Regardless of your age, sex, or physical ability, regular exercise has numerous benefits for your health:
- Controls weight by preventing excess weight gain and help maintain weight loss. Exercise accelerates fat and calorie burning. The more intense your physical activity the more calories you burn
- Can prevent you from becoming obese, especially when combined with a healthy diet
- Boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or "good", cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly, which decreases your risk of cardiovascular diseases. There are two types of cholesterol – low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) cholesterol. High levels of LDL and low levels of HDL increase your risk of heart disease. But the good news is, exercise is linked to higher levels of HDL cholesterol
- Reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Inactive people have an increased risk of dying from heart disease.
- Doing regular exercise can help to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension). If you have high blood pressure, you’re more likely to have a stroke or heart failure. If you’re at risk of high blood pressure, exercising may mean it doesn’t develop as soon as it might if you don’t
- Helps to prevent and alleviate lower back pain
- Moderate activity (including walking, swimming and cycling) can help to treat and reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis, a common form of arthritis
- Physical activity in younger people and children can increase bone mineral density and help to maintain strong bones. It also slows down bone degeneration later in life. Regular exercise can help to prevent osteoporosis – when your bones become brittle and more prone to breaking. But if you already have osteoporosis, it’s better to choose weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or dancing
- You’re less likely to develop certain cancers if you’re physically active. Your risk of breast and bowel cancer is about 25% lower if you’re active compared with people who aren’t. Some studies show that physical activity can reduce your risk of developing lung, prostate and endometrial (lining of the womb) cancers. There is some evidence to suggest that exercise can help to reduce fatigue during and after treatment for breast or prostate cancer
- Physical activity can help to prevent diabetes. Exercise is also beneficial in reducing other factors that put you at risk of developing diabetes, such as obesity. If you already have diabetes, regular physical activity can help control your body’s sensitivity to insulin and lower your blood pressure
- Exercise can help prevent and treat some mental health conditions. It’s thought that physical activity can reduce your risk of developing depression and dementia. It may also help to treat depression if you already have the condition. There is some evidence to suggest that exercise can help relieve stress and anxiety
- Improves mood. Need an emotional lift? Or need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help. Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed
- Boost confidence and improve self-esteem. You may feel better about your appearance and yourself when you exercise regularly. You're likely to have an improved self-image and better sense of wellbeing. Better shape = better you. Simple
- Energy level shoots up. Regular physical activity can improve your muscle strength and boost your endurance. Exercise and physical activity deliver oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently. And when your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you have more energy to go about your daily chores
- Promotes better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. Just don't exercise too close to bedtime, or you may be too energized to fall asleep
- Puts the spark back into your sex life. Do you feel too tired or too out of shape to enjoy physical intimacy? Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life. But there's more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women. And men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don't exercise
- Fun way to spend time. It gives you a chance to unwind, enjoy the outdoors or simply engage in activities that make you happy. Physical activity can also help you connect with family or friends in a fun social setting. So, take a dance class, hit the hiking trails or join a soccer team. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and just do it. If you get bored, try something new
- up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- a 30% lower risk of early death
- up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- up to a 30% lower risk of depression
- up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
- Reduce stress = Working up a sweat can help manage physical and mental stress. Exercise also increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress. So go ahead and get sweaty — working out can reduce stress and boost the body’s ability to deal with existing mental tension. Win-win!
- Boost happy chemicals = Exercise releases endorphins, which create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Studies have shown that exercise can even alleviate symptoms among the clinically depressed. For this reason, doctors recommend that people suffering from depression or anxiety (or those who are just feeling blue) pencil in plenty of gym time. In some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression. Getting a happy buzz from working out for just 30 minutes a few times a week can instantly boost overall mood.
- Improve self-confidence = On a very basic level, physical fitness can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person's perception of his or her attractiveness, that is, self-worth.
- Enjoy the great outdoors = Exercising in the great outdoors can increase self-esteem even more. Find an outdoor workout that fits your style, whether it’s rock-climbing, hiking, renting a canoe, or just taking a jog in the park. Plus, all that Vitamin D acquired from soaking up the sun can lessen the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Why book a spa day when a little fresh air and sunshine (and exercise) can work wonders for self-confidence and happiness?
