Information about the role of exercise in weight loss is readily available, but few sources address what this means for those who are obese. If you get out of breath walking from the car to the front door, even the smallest amount of exercise can be overwhelming.
Where do I start?
You simply start at the beginning. Everyone has a different beginning and your only task is to identify yours. Start moving little by little, pushing a bit more each day. It's easy to fear the unknown and imagine the task of exercise as complicated and difficult, but there is no secret to exercise. Our bodies are designed to move. Involve your doctor in this process. He or she will know your health history and can tell you what may or may not be good for you at this stage in the process.
If you often sit for hours at a time, start by standing for 5 minutes every hour. Walk down the hallway and back. Once your body gets used to this amount of walking, increase the distance. You might also try 5-10 overhead arm-raises every hour. Any activity above what you're currently doing is an improvement and a step in the right direction.
How do I progress?
The key is to progress slowly by adding a bit more activity as you build up your fitness level. For example, when you feel stronger, add small hand weights (soup cans do the trick) while you do your overhead arm-raises. As your endurance increases, begin incorporating two 10-to-15 minute walks a day around the block. By gradually increasing your activity level, you can avoid injury while improving your health and losing weight.
What if I get discouraged?
Don't let the exercise fanatics of the world intimidate you! You are a beginner. Everyone starts somewhere. Start at your personal beginning and stay with it. You will be more fit tomorrow than you are today. Don't let your long term goals overwhelm you. Take one day at time, and if that's too much, take one hour at time. You'll be amazed at how quickly your body will respond to the training and how much healthier you will feel in a short time.
MyFoodDiary is designed to help you set attainable goals and focus on the importance of each day. If you string together one good day after another, you will reach your goals!
The number on the scale is not the only thing that will change after adopting healthier habits. Below is a list of 10 positive changes that reflect the benefits of weight loss.
Improved mood and attitude. Research shows that losing weight can improve your mood and decrease symptoms of depression. Better nutrition, higher self-esteem, and the benefits of exercise all contribute to an improved outlook on life.
Breathing easy. When you carry excess weight, your body must work harder. Walking and household chores may have quickly left you out of breath in the past. As your cardiovascular system becomes conditioned through regular exercise and your body weight decreases, fewer of your normal activities will leave you breathless.
Your piggy bank is full. Weight loss can save you money. Cutting out expensive, high-calorie coffee drinks and afternoon visits to the vending machine result in extra financial savings. Clothing will cost you less as you move away from plus sizes. Your health care costs can be dramatically reduced due to a strengthened immune system and a decreased risk of disease, which results in fewer treatments and medications.
Less jiggle in your middle (and everywhere else). Your body can become more toned and smaller without the numbers ever changing on the scale. You may notice there is now firm muscle where soft fat tissue used to be. Pay attention to how your clothing fits. You may need to tighten a notch in your belt before you see drastic weight loss in numbers.
Healthier body fat percentage. As you lose weight and gain muscle, your body fat percentage will decrease. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a body fat percentage of 10-22% for men and 20-32% for women for a reduced risk of obesity-related disease. Have your body fat accessed by a fitness or health professional to determine if you are within a healthy range, and reassess in three to six months as you lose weight and gain muscle.
Slimming circumference. According to the National Institutes of Health, waist circumference is a key indicator for health risk. Waist circumferences should not exceed 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. Measure your waist circumference every few weeks to track your progress, but don’t stop there. Measure your thighs, upper arms, and chest as well. The circumference of these areas will decrease as you lose weight, and become more toned with muscle.
Canceled cravings. As you make eating healthier foods a habit, your tastes will change. Yes, you will always have a favorite indulgence, but over time you will become more selective on where you save and where you splurge calories. For example, you may splurge on chips or fries and not like how you feel afterward, which will reduce the likelihood that those cravings will creep up again.
You keep going and going. Not only does exercise give you energy to face your day-to-day life, but you will begin to notice your current routine getting easier and easier. This is because your body is becoming accustomed to the activity, and it needs to be challenged once again. Over time, you’ll find that you can exercise for longer periods and at higher intensity levels.
Positively painless. Extra weight adds stress to the lower back and knees that can result in pain. As the weight comes off, so does the stress on these parts of your body. You will notice that you can do more with less pain.
