If you're like the average American, you exercise less than 2 hours a week. Unfortunately, we live very sedentary lives and are overwhelmed with our busy schedules that often bump exercise off our to-lists. This is compounded with work schedules that do not allow long breaks to exercise nor provide the facilities to exercise. This is bad news for our health.
To maintain fitness and healthy weight, the human body should have at least three 60-minute cardiovascular workout sessions a week. It's estimated that less than 15% of adults maintain this level of fitness. The bottom line for every dieter is simple: you must have an exercise component to your total weight loss plan. Accordingly, your exercise plan should include at least an hour of exercise, three times a week to boost your metabolism and keep your body fit.
Why does a weight loss exercise session have to be so long? Well, for the first 4-5 minutes of your workout, your body is burning glucose that's readily available in your bloodstream. Only after those first few minutes of exercise does your body start to burn real calories and fat. The proper way to exercise to maximize fat burn is to aim for a moderate heart rate (140-160 beats per minute) for longer periods of time. This is much more effective for fat burn than shorter workouts with higher heart rates (160 and above).
So if you have not been exercising and need to get back into shape or lose weight, where do you even begin? First and foremost, you need to have a thorough medical exam if you have not worked out in a long time. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself with a program that's too intense or if you have an undiagnosed condition that may hinder your exercise program.
When you start that first workout session, you want to perform a baseline assessment of your skills. How far can you run? How long can you run? How much weight can you press? This is especially important because your baseline will help you set realistic goals for your exercise program. Once you have a baseline of what you can perform, look to increase your ability by 10-20% a week. For example, if you can run 1 mile, after a week aim for 1.25 miles. If you can bench 100 pounds, aim for 115 pounds the next week.
Next, figure out your healthy body weight. You should utilize a body mass calculator to find the healthy weight for your build and gender. For a more thorough assessment, seeing a nutritionist before you start your weight loss exercise plan can help you identify your proper weight. Next, realize that truly effective weight loss exercise programs will help you lose approximately 1-2 pounds a week. The more quickly you lose weight, the more likely you are to gain it back (ie yo-yo dieting). Programs that emphasize regular exercise increase and gradual weight loss are more likely to be successful in the long term (6 or more months).
Gradual increase in ability also means that you should have a system to track your fitness goals. To keep up your motivation, recognize what makes you tick. Do you enjoy working out with friends? Do you enjoy rewarding yourself with special purchases or healthy snacks when you achieve your goals? Whatever keeps you motivated to keep going, do it! The benefits of a healthy heart and a stronger body from exercise jump starts your body into long-term fitness and weight loss.