With the Commonwealth Games in full swing in my home town of Glasgow, there couldn't be a better time to talk about activity than now.
One of the biggest hurdles my patients struggle with is becoming more active. And yet, becoming more active is just as important as changing the way we eat. Dieting alone can produce 1 or 2 pounds of weight loss a week. Exercising alone will only produce around one pound of weight loss per month! But the combination of both is really powerful.
All the evidence suggests that the people who lose weight, and keep it off, are those who have increased, and maintained increased levels of physical activity. But many of us who start a weight loss programme have forgotten what it means to be active. Busy lives, demanding jobs, and time-consuming kids, have all eaten away at our time, and made us feel too tired, and too busy to be active. I find it’s really helpful to work through a few preconceived ideas with my patients to help them find the way, and the time, to burn more calories. Here’s just a few:
“Exercise increases your appetite”. Not so. The evidence suggests that being more active can actually decrease your hunger levels. It can help you control your food intake too.
“I’m too big or too unfit to go to the gym”. Who says you need to go to the gym? For most of us the right place to start our exercise is at the front door. Get your shoes on… and a coat if it’s still raining….and start walking. One hundred yards, five hundred yards or half a mile? It’s about whatever you can comfortably manage. It’s a start.
“I don’t have the time to be active”. Maybe not, but you’ll have to find some. Try “stealing” some time back. Find ways to be more active as a normal routine in your life. Walk the kids to school. Leave the car at home for a change. Get off the bus a stop early. Don’t pick up the phone, go and visit your neighbour for a chat.
We need to aim for around sixty minutes of activity most days of the week, but we need to start at the beginning. Being more active than you are now is a good start. Build it up weekly until, as you add all the time together, you’re achieving sixty minutes in total each day. You’ll feel good. You’ll look good. Your heart will thank you for it. And your chances of reaching your weight loss goal will be all the greater.