Obesity is now being called an epidemic in the health community. In fact, it will soon be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States, even ahead of cigarette smoking. Obesity leads to type two diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke, and even an increased risk of cancer. With all of these health risks, as well as the general improvement in the quality of life that can occur, losing weight is one of the best things that you can do for yourself.
No matter what we would like to believe, there simply isn’t a magic solution to losing weight. The body will shed excess fat when it needs more calories to function through the demands you place on it in a given day than the number of calories that you feed it. It’s that simple. So, in order to lose weight, you need to decrease the number of calories that you eat as well as increase the amount that you burn.
There is a wide range of options to choose from when looking for a weight loss program. All of them often spend a lot of time explaining what to eat, in what amounts, and even at what times or in what combinations. But few of them emphasize the importance of exercise — not just for losing weight, but for your general health and wellbeing. Exercise is vital when trying to lose weight for several reasons:
First, as you start to eat less, your metabolism will slow down somewhat. Exercising helps to elevate your metabolism back to an efficient level. Second, as mentioned, the exercise burns more calories so that you can lose weight faster and stay motivated in your efforts. Third, exercise actually releases endorphins, chemicals that keep your mood elevated.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym or straining through exhausting workouts. In fact, in order for you to stick with it in the long run, exercising should be something that you enjoy. Start by increasing your activity level in an overall way. Take the stairs when you can. Park further from the mall door when you go shopping. Go for a walk in the park or through a neighborhood you love and bring a dog or a friend along for company. Take dance or martial arts lessons.
Once you become more active in general, you’ll find it easier and more natural to move into regular exercise. Which you’ll need to do eventually in order to get regular, noticeable health benefits. You need to raise your heart rate to a fat-burning level and keep it there for at least 20 minutes, 3 times or more a week. However, if you don’t want to go to a gym, there are other options. Videos and DVDs are now available in all kinds of exercise types. That way you can change your routine whenever you want so that you don’t get bored with what you’re doing. Try a range of aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, or pretty much any activity you want right in the comfort of your own home.
If you have physical limitations that would keep you off from exercising, you can still find a way to increase your activity level. Water aerobics is a wonderful option for those who have joint problems or limited mobility because it relieves the pressure on your body that your weight provides. But you still get the resistance to challenge your muscles from the water. There are even classes and videos available that let you exercise in a seated position.
Whatever kind of exercise you choose, it’s important to stay motivated and keep it fun. Try gathering a group together to make it a social event. Or get a pedometer, a device that tracks how far you walk and see how many miles you can walk a week. Make a competition amongst your friends or family members and treat the winner with something special (not food-related!). Make the experience of exercising something that you look forward to, and it will soon become a regular part of your healthier lifestyle.