Are you thinking about losing weight? You’re already taking the first small step toward improving your health, and lowering your stress. Think of weight loss and getting fit as a marathon rather than a sprint. It’s a lifelong commitment, broken up into dozens of small steps. When you look at it in bite-sized portions, it’ll be easier to lose weight, eat better, and stay healthy in a busy world.
How much exercise do I need?
So, you’re taking a small step toward making it a goal if you’re thinking about adding more exercise to your routine. If you do exercise but aren’t hitting your weight loss goals, it’ may be because you’re not working out enough.
Adults need the right mix of aerobic and strength training activities. You don’t need to be a marathon runner, Olympic medalist, or NCAA champion to get your blood flowing, strengthen your muscles, support your flexibility and balance, and keep your joints lubricated.
If you currently lead a sedentary lifestyle, begin by committing to just 5 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week. When things go well, then increase the time you spend moving by 5 minutes each week until you’re up to 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
Minimum 30 minutes / 5 days a week* ~ Flexibility, aerobic exercise, strength training
Certainly feel free to break up the 30 minutes into smaller increments of time if it makes it easier to fit physical activity into your day, especially on busy days. Thirty minutes can seem daunting if you only allow yourself to get it in all in one session.
Do I need to walk 10,000 steps a day?
Technology makes our lives easier, but it also makes it easier for kids to sit on the couch and play a video game or for an adult to scroll through their phone. It also adds to our stress and feeling overwhelmed, for fear of missing out on the latest thing happening on the Internet or an email from our boss.
Use technology as motivation to workout. It’s your best friend when you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight and stay healthy in a busy world. Don’t get obsessed with the numbers, like walking 10,000 steps a day, but use the information and data as a guide to reaching your goals!
Personal fitness trackers make it easier than ever to track your activity level. Typically they set the goal at 10,000 steps a day which is about 5 miles a day.
While this number of steps isn’t a goal of any government health organization, the popular fitness tracker Fitbit sets this step goal because their calculations show you’ll exercise for at least 150 minutes a week, which is the CDC’s recommendations, if you walk that far each day.
While 10,000 steps may be too lofty for you or too little for other groups of people, like young adults, use it as a guideline. You can adjust it in your fitness tracker. Set a goal that fits your lifestyle.
To reach your step goals, you just have to move. You can do this gardening, cleaning, or cooking. Here’s how to convert activities into steps.
No matter how many steps you take, the devices keep you accountable and on track. You can set goals and reminders to motivate you to get up and keep moving, especially if you have a job that keeps you at your desk during the day.
Health impact of a desk job
Your health is at risk even if you already meet physical activity guidelines, but also spend large chunks of your day sitting (i.e., sitting at a desk working on a computer; watching television for hours).
More and more studies are revealing the very negative consequences of being a couch potato. Our bodies are designed for movement, and when we don’t go along with the plan, there is a price to be paid. Here are just a few examples of the potential outcomes of too little movement and too much sitting:
- Impaired brain health.
- Musculoskeletal conditions like back pain.
- A decrease in metabolism.
Studies also indicate a 40 percent higher risk of premature death in women who sit more than six hours per day, independent of their physical activity level, as compared to their peers who sit less.
So don’t just sit there! If possible, working in ninety-minute increments, followed by a short break, has been shown to increase focus, creativity, and efficiency.
Some employees even get standing desks. That’s taking exercise to a whole new level, but find some way to move during work. When you’re thinking about weight loss, think of it as a lifestyle rather than just an hour of exercise a few times a week.
Walk to lunch. Set aside a time in the morning and afternoon to move! Use your phone to set an alarm if it’s likely you’ll get too busy with meetings and projects and forget to move.
Exercise during the day will make you healthier, and it will also lower your stress. Let’s face it, work is stressful. Taking time in your day to get fresh air will make a difference in how you physically and mentally feel. It’s just one of many tools you can use to find happiness even when you feel overwhelmed.
Treatment of depression with exercise
According to a journal article, “Is Exercise a Viable Treatment for Depression,” jogging and running were the most used exercises in the studies but also included some walking, aerobic training with an instructor, spinning, or resistance training and stretching.
In one trial, high energy exercises reduced depression symptoms 47% percent over 12 weeks of treatment. It’s unclear how much exercise you need to have an impact, but one study showed it was the type of activity rather than how often that mattered most. So, get your heart moving with vigorous exercise.
If you’re feeling depressed, seek help. Motivation to exercise may be the last thing on your mind because you may have low self-esteem, poor sleep, and low energy.
Motivational Interviewing (MI) may be an approach to consider. The health professional works with you to understand and help you reach your goals rather than as someone who directs and writes prescriptions. If you’re looking for an MI therapist, search for one near you.
Depression is a serious illness, so talk with your doctor about your options.
