Exercise is the most critical factor in losing body fat. The other major factor - eating properly - will never be completely effective by itself. Regular exercise forces your body to adapt by becoming less fat and more fit. Although the amount of fat loss varies from person to person, a decrease in body fat always occurs as a result of regular exercise. By becoming fit, losing fat takes care of itself.
| How does exercise help lose body fat?|
Increases metabolism. Some people mistakenly believe that exercise is not worth the effort because of the relatively small number of calories used. For example, walking burns about five calories a minute. Since there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, it would seem that you would have to walk 11-1/2 hours to lose a pound. The truth is, however, that even moderate exercise increases your metabolic rate (calorie burning) 3 to 8 times for hours after the exercise. This residual effect of exercise, not the exercise itself, is its greatest benefit for burning calories.
Maintains Muscle. Since every pound of muscle requires 50-100 calories to sustain itself and since fat is burned almost exclusively in your muscles, maintaining your muscle is crucial to losing body fat. Exercise requires you to use your muscles which allows you to maintain (or even increase) the amount of muscle you have. Without exercise, you'll lose muscle and reduce your ability to burn fat. Remember that exercise may allow you to increase your muscle at the same time you're losing fat, and your weight may not change. You will get all the benefits of an improved fat/muscle ratio though, and that's what counts.
Increases Fat-Burning Enzymes. You can't lose fat except by burning it in your muscles. Muscles have very specific enzymes which burn only fat. Research has shown that people who exercise regularly have far greater fat-burning enzymes in their muscles than people who don't exercise. In other words, exercise causes your body to "beef up" its ability to burn fat more efficiently. This means that the more you exercise, the more you use your muscles, and the more fat-burning enzymes your muscles develop to burn more fat.
The benefits of exercise go way beyond losing body fat. Simply put, a fit body responds differently to things than a fat body. Despite what many people think, fit athletes often have less than an ideal diet. But because of exercise and their high muscle/low fat bodies, the consequences are minimal. Things like fat, cholesterol, sugar, salt, etc. simply don't affect someone who's fit the way they do someone who's fat. From a health standpoint, exercise positively affects every organ in your body. Exercise also improves your sleeping patterns, energy level, mood, mental outlook, and overall feeling of well being. The more you do, the more you will want to do as the benefits continue to increase and you get the results you're after. In short, exercise is a must for losing body fat as well as improving the overall quality of life.
| How do I exercise to lose body fat?|
Any form of exercise is better than none at all for losing body fat and to benefit from the positive changes mentioned above. Any exercise which requires you to use your muscles will cause your body to burn fat after the exercise is over - during the "recovery phase" when your body is rebuilding and recovering. To burn fat during exercise, however, certain conditions must be met. Your body has different energy "pathways" which burn either fat or sugar during exercise as the primary fuel. Following the simple guidelines below will ensure that your body burns fat during, as well as after, exercise:
Type of activity. The best exercises for burning fat are those which can be done continuously and involve the most muscle groups (especially the large muscles of the hips and legs). The more muscles used, the more fat you will burn. Exercises which involve movement for brief spurts followed by rest (even through they may be strenuous), use sugar - not fat - as their primary fuel source.
(Stop and Go)
Cross country skiing
Cycling (stationary or outdoors)
Keep in mind that the exercises in these categories are not black and white. Some exercises are just more efficient for burning fat than others. Even though tennis is a stop and go activity, it will burn more fat in the "recovery phase" than golf simply because it requires more work. Also, since stair climbing uses only the muscles of the legs, it doesn't burn as much fat as cross country skiing which involves both upper and lower body muscles. There is no one "best" exercise for burning fat among those listed; anyone who says there is, is probably trying to sell you something. The key is movement! To burn fat, you have to use your muscles; and to use your muscles you have to move. Just remember, any exercise is good for you. But, the more muscles you use and the more continuous you use them, the more fat you'll burn.
This refers to your level of exertion or "pace" during exercise. Although some people still believe that if an exercise doesn't hurt, it isn't doing them any good, the "no pain, no gain" theory doesn't apply to fat-burning. If you exercise at too high an intensity, your body uses sugar as its primary fuel. To burn fat, you should exercise at a moderate, comfortable pace for you (to get the most benefit from exercise, think longer - not harder). A common way to tell if you're at the right intensity is to check your heart rate (pulse) with a Bowflex Classc Heart Rate Monitor
during exercise since the rate at which your heart beats is directly related to how hard you're exercising. Try to check your heart rate several times during exercise to make sure you're at the right intensity (slow down or stop if you need to). To determine your "fat burning target heart rate," subtract your age from 220 to determine your maximum heart rate. Then take 60% of that number to determine your lower target limit, and 70% to determine your upper target limit. For example, if you are 30 years old:
220 - 30 = 190 (maximum heart rate)
190 x .60 = 114 (lower target limit)
190 x .70 = 133 (upper target limit)
Or, use the AccuFitness Heart Rate Calculator to determine the best target heart rate zone for your exercise regime.
Duration. This refers to how long you exercise. Twenty minutes is generally considered the minimum to get fat-burning benefit and to increase the growth of fat burning enzymes in your muscles. Although many experts suggest exercising for up to an hour, this depends on your fitness level. If you're just starting out, go for 20 minutes and try to work up from there. Don't worry about the distance you travel while exercising; the time you exercise is what's important, not the distance.
Frequency. This refers to how often you exercise. Shoot for a minimum of 3 times per week with no more than 2 days of rest between exercise sessions (so you don't lose conditioning). The ideal range is more like 5-6 times per week. If you want to exercise every day, by all means do it; but this again depends on how fit you are. It may be just as effective for you to increase your intensity slightly or your duration on the days you do exercise rather than to add another day. Even the most highly trained athletes need a day off now and then.