Take your weight-loss plan to the next level by retooling your activity and exercise programs. Here are five ideas from Dr. James Beckerman, author of The Flex Diet: Design Your Own Weight-Loss Plan
Solution # 148
Move Your Exercise to the Early Morning
While getting adequate sleep is an essential part of any healthy weight-loss plan, there may be advantages to getting your exercise early in the day. The first is that you get it over with. There is nothing better than finishing nighttime rituals with your kids, or getting home after a hard day at work, and then settling down to relax with the knowledge that you have already taken care of possibly the toughest challenge of the day. The other possible advantage of morning exercise is more efficient fat burning. When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body does not have any stored sugars to provide fast energy to your working muscles, so you tend to burn proportionally more fat. When you exercise later in the day, you tend to burn more sugar. You will burn similar numbers of calories regardless of when you exercise, but you may experience different long-term results in your overall body composition if you exercise earlier in the day.
One concern about early-morning exercise is that you may be more prone to injury. Your body temperature is lower in the morning than in the afternoon, and this may increase the risk of injuring your muscles. Also, exercising later in the day gives you a chance to stretch out naturally over the course of the day, and some would argue that this decreases your risk of muscle injury. Regardless of how or when you exercise, it is always advisable to discuss it first with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you.
So set your alarm a half hour earlier and press the snooze button to feel that you have exercised your right to sleep. But then get up and burn some calories before starting the day.
Even though your old bicycle is gathering dust in the garage, cycling is still one of the best ways for you to get exercise, stay fit, and lose weight. Its advantages are obvious — cycling is low impact, making it a great choice for weekend warriors with bad knees. You can enjoy it together with your family or on your own. You can do it on vacation, or even while commuting to work. You can choose your route, your pace, and how long you are on the road. And for those days when the weather does not permit cycling outdoors, you can pick up an exercise bicycle for the cost of a few weeks’ worth of groceries. Now all you have to do is use it.
Studies show that bicycle riders tend to be fit and trim. An interesting comparison of adults from North America, Europe, and Australia found that people who bicycled more (Europeans) had the lowest levels of obesity. Part of this geographic trend may be that Europeans tend to view walking and cycling as means of transportation rather than as exercise alone, and so both get incorporated more easily into a European lifestyle. More compact city centers and shorter work commutes facilitate this as well.
Active commuting may also be associated with a reduction in the risk of heart disease. It has been estimated that, to get this benefit, you need to be on your bicycle for just about ten minutes, twice a day. Even if you are not in a position to cycle to and from work — or if you do not have a regular commute — you can easily incorporate this amount of cycling into your day. It is even more convenient if you have an exercise bicycle at home. You will burn about 100 calories in fifteen minutes of cycling, whether you are stationary or not. Start at just fifteen minutes a day, but be consistent about it and get on the bike five times a week. Increase your workout by five minutes each week, so that you are cycling for thirty minutes, five times a week, at the end of your first month.
If you do not typically get much exercise, start out by just riding at a comfortable speed, stretching your legs and enjoying the scenery (or what’s on television if you are inside). Having the exercise bicycle in your living room or bedroom will also motivate you to use it while you watch the news or your favorite reality show. After a few weeks, you can adjust the time and resistance to your legs’ content.
Join a Sports League
Many adults trying to lose weight longingly remember their high school days as competitive swimmers, runners, and football players. The combination of youth’s higher metabolism and lots of physical activity made calorie intake irrelevant. But after just a few years go by, we are amazed to find our athlete’s body hidden under a few extra layers, even in summertime.
The good news is that those glory days do not have to be gone forever. Increasingly, adults are finding that joining a local sports league is a great way to commit to exercise on a regular schedule. And injecting some competition into your workout makes it a little more exciting than pressing the incline button on a treadmill. There are options for pretty much everyone, from flag football to volleyball to kickball to dodge ball, in addition to the standard softball league. You can find out about local offerings from people at work or at your nearest community center or place of worship. Online resources like www.sportsmonster.net and www.sportsvite.com as well as more local sites can also steer you in the right direction. Choose a season, pick a sport, and show up on time. Your teammates will be counting on you.
Run Every Other Day
Running does not cost anything, can be done nearly anywhere, and can be fun to pursue on your own or with a group. But losing weight by running has more to it than just lacing up your shoes. Emerging data suggest that higher-intensity, shorter-duration exercise may be even more effective for weight loss than slower, longer workouts. Try running for shorter distances, but increase your speed. Not only will your workout be more effective, but it will be more efficient too. As you train, keep an eye on your food diary simultaneously to make sure that you are not rewarding yourself for your hard work with a box of cookies after your workout. A runner’s high, after all, can give you the munchies.
Exercise During Commercials
Digital video recorders are everywhere now, and they are used for two obvious purposes: to record television programs for later viewing, and to fast-forward through commercials. You end up watching more television than ever, but you do it more efficiently. But despite the technology, there will still be nights when you watch the news or your favorite reality shows in real time.
Let’s focus on those two-minute segments of commercials that turn a forty-seven-minute program into an hour. A commercial break can be more than an invitation to buy a juicer or a ShamWOW — it can be an opportunity to get off your butt and do something. Get your heart rate up. Move around the house. Maybe even sweat.
Can you be active for two minutes and lose weight? Definitely. It turns out that you can burn 20 calories in two minutes pretty easily if you get intense about it. Don’t have a treadmill or an exercise bicycle? No lap pool in your living room? See what you can burn during a commercial break:
- Two minutes of sit-ups? 20 calories
- Two minutes of push-ups? 20 calories
- Two minutes of step-ups? 20 calories
- Two minutes of fast stairs? 20 calories
- Two minutes of jumping rope? 20 calories
- Two minutes of shadow boxing? 20 calories
- Two minutes of plyometrics? 20 calories
- Two minutes of jogging in place? 20 calories
Get the idea? If you do something vigorous, even for just two minutes, you can burn about 20 calories depending on your body weight. (Heavier people actually burn more calories!) You know you’re doing it right if you get your heart rate up and feel that slight bead of sweat on your brow as you settle down for the next tribal council. Twenty calories may not seem like a lot, when you consider that you need to burn at least 3,500 calories to lose a pound. But think about the average one hour episode of American Idol (we’re talking results show here). After waiting an hour to find out that the guy you knew was going to be voted off was in fact voted off (and sitting through yet another guest appearance by Clay Aiken), you have wasted about thirteen minutes (although some might argue it was more like an hour). So instead of wasting them, spend them. Just one hour of watching television could mean burning more than 100 calories. With that logic, if you watch the Oscars, you could fit into a smaller dress or pants size by the end of the show.
Just don’t touch that remote. . . .
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James Beckerman, M.D., is a practicing cardiologist at the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute in Portland, Oregon, who provides advice and information online as the WebMD.com Heart Expert and the MedHelp.org Weight Loss/Healthy Living Expert. Dr. Beckerman graduated from Harvard University and earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. His book, The Flex Diet: Design Your Own Weight Loss Plan (Copyright © 2011 by Dr. James Beckerman), shows you how to lose a single pound…in 200 different ways. It shows you how to you to create your own customized weight-loss plan — one that fits your lifestyle, is full or tasty and nutritious meals, boosts energy levels, an keeps the weight off for good.
MORE ARTICLES BY THE AUTHOR
- Learn more about The Flex Diet: Design Your Own Weight Loss Plan and browse inside the book
- Browse more books about diets