Exercise can help you trim down, but sweating it out as you work won't shrink your waistline any faster -- whether the salty stuff streams from your belly or any other body part. As handy as shortcuts like this appear on the surface, the only "tricks" to weight loss are eating a healthy diet and increasing physical activity. To stay slim for good, forget the fads and make sustainable changes that you can stick with for life.
Losing weight healthily means shedding fat, and only one strategy is proven to cause fat loss: creating a calorie deficit. Calories are units of fuel, and you burn them around the clock for vital processes like respiration and blood circulation as well as for muscle activity. Most moderately active young women burn between 2,000 and 2,200 calories per day; a pound of fat contains approximately 3,500 calories, so the average woman will lose 1 pound each week eating 1,500 to 1,700 calories per day -- or more with exercise.
The more you sweat, the lighter you'll become -- but you're only losing water weight, which will reappear as soon as you drink liquids. You may lose 2 percent or more of your body weight through perspiration, according to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico, but your physical and mental performance will suffer. Rather than trying to ramp up water loss, stay hydrated throughout your exercise by drinking plenty of fluid. The American Council on Exercise recommends downing 2 1/2 cups of water several hours before exercise, 1 cup just before exercise and 1 cup every 10 to 20 minutes during the activity. Top off your workout with another cup of water -- and if you still lose water weight, drink about 2 cups of liquid for every pound lost.
Exercise and Weight
The more active you are, the more calories you torch -- that's why exercise is your best friend when you want to ditch extra weight. To incinerate calories fast, perform vigorous cardio such as running, high-impact aerobics or lap swimming. A 155-pound woman will burn about 370 calories running at 6 mph or swimming the breaststroke for 30 minutes; at that rate, you can lose more than 1 pound every 10 days without any dietary changes.
To shed pesky pounds, engage in 30 to 60 minutes of cardio most days of the week; if you're just beginning, start with moderate cardio such as brisk walking, gentle cycling or freestyle swimming. In addition, perform muscle-strengthening exercises two to three times weekly; lift weights, take a vigorous yoga class or work out at home with lunges, squats, pushups and situps. Start each workout with five to 10 minutes of light cardio to warm up. If you're new to exercise or have any health issues, see your doctor before starting an exercise program.
- FamilyDoctor.org: Nutrition: Determine Your Calorie Needs
- HelpGuide.org: How to Lose Weight and Keep It Off
- American Council on Exercise: Healthy Hydration
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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