What types of exercise are best?
So, how much exercise do you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle?
The CDC outlines several scenarios including 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity every week. For example, brisk walking. You also need 2 or more days a week of muscle-strengthening activities according to the guidelines.
When you’re thinking about weight loss, choose an activity you lovely. You’re more likely to stick with it.
Ask your friends what they like, and perhaps partner up with them.
Again, use technology to your benefit. Many online fitness trainers are using various apps to deliver their workout motivation and programs to you.
Gyms, Certified Personal Trainers, and workout classes are another great way to stick to a workout routine.
Look for ways to be held accountable whether it’s an app, a trainer, or a partner. Accountability partners are a great way to stick with your goals.
Even something as simple as chair yoga can be the ticket to get some kinks out and put you on the path to regular physical activity.
Don’t get stuck in a rut with a particular setting. It’s about movement, which you can do almost anywhere!
*Before beginning any physical activity regimen, please check with your physician to discuss what’s safe for you, given any health risks or conditions you may have.
How much should I weigh?
Studies show 70-percent of Americans are overweight. Excess weight is associated with chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, heartburn, lower back pain, joint aches, sleep apnea, depression, and even some cancers.
Studies by Johns Hopkins show optimal weight, physical activity, and healthy eating (specifically a Mediterranean diet) can even slow down the aging process.
So, how much should you weigh? Determining your ideal weight is often based off your Body Mass Index (BMI), although it’s not the only calculation. You can also use your waist to hip ratio, waist to height ratio or body fat percentage to find an optimal weight.
Medical News Today offers a BMI calculator to check if you’re underweight, on target, overweight or obese. It’s based on your height and weight. For example, the average weight of a 5-foot 5-inch person is between 114 and 144 pounds.
BMI offers a ballpark figure and should be considered with other measurements as well. Some critics argue BMI underestimates the body fat in overweight and obese people and overestimates it in fit people.
Discuss your weight status with your physician to determine the weight that is healthy for you and any precautions you should take as you work on achieving and maintaining your goal weight.
How much should I eat?
When you first begin to make a change, it may be challenging to eat according to the recommended dietary guidelines, and it can also be confusing to contend with what seems like lots of conflicting information on what is good or bad for you. But, it IS possible to make progress over time.
Take small steps.
So, what’s the recommendation? According to the United States Department of Agriculture, half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Half of your grains should be whole grains. Look for these ingredients listed first or second. For example, try oatmeal, popcorn, whole-grain bread, and brown rice. Mix up your sources or protein to include seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, peas, soy products, eggs, and lean meats and poultry.
You can create your own FREE “MyPlate Plan” based on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity level. It takes less than a minute to fill out, and get a personalized plan. The interactive guide walks you through how many calories to eat each day and the amount of food from each food group.
If you’re looking for new, healthy food choices from the frozen to the condiment aisle, consider this shopping list to spark new ideas.
Once you know what to eat, consider a FREE fitness tracker app, like My Fitness Pal. You enter the foods you eat, and the app calculates the number of calories. Watching the calories add up, keeps you accountable. You can also enter your exercise for the day since that plays into how much you can eat to maintain or lose weight.
While watching what you eat is a commitment, start small. Here are some examples of eating healthier one small step at a time:
- Drink one more glass of water each day
- Drink one less soda each day
- Use one less spoonful of sugar or honey in your coffee or tea
- Eat an apple a day
- Use a smaller plate or bowl, and don’t go back for seconds
- If you go out to eat, divide your entrée in half and put the rest in a doggie bag. Eat the rest later.
- Don’t eat after 7 or 8 PM unless you work the night shift. Start one day a week and every week add another day. That way, you’ll accomplish this goal in seven weeks!
- Slow down when you eat and enjoy your food.
Get expert help with your fitness and nutrition goals
Always talk to your doctor before you embark on an exercise or weight loss routine.
You can also talk with a nutritionist. Some grocery stores offer nutrition help, especially if you have dietary restrictions like gluten-free or diabetic. They can help you learn to read labels so you can pick out foods that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Also, consider a private nutritionist. Many health insurers cover this service, especially if you have a chronic condition like diabetes. Call your insurer and find out if (and under what conditions) you have coverage.
Finally, consult with a certified personal trainer. They’ll provide exercises that fit your activity level so you can get fit with an accountability partner.
While you may not be able to tackle each of these small steps all at once, starting with just a few is progress toward reaching fitness and nutrition goals.
I completely understand that the less you do of any one thing, the easier it becomes to do even less of it and then begin to talk ourselves into a myriad of reasons why it just can’t be helped. But, guess what? The more you do of any one thing, the easier it becomes to do more of it. The trick is to figure out a way to flip the switch to do more moving and less sitting.