WEIGHT MANAGEMENT ∙ 3 minutes read

The fundamentals of exercise and weight loss

By Dr Leah Gorodi

Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do for yourself when it comes to living a healthy and fulfilling life. The benefits are far-reaching, and there’s an overwhelming amount of research and evidence to support this. 

The benefits include, but are not limited to:

  • Reduced risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and strokes
  • Reduced risk of early death by up to 30%
  • Protective effects against several types of cancer
  • Less risk of frailty and falls in older people
  • Improved mood, cognition, energy, sleep, and reduced stress levels
  • Reduced risk of depression, anxiety, and dementia

Why is exercise so important?

Our lives with modern technology have become increasingly sedentary, and this is fast evolving into a serious global health issue. The World Health Organisation has identified that people who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active. We simply spend too much time sitting down, and this comes with increased health risks irrelevant to how much time you spend exercising every week (particularly if you spend more than 6 hours a day sitting or lying down). 

What counts? 

All movement throughout your day counts as physical activity, and it’s important to try and be active consistently by practising different types of movement. Ultimately, you need to be moving enough to increase your heart rate, and there are two different categories of exercise you should particularly focus on: moderate intensity and vigorous intensity.

During moderate-intensity exercise, you’re still able to talk, but you’re not able to sing (this includes activities like brisk walking). Vigorous-intensity exercise is more intense and you won’t be able to talk without pausing for breath. Research has shown that there are additional health benefits if you include this in your weekly routine. Remember that all physical activity is beneficial, and the positive effects are immediate. 

What should your weekly routine include? 

  • Strengthening activities that work all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week
  • At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week
  • Exercise spread evenly over 4 to 5 days a week
  • Reduced time spent sitting or lying down
  • Incorporated breaks into your daily routine so that you aren’t sedentary for long periods of time

Another way of achieving an optimal amount of exercise each week is with:

  • Several short sessions of very vigorous-intensity activity
  • A mix of moderate, vigorous, and very vigorous-intensity activity

The bottom line 

While movement is fundamental in aiding weight loss, exercise alone isn’t enough to help you lose weight without any diet changes. Nutrition is key in weight maintenance and you will reach the maximum effects of calorie restriction by regularly exercising. You will also have higher control over maintaining gains made and staying within a healthy range in the long term if you focus on diet and exercise equally. 

It’s also important to remember that everything in your body and mind is interlinked. If you exercise regularly you will have more energy, sleep better, and be in a more positive mindset; this will have a knock-on effect on your emotional eating triggers, motivation, and self esteem. You’re far more likely to achieve your goals and lead a healthier, happier life. It all works together.