When it comes to weight loss, diet is definitely the biggest part of the puzzle. Several fitness and nutrition experts suggest that diet accounts for 80% of your weight loss results. Whilst this is obviously not an exact figure, I definitely agree that the vast majority of the progress you will make in terms of weight loss will come from how well you eat.
The remaining 20% of your success will come from your lifestyle habits such as exercise, sleep and stress.
I have discussed the importance of proper sleep and how it can benefit your weight loss journey before - click here if you'd like to check that post out.
Today we are focusing on movement/exercise.
TYPES OF MOVEMENT
There are 2 kinds of physical activity you can perform:
- Planned Movement such as working-out in a gym or going out for a run.
- Everyday Movement like walking around the house, standing up, fidgeting, doing house work, climbing stairs, etc.
Planned movement, such as hitting the gym for a work-out is highly recommended due to the amazing benefits it can have upon your health.
Regular exercise is proven to:
- Improve mood by releasing feel good hormones like serotonin, dopamine and nor-epinephrine.
- Reduce the risk of degenerative diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer.
- Relieve stress.
- Improve strength and endurance which carries over to better life and sports performance.
- Aid digestion and detoxification.
- Help you sleep better.
- Burn calories and support weight management.
Most people exercise as a means to burn calories in order to lose or maintain weight. Whilst I fully support regular exercise and recommend you make it part of your lifestyle, the number of calories burned in a typical group exercise class or gym session is probably a lot less than you imagine, for example:
- A hard weight lifting session burns around 0.5-1 calorie per repetition. Doing 10 repetitions of 3 sets on 5 different weight lifting exercises at the gym will only burn 75-150 calories. Thats about 1 - 1.5 table spoons of peanut butter!
- Cycling at 10mph (16kph) burns 215 calories per half hour* - the equivalent to 1/4 bag of potato chips.
- Using a rowing machine for 1 hour burns around 494 calories* - thats about 2.5 chocolate chip cookies!
- (*Note these figures are based upon a 160 Ib person).
Im not saying exercise is worthless or that you shouldn’t do it, I HIGHLY recommend you live an active lifestyle by finding an activity you enjoy and perform it frequently.
What I am simply pointing out is that exercise can be over-rated as a weight loss tool, and placing too much focus upon working-out at the expense of other everyday movement may set you up for failure.
Most people believe that unless you regularly leave the gym drenched in sweat you cant lose weight or get fit. But the truth is you don’t have to slip into lycra sportswear, step foot inside a gym or even break into a sweat to increase your daily calorie burn!
WHY YOU DON'T HAVE TO CRUSH YOURSELF IN THE GYM TO LOSE WEIGHT!
Nobody loses weight or gets fit overnight, therefore your ability to stick with an exercise plan long enough to see improvements is essential.
If you hate the thought of working out in a gym choose an alternative approach that doesn't require you to suffer and share sweat on a treadmill or waste your money on a gym membership you wont use
There is another way to burn energy, improve health and get fit! You just need to make some simple changes to your daily routine via NEAT.
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the geeky way to say everyday movement. Almost everyone underestimates the value of NEAT because it doesn’t leave you dripping in sweat or collapsed on a gym floor. However, according to Mayo Clinic researcher Dr. James Lavine, simple everyday activities can burn up to 2000 calories per day!
This becomes understandable when you think about the number of calories a waitress, gardener or manual laborer burns compared to someone working in an office.
Consider that sitting down raises your energy expenditure a measly 5% above your resting metabolic rate and that simply pacing around at a really slow speed (1.5-2.0 mph) doubles your resting metabolic rate, and it becomes increasingly clear how NEAT can impact weight loss.
Slowly walking around burns around 170 calories per hour on average, so doing that for a total of 3 hours per day means you can burn over 500 calories a day without even stepping foot inside a gym!
There are many benefits to performing simple everyday movements, such as:
- Its FREE and always available! You don’t need to spend any money on fancy exercise equipment or buy a gym membership to increase your everyday movement. Plus, NEAT can be performed anywhere!
- Its time efficient. Instead of driving to the gym to work-out and back agin (that involves a lot of sitting), NEAT can easily be performed as part of your normal day.
- Everyone can do it. Simple movements such as walking and climbing stairs are suitable to all body shapes, sizes and fitness levels –the same can’t be said for most gym classes.
- Hunger management. Everyday movement doesn’t spike your appetite like conventional cardio workouts often can.
- Its less stressful. Because NEAT is such a low grade activity it causes minimal stress to your system. Performing high volumes of cardio exercise (like running) can be quite stressful to your body and could negatively impact your recovery from other modes of exercise like strength training.
There is limited value in hitting the gym for an hour to workout whilst living a sedentary lifestyle for the remaining 23 hours hours per day!
The potential to burn hundreds or even thousands of calories throughout the day with simple NEAT activities is real because walking, standing and fidgeting are things you can do for hours upon hours each day.
Research is now showing that an hour of daily exercise does not offset the dangers of sitting down all day. In fact, spending most of your day sitting is linked to DOZENS of chronic diseases and health ailments like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, joint pain, back pain, etc., even if you work-out.
Dr Levine’s Mayo clinic research suggests that obese people sit for 2.25 hours more than non obese individuals. This lack of everyday movement accounts for an estimated 350 fewer calories burned per day - plenty enough to explain chronic weight gain.
In fact, Dr Levine performed a study which showed that when people overeat by 1000 calories daily, the amount of weight gained differs greatly between individuals. Some of the participants in this study gained such little weight that the researchers thought they may be breaking the rules by sneaking away to exercise - they weren't. The differences in weight gain from eating the extra 1000 calories per day were caused by the amount of NEAT activity the participants performed did or didn’t perform.