- Prevent cognitive decline = It’s unpleasant, but it’s true — as we get older, our brains get a little... hazy. As aging and degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s kill off brain cells, the noggin actually shrinks, losing many important brain functions in the process. While exercise and a healthy diet can’t "cure" Alzheimer’s, they can help shore up the brain against cognitive decline that begins after age 45. Working out, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.
- Alleviate anxiety = The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety disorders calm down. Hopping on the track or treadmill for some moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce anxiety sensitivity.
- Boost brainpower = Various studies on mice and men have shown that cardiovascular exercise can create new brain cells (aka neurogenesis) and improve overall brain performance. Studies suggest that a tough workout increases levels of a brain-derived protein (known as BDNF) in the body, believed to help with decision making, higher thinking, and learning.
- Sharpen memory = Regular physical activity boosts memory and ability to learn new things. Getting sweaty increases production of cells in hippocampus responsible for memory and learning. For this reason, research has linked children’s brain development with level of physical fitness. But exercise-based brainpower isn’t just for kids. Working out can boost memory among grown-ups, too. A study showed that running sprints improved vocabulary retention among healthy adults.
- Help control addiction = The brain releases dopamine, the “reward chemical” in response to any form of pleasure, be that exercise, sex, drugs, alcohol, or food. Unfortunately, some people become addicted to dopamine and dependent on the substances that produce it, like drugs or alcohol (and more rarely, food and sex). On the bright side, exercise can help in addiction recovery. Short exercise sessions can also effectively distract drug or alcohol addicts, making them de-prioritize cravings (at least in the short term). Working out when on the wagon has other benefits, too. Alcohol abuse disrupts many body processes, including circadian rhythms. As a result, alcoholics find they can’t fall asleep (or stay asleep) without drinking. Exercise can help reboot the body clock, helping people hit the hay at the right time.
- Increase relaxation = For some, a moderate workout can be the equivalent of a sleeping pill, even for people with insomnia. Moving around five to six hours before bedtime raises the body’s core temperature. When the body temp drops back to normal a few hours later, it signals the body that it’s time to sleep.
- Get more done = Research shows that workers who take time for exercise on a regular basis are more productive and have more energy than their more sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that midday is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian rhythms.
- Tap into creativity = A heart-pumping gym session can boost creativity for up to two hours afterwards. Supercharge post-workout inspiration by exercising outdoors and interacting with nature.
- Inspire others = Studies show that most people perform better on aerobic tests when paired up with a workout buddy. Pin it to inspiration or good old-fashioned competition, nobody wants to let the other person down. In fact, being part of a team is so powerful that it can actually raise athletes’ tolerances for pain. Even fitness beginners can inspire each other to push harder during a sweat session, so find a workout buddy and get moving!
It can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50% and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%.
It’s free, easy to take, has an immediate effect and you don’t need a GP to get some.
People who do regular activity have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
Research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
...Previous generations were active more naturally through work and manual labour, but today we have to find ways of integrating activity into our daily lives.
Whether it's limiting the time babies spend strapped in their buggies, or encouraging adults to stand up and move frequently, people of all ages need to reduce their sedentary behaviour.
This means that each of us needs to think about increasing the types of activities that suit our lifestyle and can easily be included in our day.
One great way to really get maximum benefit from food and exercise is to change how we view both things. We're constantly bombarded with information on how we need to eat "good food" to be in better health and how we have to exercise to lose weight. This bombardment has the adverse effect of attaching value and emotion to products.
We're constantly reviewing what is 'good' and what is 'bad'. This can become tiresome and cumbersome. The end result is we get fed up of this constant analysing and stop enjoying two things which are great blessing for us: food and physical activity.
Therefore, just like we put food in its place by completely disconnecting it to weight loss, we also need to put exercise back in its place to end up getting in best shape of our life.
There are four common blockers for people who don't want to exercise:
- Exercise requires willpower which many people lack when they are overweight.
- Exercise can be disrupted by injury. And if you were only using exercise to control your weight then you'll put it back on once your injury prevents you from exercising.
- Exercise can be inefficient as the amount of time it takes to burn calorie is far greater than the time it takes to eat something and put the calories back on. For example, you can eat a chocolate bar containing 180 calories within 2 minutes yet to burn that 180 calories on the treadmill can take you upto 20 minutes - i.e. ten times longer. Even if you were replace the fat in your body with muscle you still need to put on a lot of muscle to burn few calories.
