You don’t need to feel the burn to feel the benefits

by Ali on November 17, 2008

Do you feel that you should do more exercise, but hate the thought of spending hours in the gym? Do you want to be more active, but worry that you’ll need to shed those extra pounds first in order to have a chance of keeping up?

If you’re avoiding exercise because you see it as an “all or nothing”, start thinking instead about ways to make your current lifestyle just a bit more active. You don’t need to go to the gym three times a week to see health benefits.

Just get moving

Cranky Fitness had a great guest post from Drew Harvey of Diet Tired a few days ago. Drew wrote:

What constitutes the best form of exercise for weight loss? Here is a shocker: anything that gets you moving on a regular, preferably daily, basis.

Although, as Drew points out, weight loss does depend on calories in being less than calories out, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the best sort of exercise is the one that burns the most calories. After all, what do you think will have more benefits for your body in the long run: six months’ worth of daily half-hour walks, or two weeks of daily gym sessions followed by five and a half months where you’ve been completely put off exercising?

Something which “gets you moving on a regular, preferably daily, basis” is something that fits easily around the rest of your life. I’m a big fan of:

  • Having an active commute (even if the only way to do that is to get off the bus a couple of stops early, or to park your car further from work).
  • Escaping from the office for your full lunch hour, and enjoying a relaxing walk – or working off some energy with a quick jog, cycle ride or gym session
  • Making activity something fun that involves friends or family members.

Exercise boosts willpower

It can be depressing to watch the numbers slowly tick round on the calorie-counter at the gym or on your heart rate monitor. When I’ve been sweating away from thirty minutes, it’s galling to be told I’ve only burnt as many calories as there are in a Wispa (one of my favourite types of chocolate bar…)

However, I know that exercise for me isn’t just about the calories I burn – it’s also about the calories I don’t eat. As Drew writes:

It is a well known fact that people eat healthier on days that they are active. By simply being active and consequently feeling good about yourself, you decrease your daily calorie intake through better food choices.

I’ve definitely seen the truth of this in my own attempts to live healthily. When I go to the gym, take a long walk, or commute by bike, I’m much more ready to resist that cookie or slice of cake – because I don’t want to undo all my hard work. And if I’m exercising, I know that I need to eat extra “good” food (protein, unrefined carbs) for sustained energy during my workout, instead of skimping on lunch then wasting calories on chocolate.

How will you get active?

Try to find some way of being active every day – even if it’s just a half-hour stroll after dinner, or a quick power walk during your lunch hour. You might find some of these articles useful for further inspiration:

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