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Is Exercise Required for Weight Loss?Is Exercise Required for Weight Loss?


Women in fitness class

Weight loss should not be your only goal when approaching a new exercise program. Although weight loss is a definite benefit, your overall health status should be the priority. Improving your health will give you the strength, energy, and stamina needed to live your life fully.

If you want to lose weight the right way, you do need to exercise. Increased physical activity is associated with a decreased risk of coronary heart disease, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome. Increased fitness levels also improve cardiovascular function, muscular strength, flexibility, and muscular tone (body shape).

If this is not enough to convince you of the importance of exercise, consider that weight loss through diet alone will result in greater muscle loss. Although your weight may drop without exercise, your relative body fat may actually increase. This may lower your metabolism and make it harder for you to maintain weight loss.

Your body wants to move. By honoring this necessity, you will feel energized. If you take a gentle approach to exercise, you will find that you may actually enjoy it. Many people have been turned off to exercise due to bad experiences, but your relationship with physical activity can be repaired.

The keys to enjoying exercise are simple:

  • Find activities that fit your personality. Consider all aspects of physical activity, such as individual or group, indoor or outdoor, competitive or non-competitive, traditional (such as aerobics class), or non-traditional (such as rock climbing or scuba diving). Don't give up until you find a good fit.
  • Start slowly and listen to the feedback from your body. Exercise should energize you, not exhaust you. Even if you start with only 5-minute sessions, move at the pace that is right for you. Everyone starts somewhere, don't judge or evaluate your starting point.
  • Realize and appreciate how your body feels and responds to the exercise. As your body warms up, you may feel invigorated. Following exercise you may feel warm, relaxed, and a sense of calmness. Tune in to your body and use this feedback to guide your actions.
  • Don’t beat yourself up for skipping a workout. Recognize that no one is perfect and accept that life often gets in the way of best intentions. This realization is a part of a healthy approach and attitude towards exercise. Recommit and make your next workout a priority.
Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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