- And finally there's the dreaded "compensation effect" where those who exercise more tend to eat more junk food as they are starving or as reward system for their hardwork.
It is primarily these four blockers which can put many people off exercise. However, we can change our relationship with exercise in two steps.
The first thing we need to do is break up the relationship between exercise and weight loss i.e. that you have to sweat it out to lose weight. By doing this you can open up the possibility of really experiencing and enjoying exercise and eating healthy.
Don't think of exercise just in terms of calories. Don't use it to manipulate calories in and calories out.
That is not to say that you shouldn't keep an eye of how much calories you are burning (since you need to know if you've burnt off what you've eat recently). However, this alone should not be your parameter for success since the idea of just sweating it out for the sake of it will make you think of rewarding yourself. The I-have-worked-so-hard-today-I-deserve-a-treat-now mentality.
The second part of this mental shift is to attach positive value to exercise which can be genuinely motivating and permanently sustainable throughout your life.
Build a positive relationship with exercise where you think about the benefit only - for example, how you feel alive, energised, revitalised, powerful and relaxed. How you can now handle anything that life has to throw at you.
Think of it as an "instant mood booster" and/or "emotional eating repellent". By creating these two new and powerful association you will create the desire inside you to move your body to see how amazing it feels and the effect that you're seeing in your day-to-day life. This "inside-out" approach means that it is YOU who are in control and not the product. That is, you want to do the things rather than feeling that you have to do those things. This approach will help you to break the four blockers which prevent many people from enjoying exercise.
But, just like human relationship, this relationship doesn't happen instantly - it needs to be earned. Do exercise for few times and see how you feel about it after you done it. Now make the positive link between exercise and your life. Try it out and learn for yourself.
When you break those old association with exercise, just like when you break old association with food like sweets are bad, whatever, you open up the possibility actually really experiencing exercise to specific ways to change your relationship with exercise just like changing your relationship with food where you get all the perks and none of the negatives.
Josie Spinardi, weight loss expert
Many of us toil away in the gym day-in day-out but still don't see much change in our body. In most cases this is down to poor nutrition. The calories burnt after long hard workout session in the gym is quickly put on by food, snacks and drinks that we consume before, during, or after the session.
To boost our energy level - or even to reward our workout session - we tuck into unhealthy food (such as chocolate or cereal bars, crisps, fizzy drink, burger, pizza, curry, etc.) to provide us with instant gratification. But we forget just how powerful nutrition is compared to exercise. Remember, exercise can be inefficient for weight loss without combining it with healthy diet. A chocolate bar can contain around 180 calories, which can take only 2 minute to consume (or even few seconds if you're hungry!). But to lose that same amount of calorie, could take up to 20 minutes on a treadmill. That's ten times longer!!
Thus the calories that you've burnt after so many long hours in the gym - or via any other physical activity - can be quickly put on or exceeded by eating the wrong food. It is for this reason that many people complain of not losing any weight after exercising so regularly. Therefore, if you're overweight and want to lose weight then get your nutrition right first!!
Remember, food and drink constitute 80% of your weight loss. Exercise is only 20%. Get both these right and you WILL lose weight.
Exercise tends to be synonymous with gym. However, exercise doesn't have to be confined to gym nor does it have to be a vigorous workout. You can find ways to fit physical activity into your daily routine. It may be as simple as walking to and from the shops instead of getting in the car.
If you love sport, do it as long as it's moderately active and cardio-related (therefore this rules out dart, fishing or snooker!). This way you'll be having fun and burning calories at the same time.
Do you love football? Play with family and friends. Just make sure you don't stay as goalkeeper throughout the match!! Do you love badminton? Play singles badminton instead of doubles to get more of a workout. Do you like to dance? Sign up for a zumba or salsa class. Why not try some adventurous activities like kayaking or wall climbing?
These activities will strengthen your muscles and kick-start calorie burning.
Walking is also a great form of exercise, especially if done regularly. If you're a walker, challenge yourself by increasing the intensity and duration of your walks.
If you have never exercised or haven’t for a while, it needn’t take much effort to get started. After all, doing some physical activity is better than doing none at all. Even doing a little more exercise than usual can help reduce your risk of certain long-term health conditions.
