The Importance of Weight Loss and Exercise

    Carrying around too much weight feels uncomfortable and it can also damage your health. According the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity rates have skyrocketed in the United States in recent years. As of 2010, more than one-third of American adults were considered obese with a body mass index (BMI) of over 30 (CDC, 2012).

    Obesity can lead to a number of serious health problems including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer. In the United States, body mass is derived by dividing weight in pounds by height in inches squared and multiplying the result by 703 (weight (lb) / [height (in)] 2 x 703).

    One method that can help a person lose weight is to limit the number of calories taken in through the diet. The other way is to burn extra calories with exercise.

    Benefits of Exercise vs. Diet

    Unlike diet alone, exercise can prevent or even reverse the effects of certain diseases. Exercise lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, which may prevent a heart attack. In addition, if you exercise, you lower your risk of developing certain types of cancers such as colon and breast cancer. Exercise is also known to help contribute to a sense of confidence and well-being, thus possibly lowering rates of anxiety and depression.

    How Much Exercise Is Needed for Weight Loss?

    To benefit from exercise, you need to perform some form of aerobic exercise at least three times a week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session. However, more than 20 minutes is better if you want to actually lose weight. Incorporating just 15 minutes of moderate exercise—such as walking one mile—on a daily basis will burn up to 100 extra calories (assuming you don’t consume excess calories in your diet afterwards). Burning 700 calories a week equals 10 lbs. of weight loss over the course of a year.

    Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

    To receive all of the health benefits of exercise, you’ll need to reach and maintain what is known as your “target heart rate.” The basic formula for determining your target heart rate is to subtract your age from 220 and then calculate 60 to 80 percent of that number.

    (Beginners should start at the 60 percent figure and work their way up to 80.)

    Those with special health concerns such as an injury, diabetes, or a heart condition should consult a physician before beginning any fitness program.

    What Are Some Examples of the Different Types of Exercise?

    The type of exercise you choose for weight loss doesn’t matter as much as whether or not you’re doing it. That’s why experts recommend you pick exercises you enjoy so that you’ll stick to a regular routine.

    Aerobic

    No matter what exercise program you implement, it should include some form of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise. Aerobic exercises get your heart rate up and your blood pumping. Aerobic exercises may include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, and dancing. You can also work out on a fitness machine such as a treadmill, elliptical, or stair stepper.

    Weight Training

    A big advantage of working out with weights is that, in addition to shedding fat, you’ll build muscle. Muscle, in turn, burns calories. Talk about a healthy feedback loop! Experts recommend working all the major muscle groups three times per week. This includes:

    • abs
    • back
    • biceps
    • calves
    • chest
    • forearms
    • hamstrings
    • quads
    • shoulders
    • traps
    • triceps

    Yoga

    While not as intense as other types of exercise, yoga can help you lose weight in other ways, according to a recent study by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The study found that people who practice yoga are more mindful about what they eat and, therefore, less likely to be obese.

    Incorporating Exercise into Your Lifestyle

    The amount of exercise you engage in matters more than whether or not you do it in a single session. That’s why small changes in your daily routine can make a big difference in your waistline.

    Healthy lifestyle habits to consider include:

    • walking or riding your bike to work or while running errands
    • taking the stairs instead of the elevator
    • parking farther away from destinations and walking the remaining distance

    Activities and the Amount of Calories They Burn

    The average adult male who doesn’t exercise requires approximately 2,200 calories a day to maintain his average weight. A female needs about 1,800 calories to maintain her weight.

    The following list contains common activities and the amount of calories burned per hour:

    Activities

    Calories Burned

    playing baseball, golf, or cleaning the house

    240 to 300

    brisk walking, biking, dancing, or gardening

    370 to 460

    playing football, jogging (at a nine-minute-mile pace), or swimming

    580 to 730

    skiing, racquetball, or running (at a seven-minute-mile pace)

    740 to 920