Exercise and sustainable long term weight loss
Losing weight is a challenge, but it’s really only half the battle. The other half is keeping it off.
Many people who lose weight ultimately gain it back, with research showing that only around a fifth of those successfully keeping the weight off in the long term.1
Don’t lose faith though, as there are scientifically backed ways that will help you maintain your goal weight and enjoy your hard-won weight loss for good.
The importance of exercise
Even if exercise didn’t form the main part of your weight loss journey, a regular movement workout needs to feature if you are going to have greater success keeping it off. Exercise will help burn extra calories and increase your metabolism, which is important as you start allowing yourself greater freedom in food choices. By exercising more to balance the calories consumed against the calories you expend, you will be better able to burn what you consume and keep your weight more stable – studies have shown that weight maintenance is more likely in those who take part in around 30-minutes of moderate exercise each day.2
Weight loss also comes with a common side effect of a reduction in muscle mass.3 As muscle burns more calories than fat, this can make it harder to keep the weight off. Losing muscle has also been shown to come with the side effect of reducing your metabolism, meaning you will burn fewer calories overall.4 Studies have shown that those who lift weights after losing weight can prevent this loss of muscles and are more likely to keep the weight off.5
Combining exercise with a balanced diet
Even if you are no longer dieting, it’s still important to watch what you eat to maximise the benefits of both a balanced diet and the health benefits of physical exercise. Consuming a lot of protein will help to reduce your appetite and promote fullness, and it increases the levels of certain hormones that are responsible for giving us the feeling of fullness after a meal.6
Continue to weigh yourself
Weight doesn’t generally pile on overnight but creeps on slowly. Regular weighing is a way to keep your weight in check rather than waking up one morning realising that you have piled on everything you have lost. That being said, it’s important not to worry too much about gaining a few pounds every now and then. Rather than weight yourself each week and instantly diet as soon as you gain anything, try giving yourself a buffer you are comfortable with. If this was 5 pounds for example, then when you go 5 pounds over your goal weight, diet again until you lose it. That way you still get to enjoy yourself and have the odd treat in the knowledge that when you reach your 5-pound marker, you can get rid of the weight fairly quickly again.
Does weight maintenance differ for men and women?
Genetically, you could argue that men get the better deal when it comes to being able to maintain their weight. They typically have a higher muscle mass and a lower fat mass, meaning that they need more calories than women to maintain their weight. Put simply – men can eat more without putting on weight as quickly. As muscle burns more calories than fat, this is one of the reasons why lifting weights, or doing bodyweight exercises, is so important for women.
It’s not just about maintenance. Men also tend to lose weight quicker than women, so if men do regain it, it will generally be easier for them to shift it again. When it comes to weight maintenance, men do have the advantage, but women shouldn’t let this discourage them. Take control and take steps to improve your diet and exercise routine. Lifting weights and doing more weight bearing exercises will help build lean body mass and put you in a better position to maintain your well-earned weight loss.