- Set a time for physical activity and stick to it. You’re more likely to find time to be active if you do it at the same time and on the same days each week.
- Split activity up throughout the day. You can achieve your target in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Try these 10-minute workouts.
- Walk your children to and from school. This will also help them develop a pattern of physical activity.
- Be active with your child. Take them to the swimming pool or play in the garden or park. Watch a video on exercising with kids.
- Take up running. Running is an effective and straightforward way of exercising.
- Join a child-friendly gym. Find a fitness class or club that allows children in or that offers childcare during a workout.
- Set up a buggy group with other mums and go on long walks with the children.
- Exercise DVDs allow you to get a good workout without having to leave your house. Exercising at home is easy to fit around your daily routine.
- Exercise during your lunch break. Your office may have a gym, or you may have access to a nearby swimming pool or squash courts.
- Cycle or walk part, if not all, of your journey to work. Get off one bus or tube stop before your final destination.
- Children don’t need to get their daily target of 60 active minutes all in one go. They can do them in chunks of 10 minutes throughout the day.
- Try something new.
- If parents are physically active, their children are likely to follow their example and be active too.
- Instead of watching TV, encourage your child to find fun activities to do on their own or with friends, such as playing chase or riding bikes.
- Let your kids help decide what to do. Children are more likely to participate in something if they're involved in picking it.
- When it comes to play, children should do what they enjoy most. Running around, having fun with other kids and burning off energy are great ways of getting some (or all) of their recommended 60 minutes of activity a day.
- Walking is a fun and easy way for children to get active, while spending time with you and their friends.
- Have a disco in your lounge with some of your CDs. All you need are some great tunes, and you and your children can have fun dancing anywhere.
- Have a splash. Whether doing lengths of the pool or having a good splash about, children love playing in water.
- Cycling is a great alternative to the car or bus. You don’t even need to have somewhere to get to; just taking the kids out for a bike ride is a fun activity.
- Try something new.
- Take up running. Running is an effective and straightforward way of exercising.
- Walk more: to school, to visit friends, to the shops, or other places in your neighbourhood. For health benefits, aim to do 10,000 steps a day.
- Get your mates involved. You're more likely to keep active if you have fun and other people to enjoy yourself with.
- Ask your parents if you can go to the gym with them or if there's a local community centre where you can exercise.
- Create a new routine where you walk or run every day when you get home from school or before dinner.
- If you don't want to exercise outside on your own, buddy up with a friend or use an exercise DVD in your bedroom.
- Dance in front of the TV or play some CDs. All you need are some great tunes and you can have fun dancing anywhere and burn calories at the same time.
- Do some household chores. Although light tasks such as taking out the rubbish won't raise your heart rate, some heavy gardening or washing the car will count towards your daily activity target.
- Cycle or walk part, if not all, of your journey to work.
- Get off one bus or tube stop before your final destination.
- If you need to drive, try to park further away from your office and walk the rest of the way.
- Discuss project ideas with a colleague at work while taking a walk.
- Stand while talking on the telephone.
- Walk over to someone's desk at work rather than calling them on the phone.
- Take the stairs instead of the lift, or get out of the lift a few floors early, then use the stairs.
- Go for a brisk walk during your lunch break. Use a pedometer and keep track of how many steps you take.
- Try to find different walks, and alternate between them during the week. Build up gradually to walking 10,000 steps a day.
- Exercise before or after work, or during your lunch break. Your office may have a gym, or you may have access to a nearby swimming pool or squash courts.
Older adults (65 years +):
- Be active around the house. Cooking, housework and walking while you're on the phone can help to keep you mobile, although these activities won't count towards your weekly activity target.
- Improve your strength, balance and flexibility with our step-by-step exercise guides for older people, which include a section on sitting exercises.
- Conservation groups can be a great way to get involved in improving your local environment and being active at the same time. Watch a video about Green Gyms.
- Try something new.
- Fast walking is the easiest way to increase your activity levels. Find a friend to walk with, or join a walking group for some extra motivation.
- Senior sports or fitness classes keep you motivated and can be fun, relieve stress and help you meet friends.
- Heavy gardening – including pushing, bending, squatting, carrying, digging and shovelling – can provide a good workout.
- Swimming, aqua-aerobics and working out in water are ideal for older adults, because water reduces stress and strain on the body's joints.