Sleeping like a baby. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep problems are common in overweight and obese adults. Research has shown that even as little as a 10% reduction in weight can improve sleep apnea in obese individuals. In addition, regular exercise improves sleep quality when performed at least three hours before bedtime. As you exercise more and lose weight, you will sleep better, and feel rested and energized in the morning.
MyFoodDiary can help you achieve these wonderful benefits and much more.
Everyone needs a vacation (even if it means the occasional high-calorie treat or missed workout). The problem arises when these splurges go from occasional to common. Tight schedules, limited options, and unfamiliar territory make it easy for travel to derail your fitness routine. Take control and plan ahead using the following tips:
Dress accordingly. Exercise opportunities on the road won’t do you much good if you are not prepared. If your business attire doesn’t allow for athletic footwear, invest in a comfortable pair of dressy shoes. Rubber-soled dress shoes or a stylish pair of flats can make all of the difference. At the very least, carry your athletic shoes in your carry-on. Stick with a comfortable, yet presentable, outfit so you can walk the terminals during a layover. The same preparation tips stand for road trips. A quick walk around the parking lot at the rest stop will stretch the legs and burn a few calories.
Make space for exercise essentials. Be sure you leave space to squeeze in fitness essentials. An exercise band or tube will fit in the outside pocket of your bag for hotel-room strength training. Consider a pair of tennis shoes specifically for travel that will smash or bend for easy packing. Fill a baggie with mixed nuts and dried fruit, energy bars, and fresh fruit for emergency snacks to make unhealthy options less tempting.
Use airport time wisely. Fitting in exercise during long layovers is getting easier. San Francisco International Airport has a yoga room, and other airports such as Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport have well-marked walking paths designated throughout terminals. Fitness centers located in hotels within or near airports often offer day rates for travelers.
Carefully weigh your food options. Convenience stores and gas stations may be the easiest place to stop while on the road, but they can be a nightmare for a healthy eating plan. Instead, visit the nearest roadside farm stand, or follow the signs to the Farmer’s Market where you can find fresh produce to provide healthy fuel. For meals, skip the fast food and stop by a supermarket for a prepared salad or healthy sandwich.
Explore local markets on foot. Visiting a market during your travels combines a learning opportunity, exercise, and healthy food into one adventure. Set out on foot if the market is nearby – every extra step counts. Take advantage of the fresh produce, and meals for a healthy breakfast, lunch, or snack.
Book an active excursion. Make a natural attraction part of your itinerary (where you are sure to do some hiking). Check for a Yellow Bike project in the city you visit. This will allow you to borrow a bike to see the sights while burning calories. If you enjoy road races, look for upcoming events at your destination. Local fitness studios may have active weekend retreats, or a boot camp class that you can join during your trip.
Use technology to your advantage. Online fitness classes can be found all over the Internet, and they provide a solution for exercise when you are confined to a hotel room. Use your laptop or tablet to stream an in-room workout. Before you leave for your trip, load your smartphone with exercise apps. Many apps provide strength-training moves, or yoga poses to do in the hotel when you are short on time and ideas. Log your foods and exercise with MyFoodDiary's mobile apps.
Get enough rest. Travel can leave you sleep-deprived and unable to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep for adults. Lack of sleep can result in weight gain. When you are exhausted from being on the road, make sleep a priority. Continue to choose healthy foods, but it may be wise to skip a workout when your schedule causes exercise to compete with sleep. Plan to get back to your exercise routine once you return home. But remember, exercise can improve sleep patterns if done at least three hours before bedtime. If you are having trouble sleeping on the road, a workout may help.
Workout partners serve as a source of motivation and accountability, but they can also get us off track. Follow these tips to keep both of you on the path to fitness.
1. Don't take no for an answer.
Create a Valid Excuse Policy, which is a list of acceptable reasons for why you or your partner cannot exercise. A sick child that has to stay home a day or two is a valid excuse. You feeling down or tired isn't.
2. Do stay positive.
Exercise with a partner is as much about the conversation as the workout, but research conducted by Amanda Rose, an associate professor of psychological sciences at the University of Missouri, found that talking about your frustrations is only helpful in moderation. When we complain about our problems endlessly, it can make us feel worse. If your workout buddy insists on talking about problems, guide your conversation to more positive topics.
3. Don't judge.
According to Michael Rozen, MD, of Cleveland Clinic, a workout partner should be like the GPS navigational system in a car: it guides without judgment. If your workout partner misses a workout or confesses to indulging in a pint of ice cream, don't criticize her. Simply suggest she make a U-turn immediately, and get back on the road to a healthy lifestyle.
