As lockdown continues, and we face another few months of life without access to our traditional gym settings, I have been inundated with questions regarding training strategies that can be implemented at home.
We all know that we need to move more to avoid a sedentary lifestyle, but just how effective is exercise when it comes to weight loss and how can different types of exercise help us with our overall fitness?
Weight loss is directly affected by what you consume; and as such my favourite response to this question is that it takes nearly an hour of running to burn the calories contained within a Mars Bar (of course other sweet treats are available). But just how sustainable is that response for the majority of us, if we’re really honest?
When it comes to healthy, sustainable and sensible weight loss, a combination of mindful and well-balanced eating and exercise will provide the best benefits for your overall health. So, with that in mind, just what sort of exercises will give you the best bang for your buck?
Cardio is a firm favourite and go-to for many wanting to lose the pounds. It’s great for elevating heart rate and burning calories. However, when used in isolation, cardio is not the most efficient form of exercise for weight loss. To really boost your results a notch you need to add in exercises that build your muscles. Cardio should be included in a weekly exercise routine along with strength training.
Believe it or not, not all cardio is the same when it comes to weight loss.
Cardio intervals are where you alternate intense periods of exercise with lower intensity periods to allow you a chance to recover. For example, you could add jogging intervals to walks to add intensity or even adding jogging to sprinting as a way of adding recovery periods to your workout. The great thing is that intervals can be added to all types of exercise you enjoy from running, walking, dancing and cycling – the list doesn’t end there.
The golden rule when it comes to mixing up your exercise with intervals is that the intense periods are shorter (one to two minutes, for example) and the recoveries about twice as long (two to four minutes).
When it comes to weight loss, research shows that interval training, such as HIIT (High intensity interval training), is more effective than steady pace cardio. Many people will alternate steady-state cardio days with interval-based cardio days.
Cardio workouts can take numerous forms and just because weight loss is a goal it does not mean you have to go for something high-impact that is hard on your joints.
Steady-state cardio involves undertaking any form of cardio exercise and keeping at a steady pace. These longer sustained durations of cardio are effective for improving endurance and stamina. It will also help you to burn calories as your heart rate will increase, albeit in a lower range than if undertaking intervals.
Both high-impact and low-impact cardio exercise are effective for weight loss. If, however, you are concerned about your joints, being able to maintain your new workout routine, or injuries which limit your ability to undertake high-impact movement; low-impact cardio is a great option. You can combine low-impact cardio with bodyweight exercises.
So, we have established that cardio works but what else can you do?
Strength training, using your own bodyweight or weights, is one of the most effective ways of losing weight. Weight training can build muscle and reduce fat, which, since muscle burns more calories than fat, is awesome for the metabolism. Basically, if you increase your muscle mass, you can increase your daily calorie burn, even whilst sleeping – Yes, you read that correctly!
However, before we go all out on the weights, it’s important to understand that increased muscle mass does not replace the need for good nutrition to achieve weight loss; but it can help.
Lighter or heavier weights can be used to effectively build muscle but each option requires a different approach.
In general, lighter weights require more reps and sets, with heavier weights requiring fewer reps and sets.
Strength training often involves using dumbbells or weight machines, but you really do not need extra equipment to build strength. Using your own bodyweight for resistance is a highly effective and convenient way to work out. One of the best ways of using body weight is through suspension training, commonly referred to as TRX. This involves using straps which are suspended by a frame or ceiling mount and using your body weight to work the whole body. This form of training is very efficient for weight loss, injury prevention and recovery. Resistance training using your bodyweight can also be done from the comfort of your own home using resistance bands or weights. They key is to ensure that you are introducing weights safely to your routine and not overloading yourself.
Remember, strength training is key in weight loss because it enables you to develop lean muscle which improves your metabolism. A better metabolism promotes healthy weight loss.
Losing weight can be sensibly achieved by a combination of controlling food intake and burning calories through exercise. Exercise is definitely key but so is managing nutrition and macronutrient ratios.
Don’t forget that you need plenty of protein to help rebuild muscles after exercise, especially strength training.
It’s wise to consult your Doctor or health care professional for guidance and advice when it comes to weight loss and understanding where your starting point is within your fitness. Many people may rush in to a plan or perhaps not give thought as to how sustainable a planned routine will be and it is important to start with the basics before adding too much.
Finally, remember that good recovery habits are as important as your workouts and self-care. When it comes to exercise, more is not always better – listening to your body is also key in knowing when you need to add an extra rest day or perhaps opt for a less intense workout.
If you don’t give your body a chance rest and repair it can set you back in your goals or result in overtraining syndrome, which can lead to injury, chronic fatigue, low mood and sleep problems.
Imagine playing a complex board game where everyone is playing by their own rules, except you don’t know what the rules are or how to invent your own. That’s what life can feel like when we haven’t learnt the skill of healthy personal boundaries.
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