- Yoga is suitable for all ability levels. It combines a series of poses with breathing and is good for building strength, flexibility and balance.
- Tai chi is an ancient Chinese art that builds strength, flexibility and balance through slow and controlled movements.
- Pilates focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture.
- Take up running. Running is an effective and straightforward way of exercising.
- If you can walk, there’s no easier way to increase your activity levels. Try to include walking in your daily routine. Find a friend to walk with, or join a walking group for some extra motivation.
- Cycling: there are tricycles, quadcycles, recumbants, hand-powered bikes called handcycles and power-assisted bicycles, all of which are alternatives for those unable to ride a regular bicycle.
- Take up running. Running is an effective and straightforward way of exercising.
- Split activity up throughout the day. You can achieve your target in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Try these 10-minute workouts. Talk to your health professional or ask an organisation for people with your impairment about what the best exercises are that can help you to achieve your goal.
- Low-impact exercises such as yoga, pilates and tai chi have been adapted to suit the needs of people with different types of disabilities. Get advice first, however, especially if you have a physical impairment: exercises that are not suited to your impairment may be harmful.
- Choose a gym from one of more than 400 Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) accredited gyms. Find your nearest IFI facility by going to the English Federation of Disability Sport website.
- Swimming can feel quite liberating if you have a physical disability, as your body is mostly supported by the water. Many pools offer classes and sessions catering specifically for disabled people. Find out more at swimming.org.
- Adapted sports – many sports can be played by disabled people on the same basis as non-disabled people. Some have also been adapted to make them more disability-friendly, such as blind football. You can find out more about these and other sports from Parasport.
There are many ways that busy mums, families, young people, office workers and older adults can build physical activity into their lives.
Being physically active is easier than you think, especially if you make activity part of your daily routine.
For most of us, except older adults, daily chores such as shopping or housework don't count towards your activity target. This is because your body doesn't work hard enough to get your heart rate up.
Prior to any exercise make sure you warm up and cool down properly. Stretch for few minutes prior to working out and finish off with a stretch too, holding each 20 - 30 seconds. Cool down with a slow walk or cycle. This can leave you with the 'that-wasn't-so-tough' impression after your last sweat session thus providing you with a better mindset for getting back to the gym the next day.
- Use multiple muscles at the same time = The more body parts or muscles you need to use to perform a routine the more energy your body needs. Therefore do more of that exercise which requires whole body or multi-joint movement in order to burn more calories at faster rate. You save time and burn more calories in the process!!
- Practice high intensity interval training (aka burst training) = Alternate short mini intense bursts (e.g. 30 - 60 seconds) with periods of less intense movement (until you get your breath back e.g. 1-2 minute) thereby forcing your body to work hard to adjust to the altering speeds. These bursts use more fat as fuel, boost metabolism and enable body to burn calories more efficiently. You can get better result with 10 minutes of high intensity training than doing 30 minutes of slow monotonous bouts of training. Work at 80-90% of your intensity scale and repeat it for a minimum of 6 times. Do this three times a week. Make sure you rest the day after interval training (or have a light session) as your body will be releasing growth hormone which will help you burn fat for the next 36 - 48 hours. Interval training can be done with any type of fitness e.g. treadmill, steps, bike, swimming pool, etc.
- Combine cardio and strength (or resistance) training. Get good balance of both = Most intense workouts tend to be those that simultaneously incorporate cardio and weight lifting. You will burn twice the calories in half the time, and get to your goal that much quicker. There are many fitness classes in existence that include both aerobics and strength training, including the popular boot camp class. Strength training shape and build muscles in addition to supporting your bones and overall health. Remember: more muscles means more calories burnt...even at rest! Be sure to do one at high intensity and the other lightly to ease up on your muscles and joints. For example follow a 30 minutes full-body strength training with 20-30 minutes of walking or low-impact cardio. Alternate your session, so the next time go hard on your run and easy on your strength training.
- Don't sacrifice form! = No point doing high-intensity work if your form isn't correct (e.g. holding onto handrails or slouching over) as you'll be using fewer muscles and burning fewer calories. Better to do one set of controlled reps than three fast sloppy sets. Not only do you save the time you would have used to rest between sets, but you're no longer relying on momentum. You're also guaranteed to work the targeted muscles more and maintain good form. Good posture will also allow you to take in more oxygen therefore making your workout feel easier. If need be, lower your intensity to get good form.
