Exercise and Weight Loss
Exercise is good for almost everyone. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General has outlined formal exercise guidelines for Americans:
- We should exercise at least 30 minutes most days.
- This exercise should be moderate intensity, defined as 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.
Your health care team can teach you how to check your heart rate. You can learn your maximum heart rate and how hard you can safely exercise. Instead of checking your heart rate, you can tell if you are working hard enough by using the talk test.
How Much Exercise Do You Need?
For Blood Sugar Control
Exercise helps lower blood sugars. Because of this and other health perks, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) stresses that exercise be part of a blood sugar control plan. The goal is 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days. This should include a warm-up and cool-down. This prevents sore muscles and injury.
A warm up is 5-10 minutes of a slow version of the exercise. This allows your heart and blood pressure to increase gradually. It also warms up the muscles and lets them know more exercise is to follow. A "cool-down" is advised after the workout. It's like the warm-up in reverse. It brings the heart rate and blood pressure slowly down to pre-exercise levels. After this, stretch muscles gently for another 5-10 minutes.
For Weight Loss
How much exercise you need for weight loss varies person to person. It's a good idea to start with ADA's goal of 30 minutes most days. This should be moderate intensity exercise. Then increase your exercise time to 45-60 minutes. If this and your lower calorie meal plan aren't leading to continued weight loss, step up the exercise a bit by working harder. Exercise is a key part of a weight control program. But just adding more exercise may not lead to weight loss. Here's why:
- Exercise makes muscles larger and heavier. Your weight may not change if you build muscle at the same time you lose body fat. Rest assured, you may still be making progress. Instead of using a scale, measure your waist and hips. Are you losing inches? Does your clothing fit looser? This means you are losing body fat, even if your weight is the same. Also, a good way to check your progress is to get your body fat tested. Ask your health care team how you can get this done.
- The more you move, the more calories you burn. This offsets the calories you eat. Having more muscle mass makes you burn more calories all the time. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you can lose weight. In fact, a shortfall of 500 calories a day can promote a weight loss of one pound a week. In spite of this, most people do not lose weight and keep it off with exercise alone. They also need to eat less.
Even though exercise alone may not help you lose weight, it is key to keeping the weight off. People who don't exercise while trying to lose weight often gain the weight back. For an idea of how many calories you burn during your exercise routine, click onto the "Activity Calorie Calculator" now.
The take home message: The best way to lose weight is to eat less AND exercise more.
Getting more exercise than the Surgeon General suggests may help your health even more. The next step is to exercise for fitness. This involves:
- Increasing how hard you exercise. Try aiming for 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.
- Set aside more time for exercise each day. Try 45 or 60 minutes. You burn mainly sugar calories the first 30 minutes of exercise. After that, your primary fuel burned is fat calories when doing aerobic exercise.
- Do more exercise at one time instead of splitting your exercise up into small sessions.
Be sure to check with your doctor before you increase exercise to this level. Some people need to avoid hard, intense exercise.
Strength training is a helpful add-on to any exercise program. In fact, ADA believes that moderate weight training programs are useful for building or keeping upper body strength in nearly all patients with diabetes. If you use weights to build muscles, ADA suggests lifting lighter weights more times, instead of very heavy weights a few times.
Most people who use weights go to a health club or a gym to use the equipment. It helps to meet with a fitness trainer before you start. They can show you how to safely use the weights and even set up a program for you.