The exercise guide for weight loss
How to be more active
As well as changes to your diet, increasing your activity levels can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of any health conditions.
What is exercise?
Exercise is simply moving the body in a way that feels good for you, whether you choose to do yoga, swim, run, walk, dance, cycle – whatever physical activity you enjoy doing that also gets your heart rate up. Exercise can be incorporated as part of your normal routine such as cleaning your home, watering the garden or walking your dog, it’s about joyful movement and finding something you love to do that helps you feel good too.
Benefits of exercise
Exercise can reduce your risk of health conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers, it can also*:
Help with weight loss
Exercise can help you to lose weight and get fit at the same time. The best exercises to lose weight can differ from person to person, and you may find a mix of cardio and strength training exercise help. Body weight exercises are where you use items around your home, weights or just your own body weight can help to strengthen muscles. From press ups and squats to sit ups and lunges, weight loss exercise can be added to your routine to support muscle and bone health.
Benefits your mental wellbeing
Research shows that physical activity can boost your self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy
Good for your muscles and bones
Exercise can lower your risk of osteoarthritis, hip fractures and falls (among older adults).
Improved energy levels
Choosing an exercise to help you get fit can also help to improve how energetic you feel. Releasing endorphins and increasing your heart rate whilst exercising can boost energy levels and reduce fatigue, helping you to feel better too.
When is the best time to exercise?
Consistency is key when it comes to exercise, so ultimately the best time of day to exercise is the time where you’re most likely to maintain the habit. The benefits of working out in the morning is that it can help increase energy levels and reduce stress during the day, however you may experience body ache or fatigue throughout the day if you are low on food and sleep. On the flip side, exercise in the evening can also alleviate stress from the day and may be easier as your body is more awake, but it is often harder to find motivation in the evening and rigorous exercise may hinder your sleep.
How much exercise a week?
According to the NHS, the current activity guidelines for adults aged 19 to 64 are:
- Aim to be physically active every day
- Do strengthening activities that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms) on at least 2 days a week
- Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week
- Try to reduce your time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity
What is cardio exercise?
If you’re wondering how to get fit, then adding cardio exercise to your exercise routine can help. Known as cardiovascular exercise is any activity that raises your heart rate making you breathe heavily and sweat. The types of activities that do this can vary from person to person depending on your fitness levels. Find out which cardio exercise is best for weight loss in our guide.
How long after eating can you exercise?
The NHS recommend waiting three hours after you eat a main meal before exercising. If you’ve only consumed a light snack like fruit or a slice of toast, then you only need to wait an hour before you exercise. It’s important to eat before a workout as food gives us the energy our body needs to perform. However, eating too soon before a workout can lead to digestion issues.
For this same reason, it’s best to avoid high fat foods before a workout, such as:
How much exercise do you need to do?
How to be more active is completely up to you and may be different depending on your goals and ability. The amount of exercise you need to do can also depend on your age and the activity intensity you choose. For example, you could do several short sessions of very vigorous intensity activity per week or if you’d prefer you can do your weekly physical activity target on one day of the week.
What counts as moderate intensity vs. vigorous intensity activity
150 minutes of moderate intensity activityModerate activity is exercise that will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster. Top tip: you should be able to still talk, but not sing
You could try:
- Brisk walking
- Water aerobics
- Riding a bike
- Roller blading
75 minutes of vigorous activityVigorous activity should make you breathe hard and fast. You shouldn’t be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.
You could try:
- Jogging or running
- Swimming fast
- Sports like football, netball, rugby and hockey
- Martial arts
Exercises to strengthen your musclesThere are many different ways to strengthen your muscles. To get health benefits from strengthening exercises, you should be doing enough activity that you need a short rest before repeating the activity.
You could try:
- Lifting weights
- Heavy gardening
- Doing exercises that use your own body weight such as push-ups and sit-ups
Exercises for your cardiovascular health
Exercises that are good for your heart health are known as aerobic exercises, and include running, swimming, cycling, and jumping (among other examples). Any exercise that gets your blood pumping increases your circulation and lowers your resting blood pressure and heart rate, which is good for overall health.
Pain after exercising
If you’ve started a new workout, or pushed yourself harder than usual, you might find your muscles get sore a day or two after, often known as delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS). This is normal and shouldn’t put you off, it is a sign your fitness is improving**.
How to stop aches and pains after exercise
DOMS typically lasts between three and five days and there isn’t an easy way to treat them, but you might find rest, ice packs, pain relief medication and massage can help.
The best way to prevent DOMS is to start any new exercise gently and gradually, this allows your muscles time to adapt to new movements and can help minimise soreness. You can exercise with DOMS, it might feel uncomfortable to begin with but once your muscles have warmed up it should go away. As your muscles begin to adapt to your new activity, the next time you exercise at the same intensity there will be less muscle damage, soreness and a faster recovery.
Top tips for starting a new exercise routine
- Choose an exercise you enjoy as you’re more likely to stick with it.
- Start gradually and build up as you can. For example, you could start with a short daily walk and gradually increase the distance or jog some of the way.
- Exercising with others makes it sociable and more fun. Plus, you can support each other on the way.
If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of online resources you could use.
References*NHS – benefits of exercise
**NHS – pain after exercise