- Think quality. Alter duration for optimum result = A quality high interval training will get your body burning in few minutes. It'll increase your metabolic rate so that you'll burn off calories for the rest of the day. However, if you're doing moderate intensity then aim for a minimum of 45 minutes. A leisurely 20 minute workout is not going to get you very far. Go at a fast enough pace where you are sweating and panting. This will force your body to use more energy and get it out of homeostasis (where every things normal and in balance). Remember, if you haven't exercised for a while build yourself up slowly. Don't go all guns blazing as this can be too intense for your heart and body. Challenge yourself but do it safely.
- Be consistent. Try to workout 3-4 days a week = Regular exercise will help you to get into a routine. When this is combined with good nutrition you'll definitely notice the result faster. Get good amount of rest in-between intense workout to let your muscles rebuild and your body recover. However, if you genuinely don't have the time, then workout out for a minimum of 20 minutes everyday. Power walk for 10 minutes and do a mini circuit at home which targets your whole body (e.g. 3 sets of 25 squats, burpees and press-ups).
- Diversify workout and challenge yourself = Change routine, intensity, repetition, etc., to keep your body constantly being surprised. Make sure you are always exercising to your full fitness capabilities. The more you shock and stimulate your muscles, the more calories you will burn. This diversity helps to keep motivation high too by preventing you reaching a fitness plateau. Doing same exercise over and over again can be tedious and boring.
- Finally, have patience!! Train safely = Don't overexecise (yes, there is such a thing). Don't put too much strain on your body and heart. An injury can set you back and hamper progress. Getting back to your rhythm can feel like a huge step backward. Challenge yourself but do it safely. Just make sure you combine regular exercise with good nutrition to see the result of your hardwork!!
Doing 10 minutes three times a week is a lot easier than 1 hour four times a week, or whatever you're doing on the treadmill. So the old days of running on a treadmill, or a bicycle, for half-an-hour to an hour and staying in the fat burning zone those days are over.
Over 80% of women forgo strength-training, says the latest survey by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. If you're one of them, it may be the number one reason your scale is stuck. You've probably heard that strength-training can boost metabolism, but here's something you may not know: People who pair aerobic and resistance training eat less—517 fewer calories a day—than those who do only cardio, reports a study in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. The combo workouts may increase satiety hormones more and boost the body's ability to break down food and stabilize blood sugar, so you feel full longer, says study author Brandon S. Shaw, PhD.
Metabolism describes all the chemical processes that go on continuously inside the body to keep you alive and your organs functioning normally, such as breathing, repairing cells and digesting food.
These chemical processes require energy. The minimum amount of energy your body requires to carry out these chemical processes is called the 'basal metabolic rate' (BMR). Your body size, age, gender and genes all determine what is your metabolic rate.
Your BMR accounts for anything between 40 - 70% of your body’s daily energy requirements depending on your age and lifestyle. A 'slow metabolism' is more accurately described as a low BMR. This means, in order to burn fat and lose weight you need to increase your metabolic rate.
One way to achieve this is to increase your muscle mass.
Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than fat cells, so people with a higher muscle to fat ratio tend to have a higher BMR. Therefore, the more muscle you build, the more calories your body will naturally burn each day at rest. For this reason building muscle mass after the weight loss phase is over is critical for keeping weight from coming back. But muscle weighs more than fat therefore when you weigh yourself on the scale you may notice that you're the same weight or have even put more weight on. But what you have to remember is that you've lost more unhealthy fat from your body, are leaner and in better shape, and have a thinner waist. You'll look better and will be more healthier, thereby increasing you're chance of living longer. This is another good reason why you shouldn't get too obsessed with the number that you see on the weight scale as it's not a true indicator of your health.
Another point to remember is that as we get older, we tend to gain fat and lose muscle that is why the BMR tends to decrease with age.
In general, men tend to have a faster metabolism as they have more muscle mass, heavier bones and less body fat than women, which is why their daily calorie allowance is higher.
However, depending on where you get your diet and fitness information from, the number of calories actually burnt by 1 pound of muscle can vary wildly from 5, 25, or 50, or even 100 additional calories per day. Therefore, instead of just increasing your muscle mass through strength training exercises, you're better off improving your overall health by engaging in a mixture of strength training, aerobic, flexibility and balancing exercises to increase your metabolism in order to get the fat burning effect that you're looking for.
