Why exercise might not be right for you
Exercise is promoted as an essential requirement for weight loss but could it be the very thing that’s holding you back? There’s no doubt that structured exercise is fantastic, if it’s right for you, but if you’re like most people and almost completely sedentary, then it means that it’s not.
Why exercise might not be right for you (yet!)
1) Unrealistic goals lead to failure
Repeatedly failing to achieve your goals is a sure fire way to destroy your motivation. Deciding that you are going to go to the gym every day, or start training for a marathon are fantastic goals to have but for most of us they are unrealistic and are quickly forgotten. It is far better to have a small, achievable goal which becomes a habit than enormous goals which remain a dream.
2) Exercise doesn’t make you lose weight
In fact, for many people (particularly women) exercise can make you gain weight! Vigorous exercise increases cortisol, one of our main stress hormones, and the very one which is linked with abdominal weight gain. If you live a stress-free life and/or are under 25, then this probably won’t have any negative effect. However if you are at all stressed or older, then this increase in cortisol can have a rebound effect on other hormones that leads to weight gain.
3) Exercise makes you hungry
Your body keeps a very close eye on the comings and goings of calories. If you exert yourself and burn more calories than normal, you are likely to end up compensating for those lost calories by unconsciously overeating at your next meal. You might also find that you consciously or unconsciously “reward” yourself for exercising by eating unhelpful foods.
4) Exercise can slow down your metabolism
One of the big benefits of exercise is that it continues to increase your metabolic rate and the amount of calories you burn for several hours after finishing. That is, unless you’re overweight. Then exercise can have the opposite effect and your metabolism slows down after exercise! If you have a vigorous exercise session and eat a big meal afterwards – particularly if you’re eating carbohydrates – you are very unlikely to lose weight, and in fact, you might well gain it.
So you can see that if you are lean, relaxed and not of a “certain age”, exercise is a great thing to do plenty of which is why most of the people doing lots of vigorous exercise are young and lean!
So what should you do if you are older, overweight and currently one of the 75% of Australians who don’t exercise?
You need to increase your activity.
It’s that simple.
Exercise vs Activity
Exercise is an activity done a high level of intensity eg running, boot camps, gym workouts.
Activity is movement which you can naturally build into your day eg walking, standing, stretching.
Regular exercise is a fantastic thing to incorporate into your life and if you already do it, then keep up the good work. However, unless you are young, lean or already very active, then keep this golden rule in mind:
You need to be active before you can exercise!
You can increase your activity by:
Walking – walk around the block when you get home, before you go to work, at lunch time, to and from the train or bus stop.
Park further away – from home, the shops or work.
Standing as often as you can – on public transport, while you’re on the phone, while you’re reading the paper or checking email.
Bend, stretch, squat or just jump around – as often as you can.
This makes sense when you stop looking at exercise as a way to burn calories. It isn’t. Your body will compensate for any calories you burn by making you hungry, slowing down your metabolism or reducing how active you are during the day.
Still not sure? Recent research discovered that when young men exercised for either one hour or 30 minutes a day, those who exercised less lost MORE weight because they were more active during the day. The heavier exercise program made the young men tired and they became more sedentary.
Activity drives hormonal changes that lead to weight loss, better mood and increased energy. For most of us, exercise has the opposite effect.