular basis. Believe it or not, too much exercise can be bad for you, putting a strain on your joints and bones.
After each workout really tap into how you are feeling. Because exercise encourages your body to release endorphins, the body’s own feel-good hormones, you will feel elated, full of energy and proud of yourself. Hold on to that thought and next time you start to hesitate over whether to work out or not remind yourself how good it makes you feel.
- If you are not exercising in a class, remember to warm up and warm down before and after every exercise routine
- Warm up slowly for the first few moments
- Continue until you reach the point of breathlessness – this is the signal to start the cool-down process
- Take a few minutes to cool down gradually rather than stopping vigorous exercise suddenly
Ten ways to sneak fitness into your life
- Walk around while talking on the phone to friends.
- Don’t use lifts; always use the stairs.
- Instead of e-mailing colleagues, go to their desks and talk to them.
- Go for a walk round the block in your lunch hour.
- Go to the disco instead of the pub and dance yourself fit.
- Get rid of the remote control and get up to switch TV channels instead of channel hopping from the sofa.
- Leave the car behind and walk or run to the shops for the newspaper.
- Put some real effort into the housework.
- Arrange to meet a mate and walk to the football match instead of having a pint in the pub beforehand.
- Take up an active hobby that you enjoy such as salsa, t’ai chi, or five-a-side football.
You will feel so much better for exercising regularly and you will notice that as well as burning up the fat the exercise will also tone you up so that you start to really like your reflection.