Bottom line, those who increased their everyday movement the most gained the least weight.
13 NEAT WAYS TO INCREASE EVERYDAY MOVEMENT
Simply swapping much of the time you spend sitting down with standing up and moving is an easy and effective way to burn more calories and improve your health.
Here are just a few ideas to help you start increasing your everyday movement:
- Stand up and pace around anytime you take a phone call.
- Set a timer to go off every 50-60 minutes, when you hear the alarm get up and walk for 5-10 mins. If you work in an office building use this as a chance to grab some fresh air - it will increase your productivity and vitamins D levels.
- Meet your friends/work colleagues in a park instead of the pub.
- Make a habit of taking a short walk in the morning, at lunch time or after work.
- Take a gentle stroll for 15 minutes after dinner. This is proven to reduce your blood glucose levels by about 50% and therefore reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Do some house work, gardening or clean the car. If you do a lot of house work you can make it more challenging by alternating between cleaning rooms upstairs and downstairs - the additional stair climbing will burn calories and strengthen and tone your legs!
- Climb stairs in buildings instead of taking elevators.
- Park your car in the most distant parking space possible. Better yet park it a mile away and walk the remaining distance. You could even treat yourself to something nice every month with the petrol money this saves you!
- Instead of sitting, stand up on the bus or train - you can make someone's day by offering them your seat!
- If you use public transport, get off a stop or 2 early and walk the remaining distance (another healthy money saver!).
- Invest in a standing workstation so that you stand and type emails instead of sitting all day. If you want to take things a step further get a treadmill desk so that you can walk miles at work!
- Create some simple movement rules at home, such as doing 20 squats every time you use the bathroom, a 30 second plank before stepping into the shower, 20 jumping jacks during TV ads, cranking out 10 push ups with your hands placed on the kitchen counter top each time you enter the kitchen, etc.
- Buy an activity tracker. Using a pedometer or Fitbit increases your movement awareness which can spontaneously lead you to increase how much you walk and move per day.
The take home message is to actively seek out opportunities in your day to get up and move.
If you enjoy exercising regularly at the gym my advice is to keep it up and look to build additional everyday movements such as these into your life for added calorie burning and health benefits.
The Department of Health recommends adults perform the following amount of planned exercise on a weekly basis;
- 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (65-75% max heart rate) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (75%+ max heart rate) per week.
- Plus, muscle strengthening activities such as squats, push-ups or lifting weights, 2 or more times per week.
Whilst these guidelines are focused upon health improvement rather than weight loss I want to highlight the importance of strength training.
Lifting heavy things like your body weight, dumbbells, or using gym machines 2-3 x per week is going to be particularly beneficial during your weight loss phase to help preserve or even build muscle tissue.
Anytime you shift your body into a calorie deficit you are at an increased risk of muscle loss, but with regular strength training and eating adequate protein you can minimise this risk by sending messages to your body that say “burn the fat and keep the muscle - you need it to survive”.
Planned exercise is great for health improvement. In fact, besides not smoking exercise is probably the best thing you can do for your overall health.
Exercise can also assist with weight loss but only when performed correctly. This is why I caution you to exercise sensibly and not go overboard with your efforts. Exercising like a maniac can spike your hunger and decrease your everyday movement.
Due to compensatory behaviors, exercising intensely on a frequent basis can increase your hunger and lead to a spontaneous and unconscious reduction in NEAT activity. So, running hard in the morning could make you less inclined to take stairs at work or go for a walk later in the day!
In this regard training too hard and/or too often can not only lead to increased risk of injury and burn-out - it could reduce your overall calorie burning too!
So, rather than smashing yourself in the gym and then eating extra food portions and sitting more later in the day, aim to exercise sensibly by strength training 2-3 times per week to keep hold of your muscle tissue and making your “cardio” workouts part of your every day life.
If you really enjoy traditional cardio workouts like running or cycling, keep it up - just be careful not too go too hard for too long.
When it comes to cardio exercise a sensible intensity zone is to keep your heart rate at a relatively low level of intensity by using the simple formula of 180-minus your age. This figure provides a nice upper range target heart rate to shoot for during any extended or frequently performed cardio workouts. Exercising at this intensity can mitigate the risks of spiking hunger, doing less later in the day or over-stressing your system.
TIPS TO INCREASE NEAT AND EXERCISE SENSIBLY
- Actively seek out opportunities in your day to get up and move around.
- Aim to walk 10,000 steps or more per day. If you are completely sedentary or haven’t exercised since your school days begin with a lower target like 4000-5000 steps and build up from there. If you are working out in a gym add this activity on top of what you do in your workouts.
- Begin a basic strength training regime using your body weight or free weights. If you are new to exercise or strength training start with just 1 set of each exercise and build up slowly by gradually increasing the number of sets and reps you perform over several weeks. Aim for a total of 3 sets per exercise. Whether you choose to do this as a formal workout in a gym or sporadically throughout the day is up to you. Which would you prefer and be more likely to keep up?
- Consider adding in the occasional HIIT session once you have built up a good base of fitness.
- Make sure you tweak your exercise regime to suit your needs and preferences. Just like nutrition – there is no requirement for a one-size-fits-all approach to exercise so make it fun and effective! Roller blading, paddle-boarding, swimming, Zumba, ballroom dancing, surfing, mountain biking, hiking, etc. are all suitable ways to exercise. Do what you enjoy!
What can you do tomorrow to increase your movement level?
I hope you took something valuable away from this post. As always, let me know if you need any help with your weight loss journey!