Many people today are less physically active during their daily routine, due to the use of cars, labour-saving machinery, moving stairs, lifts, and so on.
As well, food is far more plentiful, varied, quick and easy to prepare, making it more difficult to keep the required energy balance. Energy input (food intake) becomes greater than energy output (activity) when we eat more than we need or use. That excess of energy soon translates into weight gain and the potential to develop chronic, obesity-related diseases later in life.
To correct this energy imbalance and ensure we stay fit and healthy, it's important to maintain an effective level of activity. Exercise increases the rate at which your body uses energy (kilojoules) and burns up stored energy (fat), promoting weight loss.
Increasing your level of physical activity will not only decrease the amount of fat your body is carrying, it will also improve your overall fitness that is, the function of your heart and lungs.
Remember the following points:
- When you exercise, your effort must exceed that of your normal daily activities.
- As the exercise becomes easier, the intensity needs to gradually be increased so that a level of effort is maintained during the session.
There are two important types of exercise: resistance training and aerobic. Let's take a closer look at each of these.
This type of training helps to maintain and increase muscle mass and can be performed with weights, resistance bands or simply your own body weight.
"According to a study out of Tufts University in the US, the greater your muscle mass, the greater the longevity potential," said Health & Performance Coach Daine McDonald of Clean Health. "So my advice lift and live!"
- Improves muscle strength and flexibility.
- Each muscle group is worked separately.
- Movement becomes easier and muscles less flabby as they shorten and strengthen.
This type of exercise makes your heart and lungs work harder and increases your metabolic rate. Examples of aerobic exercises are walking, running, cycling, swimming and dancing. Children engage in this type of activity naturally when they play with friends outdoors or at school they run jump, skip, climb and ride bikes.
- Promotes weight (fat) loss.
- Improves your muscle tone.
- Works the large muscle groups in your arms/legs/trunk.
- Increases your level of fitness.
- Improves the functioning of your cardiovascular system ie. your heart and lungs.
Exercise can be an important weapon in the fight against high cholesterol, heart disease and other obesity-related diseases. According to recent studies, regular aerobic exercise has the ability to lower LDL levels (bad cholesterol) by 5-10 percent and raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) 3-6 percent.
Your risk of developing cancer can also be reduced with regular physical activity. "Our message is that you don't have to make massive lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of developing cancer," says Kathy Chapman, director of health strategies at Cancer Council NSW. "Even small things, like getting off the bus a stop early and walking the rest of the way, can result in big benefits to your health."
How much exercise do I need?
To maintain or improve your fitness, you should exercise continuously at a steady pace for 20-30 minutes at least three times each week. To lose weight, however, you may need to exercise for up to 60 minutes four to five times per week. It may be more appropriate for some people to start with a shorter exercise period at more frequent intervals, depending on weight and fitness levels and build it up. You just need to start being more active than you are at present to start burning up existing fat while improving your fitness.
Don't forget diet too
An exercise regime should always go hand-in-hand with a sensible, balanced diet for optimum health. "The biggest key to controlling your health and fat loss is through managing what you eat," said McDonald. "So a balanced diet consisting of animal proteins, good fats and plant based carbohydrates in that order should be what you look to consume to increase fat loss and boost overall health."
Important note: never commence an exercise program without medical guidance, especially while you are overweight. Be guided by your doctor's advice.