Is Exercise Required for Weight Loss?
I really hate to exercise. Do I need to exercise to lose weight?
If you want to lose weight the right way, you do
need to exercise. But don't panic yet! Let's first look at why exercise is important to weight loss and then address ways that you can incorporate exercise in a painless way.
The first thing to consider is that weight loss should not be your only goal while approaching a program. Although weight loss is a definite bonus, overall health status should definitely be high on your list. Improved health will enable you to live your life fully, with energy and passion for all the other areas of your life. 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 (i.e., body shape). If this alone is not enough to convince you of the importance of exercise, consider that weight loss through diet alone will result in a greater loss of lean body mass (i.e., muscle). In a nutshell, although your body weight may drop, your relative body fat will increase. This in turn will lower your metabolism and make it harder for you to maintain that weight loss. Exactly what you don't want!
This is not bad news for you. Trust in the fact that your body actually wants to move and that by honoring this necessity, you will feel good and 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 in the past. Whether you have horrible recollections of being laughed at in gym class or you have abused your body with extreme exercise, this can be repaired with careful and gentle hands.
The keys to enjoying exercise are simple.
- Find activities that you like and that fit your personality. When doing so, consider all aspects of physical activity such as individual sport or group sessions, indoor or outdoor, competitive or non-competitive, traditional (such as aerobics class) or non-traditional (such as rock climbing or scuba diving), and even whether you're a lark or night owl. Don't give up until you find a good fit, adjusting as necessary.
- Start slowly and listen to the feedback that your body is sending you. Exercise should energize you, not exhaust you. Even if you start with only 5 minute sessions, relax and 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, both during and following your activity session. As your body warms up, you may recognize a feeling of invigoration. Following exercise you may feel warm, relaxed and a sense of energizing calmness. Tune into your body and use this feedback to guide you and your actions.
- No matter what, don't beat yourself up for not exercising on any given day. Recognize that no one is perfect and accept that life often gets in the way of best intentions. This realization is itself a part of a healthy approach and attitude towards exercise.
Our expert, Dr. Sharon E. Griffin, holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in the areas of exercise science/physiology. She also holds a second M.S. degree in Nutrition and is a licensed nutritionist and an ACSM certified health and fitness instructor.
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