Sunday 25 February 2018

Doctor's orders: A brisk walk is a good workout

On the run: Exercise against resistance (using weights) accelerates weight loss
On the run: Exercise against resistance (using weights) accelerates weight loss

Ciara Kelly

So five weeks done! How're you feeling? Five weeks ago we launched our Slimmer for Summer project - with six of our columnists attempting to lose a stone, over eight weeks. They took different routes but all pledged to do their damnedest, to shift some weight, eat healthily and get active. Thousands of you followed suit with people around the country joining Weight Watchers and Slimming World. Others took up Operation Transformation or the Five Two diet. Others still, just cut out the crap they knew they'd been eating too often.

Some have fallen by the wayside. They're regretting that now. Some have stuck to their guns for the past five weeks, apart from the odd slip and are feeling marvellous. I know which group I'd rather be part of. Five weeks is a long time and it's been getting harder. The first couple of weeks, the weight came off pretty handy - especially as you had a bit of a blow-out before you started - so you were a bit heavier than normal. Yes. Yes I know what you're like. (You are like me.)

But then it started to shift, way more slowly and you had that difficult week, when despite actually being pretty disciplined, you still only lost a pound and felt like giving up. (It really is very hard to maintain focus for eight weeks.) But you need to remember how you felt the week you lost four pounds, or that week you fitted into those jeans you haven't worn since 2006! Remember that feeling and use it to motivate you now.

And never fear there are ways of overcoming the plateauing of weight loss, and exercise is one such way. As we eat less, our body gets used to us eating less and a couple of things happen; our appetite gets smaller - a good thing. And our basal metabolic rate (BMR) reduces - a bad thing, in weight loss terms. Basically it means your body attempts to maintain your weight - rather than lose weight - even on your reduced caloric intake. Curse you body, with your incredible ability to adapt and survive! This slows down weight loss as you go on and can be what causes people to lose heart and throw in the towel.

Exercise - which increases your BMR - is a game changer in this regard. You still need to eat healthily of course. But exercise stops your BMR from sliding into your boots, and your weight from sticking stubbornly, at the same level on the scales. It also helps you tone up, something that as you lose weight, you'll need to do, to avoid your skin becoming loose and flabby.

Walking is an ideal starting point, because almost everyone can manage it. You don't need any special equipment and it's free. A brisk walk is pretty much as effective a workout as jogging and easier on your joints too. But other aerobic exercise, such as running, swimming or cycling are all equally good.

Exercise against resistance (which basically means involving the use of weights - usually strapped to your limbs) accelerates weight loss, as it builds muscle and burns fat even faster - so consider trying that. And speaking of joints, even if you have a touch of discomfort, in your knees or hips, when you're out walking, that's not a reason to stop. Obesity puts a huge strain on your joints and causes them to become painful and arthritic. Losing weight - by going out walking, will actually over time, reduce strain on your joints - decreasing pain and increasing your mobility - so don't allow yourself to be put off.

As you continue to get fitter, lighter and more energetic, have a think about the Couch-to-5k app for your phone. You may have to walk before you can run - but now that you're walking - the sky's the limit.


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