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  Fitness > Weight Loss >  << Previous|Next >>
  Physical Activity for Maximum Weight Loss

Research consistently shows that regular physical activity, combined with healthy eating habits, is the most efficient and healthful way to control your weight. Whether you are trying to lose weight or maintain it, you should understand the important role of physical activity and include it in your lifestyle.

Physical activity helps to control your weight by using excess calories that otherwise would be stored as fat. Your body weight is regulated by the number of calories you eat and use each day. Just about everything you eat contains calories, and everything you do uses calories, including sleeping, breathing and digesting food. Any physical activity in addition to what you normally do will use extra calories.

Balancing the calories you use through physical activity with the calories you eat will help you achieve your desired weight. When you eat more calories than you need to perform your day's activities, your body stores the extra calories and you gain weight.

When you eat fewer calories than you use, your body uses the stored calories and you lose weight. When you eat the same amount of calories as your body uses, your weight stays the same.

If your main concern is shedding some body fat, the key is to do longer, more frequent aerobic sessions at an easier pace. This approach has several advantages. It burns more calories. (Even though vigorous exercise burns more calories per minute than an easy effort, an extra 15 or 30 minutes of easy exercise will more than make up the difference.) Longer bouts of exercise burn proportionally more fat. (Harder, but shorter exercise draws more on carbohydrates.) If you walk or do some other activity for more than an hour, your body will start to burn significantly more fat for the rest of the workout. (Reason: The carbohydrate stores in your muscles begin running low after an hour.)

Aerobic activities help make your heart stronger and more efficient. Some examples of aerobic activities include: Brisk walking; Jogging; Bicycling; Swimming; Aerobic dancing; Racket sports; Rowing; Ice or roller skating; Cross-country skiing; Using aerobic equipment (such as a treadmill or stationary bike). To get the most health benefits from aerobic activity, you should exercise at a level strenuous enough to raise your heart rate to your target zone. Your target heart rate zone is 50 percent to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (the fastest your heart can beat). To find your target zone, look for the category closest to your age in the chart below and read across the line. For example, if you are 35 years old, your target heart rate zone is 93 to 138 beats per minute.

Age Target Heart Rate Zone 50-75% Average Maximum Heart Rate 100%
20-30 years 98-146 beats per min. 195
31-40 years 93-138 beats per min. 185
41-50 years 88-131 beats per min. 175
51-60 years 83-123 beats per min. 165
61+ years 78-116 beats per min 155

To see if you are exercising within your target heart rate zone, count the number of pulse beats at your wrist or neck for 15 seconds, then multiply by four to get the beats per minute. Your heart should be beating within your target heart rate zone. If your heart is beating faster than your target heart rate, you are exercising too hard and should slow down. If your heart is beating slower than your target heart rate, you should exercise a little harder.

When you begin your exercise program, aim for the lower part of your target zone (50 percent). As you get into better shape, slowly build up to the higher part of your target zone (75 percent). If exercising within your target zone seems too hard, exercise at a pace that is comfortable for you. You will find that, with time, you will feel more comfortable exercising and can slowly increase to your target zone.

Exercise at a comfortable pace. For example, while jogging or walking briskly you should be able to hold a conversation. If you do not feel normal again within 10 minutes after exercise, you are exercising too hard. Also, if you have difficulty breathing or feel faint or weak during or after exercise, you are exercising too hard.

Choose activities that you enjoy and that fit your personality. For example, if you like team sports or group activities, choose things such as soccer or aerobics. If you prefer individual activities, choose things such as swimming or walking. Also, plan your activities for a time of day that suits your personality. If you are a morning person, exercise before you begin the rest of your day's activities. If you have more energy in the evening, plan activities that can be done at the end of the day. You will be more likely to stick to a physical activity program if it is convenient and enjoyable.

Whether your goal is to control your weight or just to feel healthier, becoming physically active is a step in the right direction. Take advantage of the health benefits that regular exercise can offer and make physical activity a part of your lifestyle.

Reference Source 22,24

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