Why Exercise Is Key to Weight Loss

Consuming fewer calories and including less fat in your diet is necessary to shed pounds. Adding exercise increases the number of calories you burn so that you speed up your weight loss. Plus, you build muscle, which keeps your metabolism in high gear to burn calories more readily.

If you have any medical conditions, see your doctor, especially if you’re over 40 years old. Your physician can perform an exertion test, evaluate your overall health, and suggest forms of exercise that are safe for you.

Exercise is important for everyone. The fitter you are, the less your risk of having a heart attack or stroke or developing diabetes or some other crippling and deadly disease. Here are some of the tangible benefits exercising offers:

  • Curbing your appetite: True hunger has little to do with why or how much people eat. Many people eat out of boredom or habit.

    Some people say that exercise increases their hunger. But exercise pulls stored calories in the forms of glucose and fat out of tissues so that blood glucose levels stay even and you don’t feel hungry.

    When you first start becoming more active, after a long stretch without any exercise, you may feel hungry. After a day or so, sensations of hunger will be replaced with feelings of well-being.

  • Increasing calorie burn: The more calories you burn over the amount that your body needs to maintain its current weight, the greater your weight loss. That’s why adding exercise to your reduced calorie plan speeds up your weight-loss efforts.

    Another way that exercise burns calories is by increasing your metabolic rate. And exercise helps you to lose fat but not muscle, which determines how fast or slow your body burns calories. Fat is relatively inert, but muscle is active and needs energy to maintain itself. So the more muscle you have, the more calories your body needs.

  • Protecting against muscle loss: Many studies demonstrate that when a person diets, they loose 75 percent fat and 25 percent muscle. As muscle is lost, your body’s ability to burn and use calories efficiently decreases. To build muscle, add resistance training, such as lifting weights, to your exercise program.

  • Improving self-esteem: Some psychologists prescribe daily exercise for depressed patients and see mood improvements equal to those of prescription antidepressant drug therapy.

    So much of the weight-loss process involves giving up, limiting, and cutting out. But exercise is a positive addition. When you feel good about yourself, staying with your weight-loss commitment is easy.

  • Losing weight more easily and keeping it off: The National Weight Control Registry maintained at the University of Colorado includes more than 3,000 individuals who have lost more than 30 pounds and have kept it off for more than a year. But amazingly, the average loss is 60 pounds, and the average maintenance is six years.

    Successful losers expended about 2,800 calories in physical activity per week — about 60 minutes of activity a day. Typically, they combined walking with medium-to-heavy exercise, such as cycling, running, stair climbing, aerobic exercising, and weight lifting.

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