To speed up your metabolism...
- Do more aerobic activity = Aim to do 150 minutes (or 2-and-half hours) of aerobic activity per week (e.g. walking, cycling, swimming). To lose weight, you're likely to need to do more than 150 minutes a week and make changes to our diet.
- Do more strength training = As already mentioned, muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue, so increasing your muscle mass will help you lose weight. But you don't have to go overboard with your training. Aim to do two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include lifting weights and high intensity bouts of exercise. Heavy gardening may also do the job.
- Be more active = Being constantly on the move and reducing time spent sitting down will help you burn more calories. Any extra movement helps burn calories. Look for ways to walk and move around a few minutes more each day than the day before.
- Do interval training = Ramping up intensity will help you consume more oxygen and make your cell powerhouses, the mitochondria, work harder to burn energy. This way, you can exercise for less time and still get great results.
- Eat lots of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, herring, and tuna) = Omega-3s balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation, helping to regulate metabolism. They may also reduce resistance to the hormone leptin, which researchers have linked to how fast fat is burned.
- DON'T cut out too many calories from your diet = If you cut out too many calories, your metabolism thinks times are lean and puts the breaks on fat-burning to conserve energy. So eat calories to at least match your resting metabolic rate (what you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day).
- Increase the "afterburn" effect = In a phenomenon known as excess postexercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), your body can take hours to recover from a robust workout (one intense enough that you can't hold a conversation) and return to its previous resting metabolic rate. Thus it burns more calories than it normally would—even after you've finished exercising. There’s a catch, though. The better shape you're in, the less benefit you'll get, because your fit body replenishes its energy stores efficiently. You can improve your burn by increasing how often or how hard you work out (think intervals).
- DON'T skip breakfast = Eating a nutrient-rich morning meal (like oatmeal with almonds and berries, or a spinach-and-feta omelette with a slice of whole-grain toast) shortly after getting out of bed literally wakes up your metabolism. It gets your "engine going and keeps it going".
- Eat organic food and drink = Fruits, vegetables, and grains grown without pesticides keep your fat-burning system running at full-tilt because they don’t expose your thyroid to toxins. Non-organic produce, on the other hand, blocks your metabolism mainly by interfering with your thyroid, which is your body’s thermostat and determines how fast it runs.
- Eat more protein (but not too much) = Your body digests protein more slowly than fat or carbs, so you feel full longer (this is especially true when you have it for breakfast). Plus, it may also give your metabolism a bump. In a process called thermogenesis, your body uses about 10% of its calorie intake for digestion. So, because it takes longer to burn protein than carbs or fat, your body expends more energy absorbing the nutrients in a high-protein diet. Another bonus, one recent study from Purdue University found that diets higher in protein may help preserve lean body mass, which is the best fat-burner of all.
It is claimed that certain foods and drinks can boost your metabolism, including green tea, black coffee, spices and energy drinks. The evidence behind these claims is flimsy, the effect on your metabolism is marginal at best and each person will respond differently to each product.
While you don't have much control over the speed of your metabolism, you can control how many calories you burn through your level of physical activity. The more active you are, the more calories you burn. In fact, some people who are said to have a fast metabolism are probably just more active - and maybe more fidgety - than others.
Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, meaning it burns more calories at rest. Every pound of muscle burns 5 - 7 calories a day at rest. A pound of fat, by contrast, burns only about 2 - 3 calories a day at rest.
Gain 2 - 4 pounds of muscle mass and you'll increase your metabolic rate by 3 - 7%. For every pound of muscle you gain, you can burn an extra 30 to 50 calories a day.
But it's often said that building muscle and losing fat are mutually exclusive. To lose body fat you need to eat less and to add muscle you have to eat more, so it can seem downright impossible to have these two goals. Read on to find out how to tighten your sleeves and loosen your jeans.
You'll alternate between weeks of heavy weights and low repetitions to build muscle and low weights and high repetitions to burn fat. This strategy elevates your metabolism by conditioning your muscles to have both endurance and strength. Combine these efforts with the "Get ripped" meal plan and you'll expose your body to the variables you need to hit your seemingly contradictory goals and realise the overall objective: looking your absolute best.
Men's Health (UK fitness magazine)