The problem with fat is that it often creeps up on you gradually. At first, you make excuses like PMS or bloating for your skinny jeans being a bit too tight. It's only when you need pliers to zip your fat jeans that denial no longer works. Getting rid of excess pounds and making sure they don't creep back on involves committing yourself to long-term lifestyle changes. Rather than trying a crash diet, incorporate healthy eating and convenient low-impact exercises, such as walking, cycling and climbing stairs into your daily routine.
Why You Gain Weight
The first step in shedding pounds is knowing how they accumulate. Basically, you gain weight if you consume more calories than you expend and lose weight by exercising more and eating less. However, 69 percent of Americans wouldn't be overweight or obese if weight loss were easy. One big problem is that your metabolic rate decreases as you age. Combining a slower metabolism with a desk job and commuting by car rather than walking around a college campus packs on the pounds. According to the Mayo Clinic, lack of sleep may also make you gain weight. Because there are also medical conditions that can cause you to put on weight, especially if you gained weight over a short period of time or have other health issues, consult your health-care provider before starting a new diet and fitness program.
Low-impact exercise does not mean low intensity. Impact refers to the amount of force your feet experience striking the ground while intensity measures how hard you are working out. Many low-impact exercises such as swimming, Nordic skiing, cycling and rowing can be done at high intensity. In fact, the highest recorded levels of VO2 max, a measure of cardiovascular fitness, are found in elite Nordic skiers and cyclists.
The amount of weight you burn during low-impact exercise depends on duration and intensity. While professional athletes calculate exercise intensity with scientific precision in by measuring the amount of oxygen their bodies are using with specialized machines, the Mayo Clinic suggests that "perceived exertion" is accurate enough for most purposes. If you are sweating heavily, breathing much harder than usual and can only talk in short phrases, you're working at high intensity. During moderate intensity exercise, you sweat slightly and breathe somewhat faster than usual but can hold a normal conversation.
For weight loss, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a minimum of two strength-training sessions and 300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 150 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. To be effective, cardio sessions should last at least 10 minutes. Warm up for high-intensity workouts with at least 10 minutes at moderate intensity and cool down gradually to avoid injury. Add intensity to low-impact cardio exercises by changing difficulty or pace. For example, walking intensity increases if you walk faster, go uphill, walk on irregular terrain or carry a backpack.
Types of Low-Impact Cardio
Most exercises in which both feet do not leave the ground simultaneously are low impact. For example, walking, Nordic skiing, elliptical trainers, snowshoeing, backpacking, stair climbing and skating are low-impact cardio. Exercises in which your legs do not support your full body weight are sometimes called non-impact or non-weight-bearing. These include cycling, spinning, rowing, kayaking, canoeing, water exercises, swimming and low-impact cardio classes. Although low-impact exercises don't stress your joints as much as high-impact ones, do vary your workouts to avoid muscle imbalances and repetitive strain injuries.
- MedlinePlus: Weight Gain - Unintentional
- National Institutes of Health: What Causes Overweight and Obesity?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Weight - It's Not a Diet, It's a Lifestyle!
- MayoClinic.com: Is Too Little Sleep a Cause of Weight Gain?
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise Intensity: Why It Matters, How It's Measured
- Spine-Health.com: Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise
- Bodybuilding.com: Which Cardio Methods Melt Fat The Fastest?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Obesity and Overweight
- BrianMac.co.uk: VO2 Max
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images