Just as a car runs on gasoline, our bodies run on the blood sugar (glucose) circulating in our bloodstream. When we exercise enough to deplete the supply of blood sugar, hormones are released that instruct our fat cells to release fat into our bloodstream. The fat circulates to the muscles that need it for fuel, and we end up with less fat on our bodies.
The Right Reason to Exercise
Exercise plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body, and it makes it possible to create a calorie deficit and lose weight without starving your body and slowing your metabolism. But do not look to exercise as your sole method of weight loss.
Think how many times you’ve heard someone say, “I’ll have dessert and work it off later.” As our calculators will show you, that dessert can equate to hours of exercise — something you’re not likely to actually do. Better to eat well in the first place.
Eat healthy foods in reasonable quantities and exercise regularly to maintain good health, and your body will find a healthy weight naturally.
Categories of Exercise
Exercise is frequently divided into two categories, both of which burn calories:
- Aerobic exercise, also called cardiovascular exercise or simply “cardio,” causes you to breathe harder and increases your heart rate.
Performed on a regular basis, activities such as running and swimming improve both your respiratory capacity (lungs) and your circulatory system (heart and blood vessels).
- Strength building, also called resistance training, increases the proportion of muscle on your body. Examples include weight lifting with free weights and using a machine with variable resistance.
Because muscle is a metabolically active tissue, the more muscular you are the higher your metabolism will be. This means that you will burn more calories even at rest.
People who exercise on a regular basis not only lose weight more effectively, but are more successful at keeping it off. And the significance of regular exercise goes beyond the physical benefits.
Regular exercise produces a mental attitude of self-care and self-esteem that bolsters confidence and the desire to continue to improve.
The health benefits of regular exercise are significant and include reduced risk for heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and diabetes. Even just walking on a regular basis is of great value. Exercise also helps to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, which can be brought on by dieting itself, and can lead to overeating.
As explained in What It Takes to Lose It All, dieting often causes you to lose muscle and your metabolism to slow. Not only does exercise burn calories, but exercise — especially cardio — causes your metabolism to remain elevated for a period of time after you finish exercising. And strength building exercise builds muscle, which helps to keep your metabolism elevated 24 hours a day.
Yo-Yo Dieting without Exercise
Yo-yo dieting gets its name from the cycle of bingeing, then dieting to lose the weight gained bingeing, then repeating the cycle again and again. Yo-yo dieters typically gain weight over time, and yo-yo dieting without exercise only compounds the problem.
Without exercise, yo-yo dieters lose both muscle and fat during the diet phase, while they gain only fat during the binge phase. Over time, the proportion of fat making up their bodies becomes greater and greater, while the proportion of muscle becomes smaller and smaller.
This results in a significant slowdown of their metabolism, making weight loss more and more difficult.
Getting Started — Slowly
Have you ever seen an obese person “busting a gut” on their first day at the gym or track? And maybe you saw them a second day, but not a third? Or maybe something similar has happened to you? Take baby steps. Maybe just walking at first. With time you will build your strength, endurance, and confidence.
You can challenge your body to improve by exercising just outside your “comfort zone.” Then, when what you’re doing is no longer a challenge, you can do a little more or do it a little harder, faster or longer. But forget about the old saying, “No Pain, No Gain.” If you hurt, you won’t get off the couch!
When you work your muscles, you may feel a little soreness the next day. This is called “delayed-onset muscle soreness” and it is especially common when you first begin exercising. Stressing your muscles causes microscopic tears to their fibers, and this causes the soreness. The good news is that as your muscles heal they become stronger.
If you experience any other type of pain, stop or see a doctor. Our bodies do a wonderful job of telling us when we are abusing them. The problem is, exercise can be so addicting that we sometimes don’t want to stop and listen.
The human body was designed to be active, and the modern conveniences that make life so easy work to our detriment. If you have a desk job, fight back! Take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a walk during your lunch break, and walk the last few blocks to work.
Calculate how many calories you would burn if you went for a half-hour walk a few days a week. Multiply that by 52 weeks a year and you’ll be surprised at how it adds up. It can make a significant difference in your weight management and, perhaps even more important, your mental attitude and health.