4. Don't sugarcoat.
Leadership development coach, Dr. Judith Rich, states that what we fear most about honesty is that other people will be hurt by our words or will not like us. Regardless of these worries, avoiding the truth will not do your partner any favors. If he is headed down the path of a sedentary lifestyle or overtraining, offer to help and express your concern in a non-judgmental way (see #3).
5. Do support healthy eating.
Exercise is only one part of the fitness equation. You don't have to skip your long talks in the coffee shop after your walk, but keep it healthy. If you notice that your post-workout meetings are beginning to resemble a full breakfast buffet, it's time to suggest that you both get back on track.
6. Don't cancel if your buddy can't make it.
Don't let a partner's cancellation be your excuse for not exercising. The American Academy of Family Physicians lists sticking to a regular time as a key to making exercise a habit. There is no reason you can't stick to the plan even if your partner can't. If you keep your commitment, your partner will likely do the same when an unexpected event forces you to cancel in the future. Your choice to exercise alone can provide motivation for her later.
7. Do celebrate.
When it comes to weight loss or fitness achievements, no one will know how hard you worked to achieve it better than your workout partner. Take time to celebrate when you reach your goals, then sit down and map out the next milestone you will work toward together.
The colder weather and shorter days of winter can put a damper on your walking program, but don't give up! Although cold weather can be challenging, it can also be invigorating. Approach the challenges from a perspective of managing them instead of letting them defeat your efforts.
Dress for success.
Technology has come a long way with what used to be bulky, winter athletic wear. Silky thermals with ventilation panels, quick drying micro-fleece, lightweight high-tech materials that keep you warm but wick away moisture (Thermax, Thinsulate, Polypropylene) and water resistant shells, such as those made with GoreTex, all make it easy to dress for exercise in the cold.
Dress in layers that you can peel off as you warm up if needed. The following three layers are usually sufficient: 1) a base layer to draw moisture away from skin, 2) a middle layer to provide warmth, and 3) an outer layer to protect against wind and rain. Wear gloves to prevent frostbite on fingertips, and wear a hat to avoid losing body heat through your head.
Don’t ignore the sun.
Don’t skimp on sun protection just because it’s cloudy and cold. Continue to apply sunscreen with at least 15 SPF, wear a lip balm with sunscreen, wear a hat to protect your head, and consider sunglasses to protect your eyes from the glare of a bright winter’s day.
You may not sweat as much during winter workouts as you do on hot, humid days, but winter exercise still causes dehydration. Drink fluids regularly to stay hydrated and to maintain your exercise performance. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults aim to drink around 0.4 to 0.8 liters of fluid per hour during exercise.
Stay safe at all hours.
The shorter winter days make it more difficult to walk during daylight. If you have to walk in the early morning or evening, make sure that your gear is equipped with reflective materials. Some workout clothing has reflective piping, but adhering reflective tape to your outerwear is an inexpensive alternative. Carry your cell phone and a form of identification. Walk with others whenever possible. Always let someone know when and where you are going, and how long you will be gone.
Be aware of road conditions.
The worst part of winter walking is often the condition of your walking path. Keep your eyes on the road to watch for slippery icy patches. If you need new walking shoes, now is the time to get them. A newer pair will provide better traction.
Know the danger signs.
In addition to the danger of falls from icy conditions, frostbite is another risk of exercising in cold weather. Frostbite starts as frostnip where the skin turns bright red, is very cold, and may tingle. Small exposed areas such as fingers, toes, ears and the nose are the most susceptible. Ignoring these symptoms can lead to superficial frostbite where the skin turns white and damage can begin to occur. Cover all exposed skin and take care to get inside if frostbite symptoms begin.
Assess your indoor options.
When it’s simply too cold, look for indoor walking options in your community. Shopping malls often open early to allow walkers to exercise. The perimeters of supermarkets also offer a sufficient walking area. If a treadmill is your only option, plan your workout during your favorite television show, and use interval training with speed and inclines to make the session less monotonous. Walking videos are a great option for at-home workouts.
Consider other activities.
While you may love walking, winter can provide the perfect opportunity to try something new. Now you can take advantage of the muscle conditioning class at the gym, try indoor cycling, or sign up for dance lessons.