(Note: This was written 10 years ago! I am not following many of these recommendations, but this is still solid advice.)
“Eat less and exercise.” That old, familiar mantra. It really is true, though. If you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and get more exercise. If you want to keep the weight off (which should be the primary goal of your program), then exercise is critical.
Studies show that, of people who have lost weight, the majority of those who start a regular exercise routine and stick to it, even after they’ve lost the amount of weight they wanted to, keep the weight off. However, the majority of those people who either didn’t exercise at all, or only exercised until they reach their weight goal, ended up gaining back the weight they lost, and sometimes ended up weighing more than before they began trying to lose weight.
If you are planning to lose weight and keep it off, then you must be willing to add regular exercise to your lifestyle. Does this mean that you should just give up before you’ve even started? Of course not. What I am trying to stress here is that exercise is a vital part of weight management. If you are planning to lose weight and keep it off, then you must be willing to add regular exercise to your lifestyle.
This may sound like a tall order, especially if exercise has never been a regular part of your life. I can relate to that. For a long time, my idea of exercise was changing channels on the television without using the remote control. I have changed that, and am now quite active. It was actually easy to change, too. You just have to make sure you are ready to change.
The easiest exercise program to start on is walking. And I’m not talking about any of the power walking you see people doing, where they go out and purchase special shoes and weights and outfits. I’m talking about your standard, everyday walking.
When you first start out, try walking an extra 15 minutes per day. If you find that 15 minutes is a little too much to do at one time, spread it out. Walking for 5 minutes three times a day is just as good for you as walking 15 minutes in one stretch. Try to walk 15 minutes every day. But be careful not to overdo it. It is easy to get discouraged if you are sore or tired. If you try to walk too far, or too fast, you will tire yourself out. Worse, you’ll probably be sore the next day. Try to avoid this if at all possible.
That may seem like a lot of time to walk. But it really isn’t. With a little planning, it shouldn’t be hard at all to get an hour in per day. Try waking up a half-hour or so earlier and start out the day with a walk. Or go for a quick walk during lunch break. Try an after-dinner walk. Or a romantic moonlight stroll. There are many opportunities throughout the day to walk. As you start getting used to walking, you’ll find more and more opportunities to walk. Don’t be afraid to cash in.
Try adding walking to your daily routine wherever possible. One opportunity that a lot of us miss is parking lots. We try to find the closest possible parking space to wherever it is we are going, even if this means driving in circles looking for a spot. Instead of spending that extra time driving, park at the far end of the lot, and walk to your destination. Your body will be glad that you did.
Once you have integrated walking into your regimen, you can start concentrating on activities that require more energy from your body. (Remember, the more energy you burn, the more weight you will lose!) And it’s hard to find an activity which uses more energy than climbing stairs. Stairs are ubiquitous. More than likely you know somewhere that has stairs. Whether it’s in your home, at your office, at the library, or at the park, you should be able to find stairs somewhere that you visit regularly.
Before I go any farther, let me ease some of your fears. I am not going to suggest that you start running up and down stairs. That would be counter-productive. What we are trying to do is point out activities that you can add to your every-day routine.
Our recommendation here is very simple. Start using the stairs! If you work in a multi-floor building, use the restroom and water fountain located on a different floor. When you go out shopping, use stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. At home, take a walk up and down the stairs every now and then. Again, it’s easy to do, but will have a huge impact on your weight management.
If you have access to the equipment, bicycling is a great way to get some exercise. Both stationary bikes and real bicycles will give your body a great workout, and burn a lot of calories. Real bicycles have the extra advantage of being a form of transportation. Many of the common destinations you drive to, you could also bike to.
If you do choose to add bicycling to your exercise routine, be sure to make it as enjoyable as possible. Set a stationary bike so it is facing a tv, and you can get fit without missing your favorite television shows or movies! For a real bike, you can take a personal stereo and listen to music as you ride (just be sure that the volume is low enough so you can hear oncoming traffic).
Remember, exercise is meant to be FUN! If you enjoy yourself while doing these activities, you will have a much higher probability of continuing the exercise after you meet your weight loss goals.
Eventually you will need to start looking towards organized activities to further develop your exercise program. Organized activities can take many forms, including aerobics, swimming, golf, basketball, bowling, dancing, weight lifting, and joining a fitness club. There are many to choose from. So many that to attempt to list all of them would be futile. Instead, I will list those activities which I am involved in.
At the current time (August 5, 1997), my exercise routine consists of a water fitness class, and working out with fitness machines, including the dreaded StairMaster!
The water fitness class is just amazingly fun. It’s hard to believe that any activity could be as enjoyable as this is. It takes place at the city’s recreation center, or, to be more precise, in the swimming pool at the rec center. The class is basically a normal aerobics class done in the swimming pool. This has two advantages (1 – low impact because the water cushions all movements and 2 – the resistance from the water increases the amount of work you do, so you get a better workout), and really no disadvantages (unless you are shy about being in a swimsuit).
Signing up for this water fitness class was scary, mainly because I don’t know how to swim!!! But the description of the class explicitly states that swimming skills are not necessary, so I took the chance. And I’m glad that I did. Check around the area you live and see if a water fitness class is offered. If it is, I highly recommend signing up.
The other part of my exercise program is working out with normal gym equipment. I am lucky in that my place of employment provides an exercise room on campus. If you aren’t as lucky, you can join a health club, or see if your city has a recreation center with exercise equipment.
The bulk of my workout goes right back to two of the activities I listed above: climbing stairs and riding a bike. I spend about 30-40 minutes per day three days a week riding the stationary bike. I also fit in about 10 minutes on the StairMaster. I complement this with some weight lifting (to tone my upper body) and a series of situps (to tighten up my tummy). It’s an easy workout which I spread out over two 30-minute breaks.
Permanent Exercise Programs
As I stated above, your goal should be to make exercise a permanent part of your life. The way to do this is to find activities which you find enjoyable. If you hate jogging, but start a jogging regime as your only method of exercise, you are destined to stop exercising. But if you like water, and take to swimming to help you lose weight, chances are you will stick with the swimming program for a long time.
Be sure to pick an activity which you like to do. Don’t pick an activity (like jogging) just because someone else tells you you should. Just remember, if you don’t like the activity, you aren’t going to stick with it, so it is not going to help you in the long run.
The only exception to the above is walking. It is important that you start out walking, even if you hate to do so. This is especially true if you haven’t done a lot of exercise in the past. The walking will get your legs into shape, and will get your body ready for different types of exercise. Once you feel you are ready to start other activities, you can use the other activities to replace some or all of the walking.
Another important consideration is how easy it is to get bored with one activity. If you choose just one activity, and do nothing but this activity over and over, you run the risk of quickly burning out on that activity. It is better to have at least a couple of different activities, and alternate between them.
For example, take my exercise program. I alternate between working out on weight equipment (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) and aerobic equipment (Tuesday and Thursday). I plan on starting water aerobic classes (I’m still kind of nervous about swimming), and possibly joining a karate class.
Variety is good in just about all facets of our life. That is true for exercise, too. If you keep a good variety of activities, make sure that you only choose activities that you enjoy, and try to integrate those activities into your normal routine, you should have no problem building an exercise program for life.