Whenever someone talks about losing weight, we tend to think about diets. Cutting calories, counting carbs, South Beach, Mediterranean, Weight Watchers, the grapefruit diet and all the others. If and when you’re really ready to lose weight, however, exercise is even more important than diet.
The truth is, diets do not work. It doesn’t matter how healthy or crazy the diet is, the vast majority of the people who lose weight with a diet just gain it all back again. Most gain more than they lost. And the cycle of losing and gaining sets you up for body adaptations that make it harder each time you try to lose those extra pounds.
You really don’t want to lose weight, either. You want to lose fat. If you really want to lose your extra body fat, you gotta exercise. And you need all three types of exercise: aerobic, resistance and flexibility.
Aerobic Exercise for Weight Loss
The recommendations for how much aerobic exercise we need, how often, and what kinds of exercise change all the time. Here’s the bottom line: if you want to lose body fat, you need more aerobic exercise than you are getting now. Most people would say you need:
• At least 60 minutes of aerobic exercise
• At a moderate intensity
• Six days a week.
Sixty minutes: Common wisdom says you need 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week just to maintain your level of cardiovascular fitness. That’s baseline, to keep you from getting fatter and more out of shape. You have to ramp it up to burn off the excess fat.
Moderate intensity: You have to work to burn fat. At a moderately intense level of exercise, your heart rate should be 50%-70% of your maximum (220 – your age) and you should be able to carry on a conversation, but not to sing and should feel mildly out of breath.
Six days a week: The more often you exercise, the more fat you will burn. However, a rest day once a week seems to improve your performance faster than exercising every single day.
Resistance Exercise for Weight Loss
Resistance exercise—weight training—may be even more important than aerobic exercise for two reasons:
• Weight training builds muscle. When you lose weight with diet alone, or even with diet and aerobic exercise, you lose both fat and muscle mass. Weight training preserves your muscle mass and may even increase it, which is important because:
• Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest. Strength training increases your resting metabolic rate; the rate at which you burn calories at rest. As your muscle mass increases, you burn more calories without doing a single thing. You also burn more calories when you are exercising.
Okay, flexibility training isn’t going to do diddly squat for your weight loss, but it is an important part of a complete exercise program.
If you are serious about losing weight—especially body fat, start doing some kind of aerobic exercise, weight training and flexibility training.