Yes, you can finally drop that weight and tone your body. All it takes is a great workout plan, dedication and healthy food choices to expedite the process. As a bonus, working out improves more than just your physique. It builds strength and self-confidence, helps you sleep better at night and even wards off illnesses like heart disease, the number-one killer of women. If you don't exercise at all right now, be sure to see a doctor before beginning your workout plan in order to help prevent injury.
Cardio is the backbone of your weight-loss workout. The sustained activity torches calories, burning unwanted body fat. It also helps maintain weight after you've achieved your goals. Include three or four days of cardio into your weekly workout routine, exercising an hour per session. Options include brisk walking, running, cycling, swimming, hiking and using the elliptical machine at the gym. The most important factor to consider? Enjoyment. All cardio has benefits, but only if you're interested enough in your activity to stick with the program.
Tone and shape your muscles with two days a week of strength training. You can do these exercises on your cardio days if you wish. Be sure to work every muscle group: chest, shoulders, back, abs, arms, buttocks and legs. Options include lifting weights and using resistance bands. If you're strapped for cash, don't worry -- you can get a great strength-training workout at home using only your body weight as resistance. Try pushups, V-ups, lunges and squats. Many women can't do traditional pushups, so keep your knees on the ground to make them easier.
Yoga not only strengthens your muscles, but it also reduces stress -- a huge bonus for weight loss. Stress can cause you to overeat and make poor fitness decisions. Not only that, it encourages your body to produce the hormone cortisol, which leads to visceral fat around your middle. Visceral fat lies deep in the belly and promotes diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses. Do yoga once or twice a week. You can go to a yoga studio or enroll in a class at the gym, but if you don't have the time or the funds, just purchase an instructional DVD and lay a towel down in the living room.
Your workout plan is a terrific start on the road to weight loss, but there's more to the equation. Even the best exercise routine in the world can't make up for a lousy diet; you need to eat fewer calories than you burn or the scale will never budge. The Mayo Clinic recommends that women less than 250 pounds eat 1,200 calories a day to lose weight. These calories should come from a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and veggies, carbs from whole-grain sources, low-fat proteins and healthy fats from plant sources.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.