Photo by: Sergio Silva
This guest post is written by Drew Harvey, who blogs over at Diet Tired. Drew is an exercise and nutrition physiologist, entrepreneur, and advocate of diet free weight loss.
Few would disagree that regular physical activity is important for weight loss. But how it leads to weight loss and more importantly, keeping weight off is commonly misunderstood.
Let’s start with what constitutes the best form of exercise for weight loss? Here is a shocker: anything that gets you moving on a regular, preferably daily, basis.
Many have a hard time understanding this concept, including sleeveless personal trainers.
I suspect this is because weight loss ultimately comes down to calories in versus calories out. Therefore, maximizing calories burned and feeling the ‘burn’ should be your number one goal right? Or another common fallacy is spending hours in the mythical ‘fat burning zone’.
Thus common exercise recommendations are: as high of intensity as possible, as long as possible and of course, as miserable as possible.
Thanks to weight loss television shows, visions of overweight people panting up hills and performing embarrassing obstacle courses while being ridiculed by obnoxious hard bodies come to mind. Ultimately suggesting that doing ‘miserable’ forms of exercise is the answer and if you stop being so lazy you too could drop magical amounts of weight.
Worse, while performing these exercises you scold yourself with “I wouldn’t have to do this if I hadn’t gained all this weight.”
Is taking the ‘any activity is good activity’ approach a cop out? Is it something that I suggest simply to make my clients and readers feel better? No, this strategy works and here is why.
Being physically active is the best predictor of sustained weight loss and it still would be even if it didn't burn any extra calories! You might need to read the previous sentence again.
Here is an example. Many feel discouraged when the machine they have just sweated on for 30 minutes tells them that they have burned a measly 200 calories, the equivalent of a large double-double or a large cookie. However, they are not counting the health benefits of the exercise or the boost in confidence and willpower that ensues, making them far more likely to make healthy food choices.
It is a well known fact that people eat healthier on days that they are active. By simply being active and consequently feeling good about yourself, you decrease your daily calorie intake through better food choices.
I’ll leave you with a proud client example. After some convincing, Randy decided to take a 20 minute walk each evening around his neighborhood. Previously he felt that walking wasn’t vigorous enough to promote weight loss. After just two weeks he told me that he had taken a liking to the evening walks because they burned an extra 400 - 500 calories.
I didn't want to burst his bubble but I did indicate that a 20 minute walk burns approximately 100 calories; not 500.
To which he replied, "I know, but if I had stayed home I would have eaten 400 calories worth of cookies!"