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Exercise and Weight Loss
by: Mary Howard RN

If you are serious about your weight loss program, exercise is the key. But how do we get motivated to make such a big change in our life?
If you are serious about your weight loss program, exercise is the key. But how do we get motivated to make such a big change in our life? We’ll talk about motivating benefits, how much exercise it takes, types of exercise and exercising with health conditions.

They say we are supposed to take time each day for ourselves. In my opinion, that means curling up on the couch with a good book and a cup of hot cappuccino. Who wants to exercise?! After doing some research, it looks like it is time to get moving and change some attitudes about doing something for ourselves.

First of all, let's get motivated. Regular and sustained movements of large muscle groups promote the loss of fat while preserving the lean body mass, so exercise is an important part of any weight loss program. Exercise burns fat, at the same time, it allows you to eat more; as long as you eat the right foods. Aerobic exercise before breakfast forces your body to burn fat and with the right exercise program you can get your body to burn fat 24 hours a day.

Exercise also makes you feel better while shaping and toning your body. Exercise is an important step in restoring, maintaining and increasing strength. It can provide a diversion and help build self-confidence by providing a positive self-image.

Now let's look at how much exercise it takes to lose weight. It varies from person to person, but you will need to make permanent changes in eating habits and life-style if you want to lose weight and stay in control of that weight loss. To promote fat loss, a weight loss program should have these 4 characteristics:

Exercise should involve the large muscle groups (legs and arms). Be done at least 3 days a week. Use at least 300 calories per session or 4 days/week and use 200 cal/session. Aerobic enough to increase your heart rate.

For some very simple guidelines here are approximate caloric cost of some common exercises. They are based on an average, 154-lb person during 30 min of exercise:

Bicycling 12 mp - 354

Running 5 mph - 294

Swimming (fast freestyle) - 273

Walking 3 mph - 126

Now let's look at some types of exercise. (Some of these are exercises that a Physical Therapist might teach, but may be helpful, especially for people with limited mobility and joint pain.):

Isometric exercises - Muscle tension is increased but no movement of near-by joints. For example, tightening the thigh and leg muscles without moving the knees or hips. This is good for someone with joint pain or to strengthen muscles above or below an injured joint or cast.

Range of Motion exercises - These are used to increase joint mobility by bending and extending the different joints of the body. These exercises are good for people that stay in one position for extended periods of time, for example standing or sitting. These are also a great warm-up for your joints before an aerobic exercise workout.

Isotonic exercises - These are the movement of muscle with the intent of increasing their length. For example, bending and stretching of arms, legs and back. This exercise increases the circulation and conditions the heart.

Resistance exercises - Involves the movement of muscle groups against resistance. It may be the weight of an extremity, lifting weights or against some type of gym machine. This exercise is used to strengthen and condition the body.

Aerobic Exercise - Jogging, rope skipping, swimming, bicycling, brisk walking and aerobic dance. These increase the heart rate, condition and strengthen the muscles and burn the most calories for your weight loss program.

Ambulation - Good old walking is a low impact way to strengthen and condition many muscles and the heart. It burns calories and is good for the psyche.

For a good work out, it may be helpful to use a combination of a conditioning type exercise along with an exercise that increases your heart rate. In addition to regular aerobic exercise, you can increase energy expenditure during usual daily activities by parking further from the office or store to increase your daily walking distance or use the stairs instead of taking the elevator when you can.

It is important to have adequate amounts of quality protein in your diet during weight loss because protein helps you build lean muscle mass. You want to be replacing fat with muscle mass instead of just losing weight. Starving yourself or skipping meals is not a good way to lose weight; frequently, it will cause your body to store fat rather than use fat.

Exercising with health conditions:

An obese person or anyone with a family history of heart disease should be carefully evaluated by their doctor or health care provider before beginning an exercise program.

Exercises such as jogging and rope skipping may worsen degenerative joint disease. Less stressful activities may be better for those with joint problems such as swimming, bicycling or walking.

Exercise and Diabetes: Regular aerobic exercise that involves using large muscles and increases the heart rate has a potential to lower blood sugar and increase insulin sensitivity. It can also decrease blood pressure, increase your ability to do physical work and make you feel well. The diabetic has to be very careful to be consistent with an exercise program and monitor blood sugars very carefully. It is also important to have very close contact with your doctor, going over your exercise program with your doctor, and reporting weight changes and blood sugar changes. If you are on medication or insulin for your Diabetes, the dosages may need to be changed while you are taking part in an exercise program. Also, if you quit your exercise program, a careful re-adjustment of medication or insulin may be needed.

There are many aspects to a good weight loss program but the key is a consistent exercise program. There are many kinds of exercise and ways to avoid injury during exercise if some time and effort are put into putting a program together. Getting motivated may seem like an insurmountable task, but it is worth it in the end. Be careful and exercise in moderation if you have health problems. However, excercising may help you overcome some of the same health problems you have to modify your program for in the beginning.

About the Author

Mary Howard is Registered Nurse, mother of two, and enjoys natural gardening. More or her articles are posted on the Homegrown web site. Feel Free to contact her at:


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