How to figure out the best personal exercise plan for weight loss
Losing weight isn’t always easy. That being said, it doesn’t have to be all that difficult either.
To set ourselves up with the best chances for long terms success, sometimes we just need to step back and look at our current lifestyle so that we can come up with an exercise plan that is right for us.
Determining what’s right for you
Everyone is different – that’s what makes life interesting! But because of that, the ideal exercise plan for your friend might not be the ideal exercise plan for you. The right plan will be the plan you enjoy and can stick to. Once you find something that ticks those boxes, the weight loss will naturally follow.
Does your job keep you active?
A postman will naturally be getting more daily exercise than an office worker. Consider your own job. Are you moving around a lot, or are you mostly sat down all day? If you’re mostly sedentary, there are small steps you can make to help maintain fitness. Try to stand up and move about for a few minutes each hour to keep your muscles and joints flexible. Standing not only burns more calories than sitting but has been shown to reduce the potential of catching a number of illnesses.1 Other things you might try if you have a mainly sedentary job include parking further away from the office, opting for active, walking meetings, rather than sitting meetings and using your lunch break wisely to stretch your legs and get some fresh air.
What’s your Body Mass Index? (BMI)
The higher your BMI, the more weight you will be carrying around and the more exertion you will need to do it. Your BMI is based on your height and weight and can be calculated on the NHS website. If your BMI puts you in the obese category, you are going to need a different movement workout plan to someone in the underweight category. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should be doing more exercise than them just because you have more to lose. In fact, you may need to do less as the heavier you are, the more calories you will burn due to the greater physical exertion.
How much time do you have for exercise?
If we are honest with ourselves, we all have time for exercise, but we might not necessarily have much of it. If you have a family to take care of, a full-time job or other commitments, it might not be as simple as getting out of bed an hour earlier to exercise. That extra hour in bed could make or break us and, while the health benefits of physical exercise are worth considering, so too is the importance of sleep. If you are truly lacking in time, there are exercises like High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) that can deliver results in as little as 7 minutes – research has found that HIIT burns 25-30% more calories than other forms of exercise.2 There’s nothing wrong with varying up your movement workouts too. If you have more time at the weekend then find an activity you enjoy – perhaps consider golf or walking with friends – and you’ll enjoy it then. Don’t feel bad about what you don’t have the time for but concentrate on what you can do.
How much or little do you eat in a day?
While in order to lose weight, we need to consume less calories than we expend, we also need to make sure we are taking on board enough to be able to function properly. Eating too little can be just as bad as eating too much, and research has shown that reducing calories intake too drastically isn’t good for long term health or weight loss and makes it harder to keep weight off for good.3 You don’t need to feel physically hungry to lose weight and studies have shown that keeping yourself feeling full with high-fibre foods, such as vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains, is one of the best ways to lose weight and keep it off.4
Do you have any existing injuries?
If you have any existing injuries you might be better looking at lower impact exercises – these are the exercises that put less stress on your joints so are less likely to aggravate, or cause injuries. For most people, walking is a great place to start as it’s instantly accessible and doesn’t require any special skills or knowledge. Depending on the type of injuries you have though, this might not be possible. If this is the case consider swimming, or low-impact water aerobics. As water supports your body weight there will be a very minimal impact on your joints, meaning that the pains you feel while exercising on land could be virtually non-existent in the water.
How are your current fitness levels?
We are all different and we all have varying levels of fitness. Going for a 5k run might seem like nothing to one person, whereas to another it would take months of training to be able to do. As tempting as it is, try not to focus on what others are doing and concentrate instead on what you are capable of. If you truly feel you have limited base fitness there are plenty of ways to build it up at a sensible pace. Some group activities are also geared towards different fitness levels. Bootcamp, for example, can be attended by super fit people, but also by those with limited fitness. If you are your own benchmark, then you can enjoy these things whatever fitness level you are at.
What are your goals?
Weight loss may well be your overriding goal, in which case, the more calories you cut from your diet, the faster you’re likely to lose weight. Remember though that balance is still important as doing this too quickly can lead to a quicker regain, as well as other negative side effects such as loss of muscle mass, increased hunger, nutrient deficiencies and low energy levels.5
But there are many other health benefits of physical exercise too. Studies have shown that regular exercise can make you feel happier by increasing brain sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine – the ‘happiness’ hormones.6 It’s also good for building healthy muscles and bones as exercise promotes the ability of your muscles to absorb amino acids, which helps them grow and reduces their breakdown.7
It’s all too easy to compare yourself with others but try to remember that everyone is running their own race. What is easy for one person is difficult for another – and that’s absolutely fine. Be kind to yourself. Recognise that any exercise you are doing today is better than no exercise you were doing yesterday. Your fitness levels will get there, and if you keep at it, you will start to see the pounds coming off. Reward each small step on your weight loss journey and before you know it, you’ll be making giant leaps.