Another reason so many of us are overweight is that our daily living activities are no longer "activities" in the true sense - that is, we took the "active" out of activity! Our society no longer is a manual labor-driven society. We don't spend all day out in the fields growing our food.
In fact, most of us spend all day indoors, sitting down. Then we leave the office and go home, to sit down some more. Then we expect to spend an hour at the gym every couple of days, and lose weight.
This is a backwards approach to fitness. Our bodies were meant to move - all the time! Being confined to a chair for 8-10 hours a day, and of course sleeping 7-8 hours per night, doesn't leave much room to be active. Obviously for the majority of us with desk jobs, it might seem there is not much we can do about this....
But one really great book I just finished reading looks at things a bit differently. In James Levine, MD's book, "Move A Little, Lose A Lot," he introduces the concept of "NEAT" living. NEAT is an acronym for "non-exercise activity thermogenesis" - which is a long, fancy way of saying, the calories we burn just living. This excellent book takes the approach that, no matter how sedentary our lives may seem, there are always ways to incorporate more activity into them - without going to the gym or even "working out." His concept is common-sense, yet revolutionary in its potential impact on our health and wellness. The second half of the book is an 8-week day-by-day program to incorporate more NEAT into your life. It is inspiring, enlightening, and offers hope for anyone wanting to lose any amount of weight - whether just a few pounds, or a lot. I highly recommend you check out this book if you have been struggling with losing weight.
So what forms of exercise really do work?
This is a world of difference from modern man's daily life of sitting in the car, sitting at the computer, sitting in the car again, sitting on the couch in front of the TV, and going to bed. Obviously I'm simplifying somewhat, but the difference is clear. Humans were made to move, and to move in many many different ways throughout the day. That's why I prefer VARIETY when I work out. It is much more fun, interesting, and rewarding. It challenges many different muscles and systems of the body. It feels great to both body and mind, and in my mind, it's the key to making exercise a habitual part of your lifestyle.
Interval-type workouts are especially helpful, as they challenge the cardiovascular system in natural ways - not by running flat out for an hour, but in short bursts of high-intensity activity, alternating with lower intensity movements, which is really how your body was made to function. This form of exercise feels more natural to the body, and thus it's more fun for you! Depending on the type of workout, it may incorporate a great number of movements and muscle groups, and it typically takes less than half the time of a conventional "aerobics" session. For example, my favorite of these workouts is PACE Express. I work out well with DVD's, as I enjoy the guidance of the instructor and the music. Some people enjoy books and, there is also a book version of the PACE program. I have both, but have gotten a lot more out of the DVDs, as they suit my workout style better. They are a lot of fun, and even though they provide a pretty intense workout - tailored to your personal fitness level - my body feels happy and energized after doing a session, rather than dog-tired. And they only take about 15 minutes to do. It may sound crazy that you can get a full-body workout done in under 20 minutes, but it's true!
For those wanting to build muscle (remember, burning fat is great, but muscle is what moves your body, maintains your posture, and actually burns fat!), a "slow burn" type of exercise may be what you're looking for. Loading the muscle with a lot of weight, moved very slowly, is more effective at building muscle than a lot of fast reps with a lighter weight. The slowness also helps your keep an eye on what your body is saying, and helps avoid injury. And you don't have do do very many reps, so again, you can be done with your "workout" in just a few minutes. These resources provide helpful information and workout sessions for using the slow burn technique:
The Slow-Burn Fitness Revolution
Power of 10: The Once-A-Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolution
Slow Burn: Burn Fat Faster By Exercising Slower
Another form of exercise that can be a lot of fun, and feels SO good, is yoga - one of my favorites. Yoga and Pilates work the entire body by moving through a series of poses or exercises. They not only strengthen the muscles, but also the ligaments, bones, and joints, while stretching and improving flexibility at the same time. Incorporating this form of exercise into your fitness plan can be a fun and effective way to reach your fitness and weight loss goals.
So there you have it - the "secret" to weight loss, along with some of my favorite ways to "output" energy (aka burn fat). If we all can learn to eat well, live "NEAT"ly, and throw in some daily efficient exercise with an interval cardio session and some yoga and a slow-burn muscle building session here and there, perhaps one day we will live in a slimmer, healthier nation.
Comments? Questions? Want to share what weight-loss method has worked for you? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Required disclaimer: Information on this blog is for informational purposes only, and should not be considered medical advice. Be sure to consult your healthcare practitioner before making any radical dietary changes, or beginning any new exercise routine, especially if you are on any medications, or at a low fitness level.