Forget quick-fix diets, there's a more effective – and less expensive way – of burning calories: exercise and a healthy diet. Here's how you can keep the flab at bay:
- Go for combo
It's not how long you exercise that matters but what you do during your session that determines how many calories you burn, so exercise smart. Switch between high-intensity strength training and high-intensity cardio every two to three days. Why strength training? Because it targets your body's major muscle groups, helping you tone up and burn calories faster.
- Fuel up
The popular belief used to be that exercising on an empty stomach helps you burn more fat. Not true. Just as a car needs fuel to run, you need energy for your workout. So make an effort to get up an hour earlier to have a snack before your morning workout. Carbohydrates are the body's preferred fuel so choose a carb-rich option such as a fruit smoothie, banana or whole-wheat toast with peanut butter. Don't forget to drink water. Not only does it keep you hydrated, it also lubricates your muscles, prevents stiffness of joints and makes sure that oxygen and glucose is distributed throughout your entire body.
- Tone your core
For a workout that targets your entire body, do 30-40 minutes of circuit training, with a little rest between exercises within a circuit, and a short rest between circuits if you do more than one. It should comprise compound exercises such as squats, dead lifts and pull ups. Stand or use a Swiss ball to make sure you tone your core.
- Lift off
Incorporate weight training into your workouts. Not only does lifting weights tone the muscles, it also keeps your body fat burning even after you've stopped exercising, thanks to the increase in muscle metabolism. Here's how to incorporate this into your everyday routine: The next time you go grocery shopping, carry a grocery bag in each hand to give yourself a balanced workout. Keep you arms straight while carrying them and walk home!
- Kick things up a notch
Once you've built up your fitness level, consider progressing to a high-intensity workout. For a starter workout, do 15 repetitions of burpees, jumping jacks and push ups; jump a skipping rope three times; rest for one minute; and then repeat the whole session three times. These sessions boost the release of growth hormones and burn fat as fuel. They also elevate your metabolism so you'll still be burning fat hours after your workout. Once you've built up your fitness level, consider progressing to a high-intensity workout. For a starter workout, do 15 repetitions of burpees, jumping jacks and push ups; jump a skipping rope three times; rest for one minute; and then repeat the whole session three times. These sessions boost the release of growth hormones and burn fat as fuel. They also elevate your metabolism so you'll still be burning fat hours after your workout.
However, this is not for beginners or those who haven't exercised in a while. Always check with a doctor before embarking on such an exercise.
How often should I exercise?
You don't have to spend hours exercising to lose weight. For the best results, experts recommend making time for 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week (or at least 30 minutes a day), with each session lasting at least 10 minutes. Examples of such activities include:
- Brisk walking (you should aim to cover one kilometre in 10-15 minutes)
- Table tennis
For optimal weight loss results, combine the above with resistance or strength training activities (such as push ups, sit ups and squats; free weights; and resistance bands) at least two days a week.
5 benefits of exercise you probably didn't know about
Most people exercise with the aim of losing weight but a hot bod is not the only thing you stand to gain from sweating it out.
- It gets your day off to a great start
Achieving your goals requires will and determination. If you have the discipline to wake up early each morning to work out, you've already taken your first step to making it happen. Just 30 minutes is all it takes to give you that extra energy boost to tackle whatever challenges the day throw at you.
- It's a confidence booster
Let's face it: first impressions matter and working out is a great way to improve your self-esteem and body image. You can lose weight, tone and strengthen your body, and improve the way you feel about yourself.
- It keeps your mind sharp
Regular exercise can slow down memory loss and slow the brain's aging process in the elderly. It can also boost brain development in children and adults by increasing brain cell production. This is the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.
- It helps you sleep better
Having trouble sleeping because your mind is too busy? Heading outdoors for a quick jog in the morning can help you get a better night's sleep by reinforcing your body's sleep-wake cycle.
- It's a proven stress-buster
Feeling stressed? Can't seem to concentrate or think of any new ideas? Instead of forcing yourself to sit at your desk till you complete the task at hand, take a break and go out for a walk or hit the gym. Not only will it clear your head, you'll also return feeling more optimistic and relaxed, thanks to the release of endorphins.