Activity for Maximum Weight Loss
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
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.
Heart Rate Zone 50-75%
Maximum Heart Rate 100%
beats per min.
beats per min.
beats per min.
beats per min.
beats per min
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
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.
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.