When you're trying to lose weight, you may find yourself getting obsessed with calories -- how many you've consumed, how many you've burned and how that translates into weight loss. While part of losing weight involves burning the calories needed to shed fat, there is a point when you can overdo it. In order to exercise and lose weight in a healthy way, be sure to set realistic goals and to know when it's time to take a siesta.
Let's first look at the facts regarding weight loss. In order to lose one pound of fat, you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume. That can be either through exercise, cutting calories in what you eat or a combination of both approaches. Only a small percentage of dieters have had success with a weight loss plan that includes exercise alone, according to the American Council on Exercise. A combination of exercise and a healthy diet is typically much more successful and sustainable and won't require you to exercise yourself into total exhaustion to meet your weekly calorie goals.
Healthy Weight Loss
A healthy weight loss goal is one to two pounds a week, according to MayoClinic.com. If you want to take on the more ambitious goal of 2 pounds each week, you'll need to burn 7,000 calories a week through exercise -- or through cutting down on the amount you eat. That means you'll need to devise a plan to cut 1,000 calories each day. It is lofty goal that may be difficult to sustain over time -- which may mean that a weekly 3,500 calorie deficit -- or 500 calories per day -- is more realistic. Start out by finding ways to cut calories through food. If you can cut out that morning latte and evening dessert, you may be able to shave 200 calories a day -- meaning you'll have less to burn off through exercise.
Calories Per Workout
How you burn your 3,500 or 7,000 calories a week -- or 500 or 1,000 calories a day -- is entirely up to you. A 160-pound person will burn about 861 calories during an intense 1-hour run, 548 calories during a 1-hour rollerblading session or 533 calories during a 1-hour aerobics session, according to MayoClinic.com. Also note that the number of calories you'll burn during any given activity is going to vary depending on your current weight. That 160-pound person burns 861 calories per hour during an 8-mile per hour run, while a 240-pound person is going to burn 1,286 calories during the same amount of time. As such, keep in mind that the "calories burned" readings on your pedometer watch or fitness equipment may not be entirely accurate.
If you're wondering whether you're burning too many calories or pushing yourself too hard during a workout, the best gauge may be your body's signals. If you're "overtraining" and pushing your body too hard, you may start to feel symptoms such as extreme fatigue, crabbiness, depression, cramping or muscle pain, loss of motor skills or lack of focus or motivation. If you don't take a rest at this point, you may end up getting hurt or losing all motivation for exercise in the future. Stop training for a while and then pick up your activities again later -- at a less intense pace. In any case, give yourself at least one day of rest each week, in which you don't exercise or do only minimal activities -- your body needs time to rest and recuperate.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.