You've probably heard that weight loss has a lot more to do with diet than exercise. And while that's mostly true, many people believe that in order to lose weight through exercise they need to work out like an elite athlete.
Trust me, this is hardly the case! Actually, making a few small changes to your exercise routine can significantly "move the needle" in a very positive way...with a few diet tweaks as well, of course. Here's what you should do:
1. Jogging one to two hour per week.
In 2015, Dr. Peter Schnohr, a Danish cardiologist affiliated with Frederiksberg Hospital in Copenhagen, led a study to examine the impact of jogging on long-term mortality. The conclusion? People who are physically active have a 30 percent lower chance of death relative to people who are physically inactive. Interestingly enough, Dr. Schnohr and colleagues also found that light joggers had a lower risk of mortality than moderate and strenuous joggers.
A year later, a study conducted at New York's Hunter College used wearable devices to monitor the physical activity levels of 332 subjects based in countries around the world such as the United States, Ghana, Jamaica, South Africa, and Seychelles to account for a wide range of different lifestyles.
They found that people with moderately active lifestyles managed to expend more calories than people who performed virtually no exercise at all, which wasn't all that shocking. What came as more of a surprise was that people with highly active lifestyles did not expend significantly more calories than those with moderately active lifestyles.
"More exercise can still be very good for your health, but if you’re already moderately active, you are not going to see any change in your energy expenditure," said study author Herman Pontzer.
The human body makes remarkable adaptations to limit the amount of energy that it expends in a given day, so if fat loss is your goal, a very aggressive exercise program might not do much for you. Jogging one to two hours per week (total!) will probably do the trick.
2. Moderate weightlifting once or twice per week.
Although cardio workouts like jogging and running are vital to maintaining good health, if you're looking to lose weight, ignoring weight training is a mistake.
Moderate weightlifting two times per week can help you build lean muscle mass, which has myriad health benefits. When we overeat, carbohydrates are eventually converted into fats by the liver. Because muscle tissue has a large requirement for glucose, increased muscle mass means there's less glucose available to convert to fat. This also means blood sugar can't spike too high, which is great for energy levels.
Further, regular weight training can help delay the onset of a form of age-related muscle loss called sarcopenia. According to Rizzoli and colleagues, sarcopenia is associated with "low skeletal muscle mass and either low muscle strength (e.g., hand grip) or low muscle performance—such as walking speed or muscle power—and when all three conditions are present, severe sarcopenia may be diagnosed."
So even if this means cutting down on your cardio a bit, spend some time in the weight room. You won't regret it.
3. Eating more healthy fats.
There are countless health benefits to exercise such as lowering blood pressure, improving sleep, and reducing anxiety and depression. But to once again make the case for more moderate exercise, intense exercise tends to make people ravenously hungry, which can cause them to overeat.
By reducing refined carbohydrates—think rice, pasta, and bread—and adding healthy fats such as avocados, coconuts, and extra-virgin olive oil, you'll probably find that the weight drops right off of you. It may seem counterintuitive, but eating more nutrient-dense foods will keep you full for longer, keep your blood sugar in check, and probably lead you to eat less throughout the day.
Overall, if you're looking to lose weight, the key is to treat your body with kindness. Don't make your workouts too strenuous, and eat foods that truly satisfy you. Good luck!
Want more exercise tips? Find out how doctors work out and find out which workouts will help you beat bloat.