A potential client asked me if I could help them lose weight while working long hours in a sedentary job with no time for exercise. I said I could help them lose weight but it would not stay off.
The Real Guidelines
Did you know that the physical activity recommendations, of 30 minutes at least 5 days of the week (National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence NICE) is for general health benefits, to reduce the risk of diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It is not enough to lose weight, to prevent general weight gain or regain following a loss. To do that you need about 60 minutes every day (NICE 2006).
Successful Losers & Exercise
The US National Weight Control Registry, is a database of successful weight losers who have lost over 2 stone and kept it off for at least a year. 91% of those people increased their physical activity and exercise on average for an hour a day. The most frequently reported activity was walking. This supports the figure that around 60 minutes a day, of moderate intensity exercise, is needed daily to maintain a loss. It also shows how hard it is, if just 9% of the register, lost weight and kept up their loss with diet alone.
More Than Burning Calories
Exercise contributes to weight management by more than just using up energy. Exercise improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, thyroid, human growth hormone, ghrelin and stress hormones. These all have a role in metabolism and normal weight regulation. Exercise increases energy, releases endorphins (feel-good hormones), and can relax us and improve sleep all of which promote a healthy weight. There are many diseases or conditions that are improved with exercise including depression, dementia, breast cancer risk, pain and mobility conditions, bone health.
The good news is that the activity quota does not have to be done in one 60 minute session each day. It can be split up into chunks, of at least 10 minutes each. Physical activity is not just sports. Gardening, walking the dog, chasing children or grandchildren, cleaning the house, DIY, taking the stairs, can all count as ‘moderate intensity’ if you do them so they make you feel warm and slightly out of breath. Substitute some of your work time to be active. This could include your journey to and from work, the lunch break, or what you do at work.
Find something that fits with your personality, for social people chose a group activity (maybe a walking group), for competitive people play team games or enter competitions. Doing a sponsored event helps motivate and encourages regular training. Schedule a chunk of activity in the morning if you can. That way it’s less likely to slip due to other commitments or low energy later on. If you like a cup of coffee or tea in the morning have one before you exercise as caffeine is a proven (and legal) performance enhancer. You may go that bit faster!
And finally, stop reading this and be active instead.