You want to exercise so you can lose weight and be healthy. The message you hear is that if you push harder, you will see results faster and those early results will keep you motivated to get to your goal. In this article, I'll share tips about how to start exercising for faster weight loss that is sustainable.
Is more exercise better for faster weight loss?
This message that more is better, especially when you start exercising, denies the scientific principle of gradual progression. Growth happens gradually and it happens fastest under the right conditions of just enough of what it needs. When conditions are not optimal, with too much of what it needs, growth can stop or be reversed.
How misinformation about calorie burning slows progress with weight loss
The message that more exercise is better for weight loss comes from misinformation about calorie burning. Outdated science from a century ago says that your body will burn fewer calories with light exercise and more calories as the intensity and duration increase. Therefore, you think, the more exercise you do, the faster you lose weight.
It is true that, up to a point, you will burn more calories with higher intensity and longer duration. However, newer research shows your calorie-burning capability is relatively fixed. While you can optimize it, you cannot exceed it. At a certain point, when you do more physical activity, your body takes from other systems.
More physical activity than your body can ‘afford’ means less energy for other systems in your body, like your immune system and your nervous system—not exactly systems you want to skimp on!
Start exercising well for faster weight loss that is sustainable
The great news is that there is a level of ‘enough’ exercise to get the benefits for weight loss and health, so you don’t have to keep doing more and more. This frees you to exercise smarter, not harder.
How do you know when what you’re doing for exercise is too much?
Start where you are. Do an honest and realistic assessment about your current level of physical activity and exercise. A one-hour class or video, even if it's yoga, low-impact aerobics, or a beginner strength class, is likely going to be too much. Start with the smallest duration and intensity possible and use the next two tips to ensure you are not doing too much too soon.
Listen to your body. Soreness and fatigue are signs of too much too soon. They are not helpful because they are draining energy and adding to inflammation in your body. When you exercise in a pain-free range from the start, including muscle soreness, at a level that gives you energy right away, your body is telling you this is enough to be well now. That state of ‘well’, rather than the state of stress, is the state in which your body is most likely to shed extra fat weight.
Progress gradually, at a rate of 5-10% per week. Keep listening to your body to know the exact amount right for you. This rate of progression is not much, but it’s what evidence shows the human bod body can adapt to in a week. Follow the 10% rule and your body will thank you with more energy, less pain, and a better mental state to make other changes needed for healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Pay attention to how the ‘more is better’ messaging negatively affects your physical and mental health. Remember the evidence-based message of starting super small, listening to your body, and progressing gradually and doing enough to be well now.