You work out and you diet, but you just can't seem to lose those last few pounds to reach your target weight. What are you doing wrong? Don't fall for fad diets and exercise gimmicks. The bottom line is you have to burn more calories than you consume if you are to lose weight and keep it off. Regular physical exercise and a low-fat, nutritious diet are critical to healthy weight-loss. Aerobic exercise, such as running, is one of the best ways to burn fat. You can boost that fat burn by adding stretching and strength training to your regular weekly routine.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Warm up before you even think about jumping right into strenuous exercise. Your muscles and joints are more susceptible to injury if you don't warm up before exercise. Warming up prior to exercise stimulates blood flow to the muscle tissue and loosens up stiff joints. Do five to 10 minutes of light exercise, such as jogging or jumping jacks, prior to your workout. Cool down after your workout to slow your heart rate and give your sweaty body time to cool off. Cooling down helps to remove lactic acid from your muscles. Lactic acid is a waste product of cellular metabolism, which may contribute to muscle soreness.
Running is one of the most effective ways to burn calories and lose fat. It's a high-impact aerobic exercise, however, so don't dash off around the block before you visit your doctor and get the all-clear. You can burn up to 100 calories for every mile you run. If you run uphill or run faster, you burn more calories. Beginners should start out slowly. Gradually increase the amount of time you run until you can run at a steady pace for 30 minutes.
Stretching your muscles feels good, but it's not likely to directly contribute to weight loss. Indirectly, however, stretching can help ensure that you are able to successfully maintain your weight loss exercise routine without interruption. Stretching increases your flexibility, thereby reducing your risk of sustaining an injury while running or strength training. You might do some stretching as part of your warmup and cool-down, but stretching by itself is not a warmup. You could hurt yourself by straining a muscle if you stretch before your muscles are sufficiently warmed up.
Strength training isn't just for jocks and bodybuilders. Women need to strength train two or three times each week to lose weight and build muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so by increasing your muscle mass you can burn more calories to lose fat faster. Strength training also improves bone health and reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. You can do strength training using free weights, resistance bands, weight machines or your body weight. You don't have to spend a lot of time at the gym pumping iron. About 20 to 30 minutes of strength training twice each week are usually enough to increase muscle mass and burn fat.
Robin Reichert is a certified nutrition consultant, certified personal trainer and professional writer. She has been studying health and fitness issues for more than 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health from Clayton College.