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Be Realistic about Weight Loss

To lose weight and keep it off, you need to cut kilojoules and get exercise. Most of us know this. But do you know how much exercise it takes to shed weight? You need to do an hour a day of intensive cardiovascular training, five days a week, plus some form of sport.

A two-year study by researchers from the Department of Health and Physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh in the US found that the women who lost the most weight logged 270 to 300 minutes of exercise a week. Can you imagine yourself doing that much exercise? Forever? The thought alone is probably enough to make you want to throw in the sweat towel and rip open that bag of crisps, right?

So isn’t it better to make peace with the not-so-skinny body you’ve got and strive to be healthy and fit (while losing some weight in the process) rather than doing nothing at all?

Mind over Matter

In a study published in the Journal of The American Medical Association of 900 women with heart problems, it was found that the women who were overweight but fit were less likely to have blocked arteries or suffer a heart attack, stroke or any other heart problem than those who had a normal weight but were unfit. What set them apart was a healthy lifestyle – not starvation diets or army-like exercise regimens but healthy food choices and light exercise incorporated into their lifestyles.

They also knew that the body has limitations and that being overweight is a chronic condition – if you have a propensity to fat, you’ll always go back to fat. While it’s easy to think that with the correct diet and an appropriate exercise routine you can look like Jessica Alba, it’s not realistic. She was thin to begin with, and her natural body shape and DNA mean she’s likely always to be thin.

Comparing your body with that of another person would be like forcing your feet into someone else’s shoes – someone with smaller feet. Work with your own body instead. Calculate your body mass index, which determines how much you should weigh according to your height.

If you are overweight or obese, losing between 5% and 15% of your weight will lower your risk of developing heart disease and will improve blood flow and lower your cholesterol levels. If you weigh 90kg, for example, that means losing between 4,5kg and 13,5kg. Once you’re on the weight-loss track, the key to keeping it off is accepting that losing it is only the beginning. What should follow is a change in your lifestyle, incorporating wise food choices and some form of exercise.

The Physical Hurdles

Yes, you can reach a healthy weight through exercise and kilojoule control. Healthy weight is the size at which your body feels good and nurtured, as opposed to fashion weight, where your body looks thin but isn’t necessarily healthy.

The best advice is to get moving. Fit bodies burn more kilojoules than inactive ones. Exercise builds muscle, which speeds up the metabolism at rest, which further helps the body burn off energy. As little as 10 to 30 minutes of daily exercise improves our quality of life and the way we feel about ourselves.

Exercise – particularly aerobic activity – increases the metabolic rate as well as the production of enzymes needed to burn fat. It also helps the body cope with stress – producing that heady rush of endorphins after a workout. Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise four times a week will keep you from feeling sluggish.

Consider taking up a fun sport with a friend, such as swimming, running, walking, cycling or hiking, or joining an aerobics class – all great fat-burning forms of exercise.

Start Small

Try some of these simple ways to get yourself in motion: climb the stairs at work instead of taking the lift; walk to the deli around the corner at lunchtime instead of ordering a delivery; use the stairs instead of the escalator at shopping centers; or get a dog, which will encourage you take it for daily walks.

If you’ve been completely sedentary for some time, start with 10 minutes of walking or swimming to ease your body into exercise mode. Beginners should work out three to four times a week, which is enough to start building cardiovascular fitness.