I recently read an article on a popular blog/site that said; you really need to exercise for 1 hour six times a week to get any weight loss benefits.
My mind did a backflip......twice.
What a hideously inaccurate and unhelpful piece of advice given by a person supposedly qualified in fitness!
And here is why;
1. Metabolism. This differs from one person to the next. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) can be altered through exercise, however the rate at which my body burns energy will be different to you. The older you get, your metabolism slows which is also why most calorie calculators will ask for your age in order to determine what you are burning.
2. Exercise intensity. Some people just work out harder. The same HIIT routine can burn 200 calories for one person, and 500 for another. The calories you burn during a workout are determined by a number of factors – it's impossible to give a definitive number!
3. Your diet. OK this is the main reason for my mental back flips. What you eat contributes 80% to your results when it comes to weight loss. No amount of exercise will help you lose weight if you are consuming way more than you can burn. Wow, rocket science hey? NOT!
Weight gain is more complex than you may think
In a nut-shell, weight gain is a combination of genetics, hormones, your diet, and the impact of environment on your lifestyle, including sleep, physical activity (including exercise) and of course stress (an increase in cortisol has a huge impact on our ability to burn fat).
All of these factors result in an imbalance in the energy equation. You gain weight when you eat more calories than you burn — or burn fewer calories than you eat. AND the way your body burns calories is likely to be different to how my body burns calories. To make things even more confusing, all calories are not created equal!
For example, there are 100 calories in two tablespoons of chocolate chips, and the very same 100 calories in just over 1 cup of blueberries. However, there's a huge difference in the way that they affect your appetite, your energy level, and your long-term health.
So back to the original question in the article;
How much exercise do I need to do to lose weight?
My answer: LISTEN TO YOUR BODY IT WILL GIVE YOU THE ANSWER.
Regarding exercise, you must push outside your comfort zone in order to get results. However if you over do it, you risk injury, not to mention huge problems staying motivated.
I made this mistake when I started running a few years ago. I took on too much too soon, and ended up with an injury (torn peroneus). After my leg healed I then struggled to find the motivation to get back out there. Why? Because when ever I went for a run I was nearly killing myself, pushing way too hard.
I had to re-evaluate what I was doing. My body was giving me crystal clear information here. I simply had to listen.
Now, I push. Then I recover. Yoga/stretching, good nutrition, supplements to help my joints and muscles (Fish Oil, Glucosamine, Krill oil, Magnesium, and iron), and sleeeeep!
How much exercise a week? It depends on the week doesn't it? My advice is always to plan plan plan. You need to make yourself accountable and plan your sessions. However you also must be flexible.
Make use of the time you have, but be realistic.
My final pieces of advice?
Be kind to yourself. Your body can do amazing things if you nurture it. If you punish it, it will punish you back.
Your weight should not be the be all and end all. If you are healthy – then your weight will find it's way back to where it's happiest. Trust your body ;-)