Activity & Exercise Articles Diet & Food Lifestyle Metabolic Disorder

When Does Exercising to Lose Weight Work

Over the years, many of my patients have approached weight loss through exercise. This requires a lot of exertion, which can increase the risk of injury and lead to burnout. And though exercise remains an important lifestyle tool, it is far more effective for those with rather lean body mass types.

For those getting started in their weight loss journey, it’s important to have a sustainable, individualized plan. The studies show that dietary changes are more effective than exercise plans to achieve weight loss.

However, as the weight loss progresses, it’s necessary to add some exercise, which should be resistance training followed by sustainable cardio.

Healthy Weight Loss

As I’ve said many times before, weight loss for the sole purpose of losing weight is unsustainable and may be an unhealthy mindset. But losing weight to improve cardiometabolic health and feel better is valuable, approachable, and sustainable.

Healthy weight loss often involves the redistribution of fat from the viscera to areas like the buttocks, hips, and subcutaneous fat. That’s a great start and worth celebrating.

Healthy weight loss should also happen slowly since rapid weight loss creates quite a bit of havoc in the system and has been shown to result in rebound weight gain through several mechanisms.

1. Weight loss to feel better
2. Fat redistribution over fat loss
3. Slow approach to losing weight

Exercising to Lose Weight

Exercising to lose weight requires an individualized approach. Some of my patients are rather muscular already and may benefit from pushing that button over starting a tough aerobic exercise routine.

But cardio is quite valuable because it has other health benefits and can improve mood and sleep. It should be started gradually. When do you know how fast you can advance? Usually, when walking feels too easy, you start incorporating some stairs. Once stairs feel too easy, you go for a light jog. When that feels easy, you add in some hills.

On the other hand, those who are rather fit will see much more weight loss benefit by getting back on their bike or starting their weight training routine.

It's harder to lose weight with exercise when you are first getting started. A dietary approach will offer much better results. 

Exercise vs Training

Exercise includes walking, doing morning pushups, and engaging in the evening yoga routine.

Training is goal-oriented, with the intention of improving a certain performance metric. For me, it’s climbing a higher bouldering grade in rock climbing. It might be feeling less out of breath when doing a light jog, for you. For another, it’s having the stamina to finish another pool lap.

I favor training over exercise when the goal is to achieve a certain biometric such as weight loss or less fatigue.

Exercise daily to feel active and light on your feet. But add in some training to achieve your weight loss goals. 

Diet Over Exercise

Diet remains the most potent tool for losing weight. A less insulin-releasing diet will help redistribute fat, making it much easier to lose weight.

Cutting calories is one approach, but the makeup of the food is far more important than calorie counting. And, once again, it’s an individual approach. For some patients, calorie counting is the key to the lock; for others, it’s adding more fiber-rich foods to their diet.

Dietary change is a much more potent tool than exercise when it comes to losing weight. 

Aerobic vs. Resistance Training

Finally, should you do more cardio (aerobic training) or lift weights (resistance training)? It depends on how your body responds to exercise, what feels good to you, and what you can sustain long-term.

Many of my patients have had terrible experiences with trainers pushing them too hard and fast. Nausea after exercise is never good because the recovery after such a shock to your system will set you back, not to mention the increased appetite from the stress.

Stressful exercise will elevate blood sugar, release excess insulin, drain cortisol, and prevent healthy tissue recovery.

Exercise doesn’t have to feel hard—that’s TV stuff. It should feel good in your body, and it might take 30 minutes to feel warmed up enough to push yourself. When it feels good, push it a bit.

I recommend my patients with blood sugar issues start with resistance training and make it a habit to walk a lot. Then I like to see them do light jogging, cycling, or stairs. Resistance training with bands in the bathroom or first thing in the morning when waking up is a great way to activate the muscle tissue.

If you do cardio start very gently. Your body will tell you when you can push it harder. Focus more on resistance training in the beginning. 

When should you add weight loss medication? Read this article.

How to choose a diet plan? Read, nutrition vs diet plan.

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