So you’re overweight, “fat”–to be honest–and you want to start exercising. Before you take off like an overlarge airplane and start preparing for the Olympics trials, stop right there. You may have it all figured out by now, after checking with your friends, the media and finally that fickle fiend known as the bathroom mirror, that a regular exercise program is the only way to fly when it comes to permanent weight loss. That entails working out or otherwise flexing your physical and psychological muscles on a regular basis, perhaps three times a week, or maybe even once per day.
But therein lies the rub. How do you get started? How often do you exercise? Most importantly, if you’ve been very sedate or at least somewhat off your feet for awhile, what’s the safest way to begin an effective, weight-loss centered exercise program?
Beginning a Righteous Program–Realistically
First of all, follow the old saw about consulting with your doctor. Don’t start thinking you can just begin running around the block. That’s why the medical profession exists, to advise and keep you safe. You doctor will recommend specific types of exercise tailored to fit your own individual lifestyle, personal health needs and concerns. But you don’t need to make it entirely clinical when you begin an exercise program.
Most importantly, you need to pick something you’re going to stick with. What do you like in the way of sports? If you’re people-oriented, you should look into joining a team sports program of some kind in your area, one created for adult participation. You can look for a local softball league, take a beginning aerobics class at a fitness center, or play regular games of basketball at a gym with your buddies. And then there’s golf, the perennial favorite of people who want to perform fun and interesting mild exercise. All you have to do is motivate yourself and perhaps some friends to get started. Or if you’re a loner, you can take up an individualized sport such as bicycle touring, which can also be done in small groups, or laps swimming at your community pool.
But be realistic, and work with your doctor. You want to aim for something fun that you’ll keep committing to doing regularly. If it’s something you hate, perhaps such as running on a track, climbing stairs or using what seems to you to be boring exercise equipment, forget it! Don’t spend all your money on something you can’t keep doing because you feel guilty, or think you have to punish yourself into exercising. Be sure you like what you’re going to do before you get started. Simply walking around the block is a very inexpensive and potentially fun way to go from a sedentary state to a beginning new level of much better health and fitness. You must start with something easy and simple if you haven’t been exercising for decades, and you should gradually increase your level of activity as you feel comfortable with it. Move by inches, not by miles.
Eventually, you can try exercising every single day, anywhere from twenty minutes to a full hour. But especially at first–and that may be for several months–don’t push yourself too hard. Don’t go all out, and get frustrated because you can’t keep it up. You don’t have to be a college athlete, and you can seriously hurt your heart by pushing too hard or overdoing it. Remember, you’re doing this for fun, for health reasons and to feel good about yourself. Don’t try to become an “athlete” unless you think that will be something you’ll want to commit to on a much more rigorous schedule. Later!
Easy Exercise Comes–Naturally
Americans tend to think of exercise as more their duty than as a part of their culture, or “way of life.” But it’s a true lifestyle preference. Throughout the world, many forms of regular exercise are taking hold of whole general populations. Take walking, for example. In Europe, people are flocking to their local well-developed public hiking trails, and there’s quite a few of those spread across the USA as well. Walking of a moderate type is called Volkssport in Europe, and it’s really been around for many centuries.
Easy-going exercise such as walking continues to stave off heart disease, osteoporosis, high cholesterol and many types of cancer, as well as taking care of most of your belly flab. It doesn’t sound like much, but it will really tighten your whole body up. Your legs will especially benefit, and your buns will automatically grow firmer as you stroll. Not to mention that the worst investment you need to make is a pair of comfy, sturdy sensible shoes, preferably made of leather or canvas with rubber soles. You may think that yoga is some uncomfortable form of Eastern self-punishment and mysticism, but it’s not. Yoga is great for toning your body, as it’s extremely gentle when done correctly. It combines traditional breathing and relaxation techniques with simple stretching. It’s good to use yoga during a weight-loss program when you’re sedentary, as it’s very easy on your body, you don’t have to repeat the same exercises every day, and it requires a minimal time commitment. Yoga can be used in conjunction with a more rigorous exercise program to help maintain your overall state of fitness. “Yoga doesn’t take over your life, it enhances it,” says Alice Cristensen, founder and executive director of the American Yoga Association.
Continuing Your Program–Goals and Motivation
Okay, so you’ve gotten started, but what does all this have to do with watching your weight? To keep on schedule with this as your original goal, you also have to keep that commitment to lose enough poundage to be a healthy, happy and physically fit person.
First of all, you have to figure out exactly what you’re expecting to accomplish. Are you looking for optimal health, or do you really want to fit into slinky clothes better? Either way, you’re going to have to set goals and try to attain them as you go. It helps to clearly keep in mind what you’re aiming for, and it helps to visualize yourself at your ideal weight several times a day. This image impresses itself upon your subconscious and inwardly motivates you to continue your program with a bulldog’s sheer tenacity and motivation. You want that; whatever happens, you don’t want to stress out and quit. Try looking at old photographs of yourself at your ideal weight and picturing realistically what you’ll look like when you’re back there again. Don’t expect the Fountain of Youth, but you’d be shocked how close you can get to your mental picture, and how good you’re going to feel as you move your body, eat less liberally and become fit and not fat.
You must also remember to keep it simple when you’re losing weight. In most cases, burning more calories than you ingest is the biggest concern. You have to expend approximately 3,500 calories to lose one pound of adipose fat tissue. Water weight doesn’t count, and that’s what a lot of people lose at first. Also, the important thing about exercise is that you can eat almost normally and still lose the weight at a healthy and reasonable pace. If you don’t exercise and try to lose weight, you’ll be tempted to embark on a starvation diet. This has been shown to make you lose lean muscle mass instead of fat in most cases, and although you’ll drop some pounds, they may be the wrongest ones. Chances are that if you’re unfit while you’re losing weight, you’ll get physically tired, sleep less, become overly emotional, and stress out and become extremely irritable. It simply isn’t healthy to do it that way, so you need at least a moderate exercise program.
Try keeping a journal of your progress every day, and consult with it when you want to know how far along you’ve come. You can also use it to gauge how you’re doing, and whether or not you’re losing weight at a reasonable pace. Congratulate yourself every time you ate the right thing, kept to your walking schedule, or didn’t give in to temptation that day by making a brief note about it. Read the journal to inspire you about what you’re doing whenever you feel the urge to let go.
Don’t forget to share any successes or failures with your friends and family. Tell them all about how proud you are of the new lifestyle choices you’re making, and share in their enthusiasm. They want you to be healthy and go on living, and so do you. But some of them may worry that you’re starving yourself or are in a state of denial. Reassure them, and proceed carefully with your healthy diet and exercise plans, while always knowing that it’s exactly what you need to do to look better, feel stronger and live longer.