To get in shape, you have to exercise. And if you are exercising and watching your diet, you will lose weight and keep it off. Exercise and limiting calorie intake work together to shed fat, build muscle and improve your cardiovascular system, making you stronger and less susceptible to fatigue and illness.
Start moving. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people engage in aerobic exercise — such as walking, swimming, jogging or cycling — at least 150 minutes a week. Other groups, such as the American College of Sports Medicine, recommend up to an hour a day. If you’re trying to get in shape with exercise, however, the rule of thumb is “more is better.” How much you should exercise also depends on what you are doing; you have to walk two hours at 3.5 miles per hour to get the same effects as jogging for an hour at 5 mph.
Control your eating. According to researchers at UCLA, the best diet for getting in shape focuses on fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates found in whole grains and lean protein. Eating high-fat foods will make weight loss more difficult. A nutritious diet will give you the energy you need to replenish your muscles for exercise and help you shed fat. A lean body can perform exercise more easily.
Mix up moderate exercise with vigorous exercise. Moderate exercise includes activities like walking and cycling less than 10 mph, according to the CDC. Vigorous exercise includes jogging and cycling more than 10 mph. The ACSM also recommends you do both types of exercise; vigorous exercise improves your cardiovascular fitness — your body’s system of delivering oxygen and energy to working muscles — and also burns more calories, aiding weight loss.
Lose weight slowly. Studies have shown that people who have the most success keeping their weight down and staying in shape are those who lost 1 to 2 pounds a week. The key to that kind of weight loss is to burn up 3,500 calories more in one week than you currently do, either by eating less, exercising more or a combination of the two. Experts from both the CDC and the American College of Sports Medicine agree that combining exercise with restricted calorie intake is the best method.
Stick with it. Unfortunately we lose fitness faster than we gain it, so if you want to stay in shape, you have to continue to exercise. Pick a form of exercise that you enjoy to improve your chances of staying with it. Find an exercise partner. Keep track of how much you exercise so you can see your progress. Many athletes find that competition — such as road races or open-water swim races — help keep them motivated to stay in shape.
About this Author
Jim Sloan is a writer and editor in Reno, Nevada. He has been a journalist for more than 25 years and is the author of two books, “Staying Fit After Fifty,” and “Nevada: True Tales from the Neon Wilderness.”