Is an Hour of Exercise, Five Times a Week, the Only Way to Lose Weight?

exerciseWomen who want to lose weight and keep it off need to exercise for almost an hour, five days a week, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh.

Researchers found that a 55-minute regime was the minimum needed to maintain a 10 percent drop in weight.

During the four-year study, 200 overweight and obese women were told to eat between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day, and do one of four different exercise programs, which varied in intensity and variety.

After six months, all of the women lost up to 10 percent of their body weight, but only a small percentage was able to maintain it. Those who did keep the weight off were those doing more exercise -- about 275 minutes a week, on average.

Research points to a combination of exercise and calorie control as having the best chance of success in weight loss. This latest research once again confirms that plenty of exercise is a key ingredient.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
A new study in the journal Obesity gave some pretty dire statistics about the future of Americans’ health. By 2030, the report says, 86 percent of U.S. adults could be overweight.

What’s worse, by 2048 they say 100 percent of adults, and one-third of children, will be overweight!

So pinning down the best way to use exercise for weight loss is as urgent an agenda as any.

But is exercising for one hour, five days a week, really the ONLY way?

Exercising for Weight Loss: How Long?

While I completely understand that there are few absolutes, I tend to agree with this study’s researchers. This may sound excessive, but the truth is I simply have not seen consistent, positive results for losing weight with exercise levels below this.

Remember, this level of exercise is only required if you are overweight, as then you have accumulated an exercise debt that must be “repaid” to regain health. So not everyone needs this amount of exercise. In my experience, those who are overweight, have high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol or are diabetic do benefit from this high level of exercise until they are able to normalize their health challenges.

Does this mean that you must become a slave to the treadmill and sign up for 90-minute long jog sessions everyday?

Absolutely not. There’s more to exercise than just hopping on a treadmill.

How to Get the MOST Exercise Benefit in the LEAST Amount of Time

A nice long jog is a great workout. I’ve been doing this type of endurance cardio training for most of my life, and still use it as part of my fitness routine. The downside to hour-long (or more) cardio workouts, though, is that they’re long (which is especially challenging if you’re working out indoors, staring at a wall or a mirror for an hour).

If you aren’t careful with your exercise program and focus exclusively on long distance endurance training it can actually be counterproductive and decrease your longevity by accelerating oxidative stress. If you aren’t careful with protein replacement you can also lose muscle mass.

A great tool you can use is interval-type training, which is a type of exercise that combines short bursts of high-intensity activity with periods of rest.

In one study, those who cycled for 40 minutes, alternating four-minute bursts at 90 percent effort with two minutes of rest, improved their cardiovascular fitness by 13 percent, and were able to burn 36 more fat during a later hour-long moderate cycling session.

Even more revealing, researchers from the University of New South Wales found a way to burn more fat exercising for 20 minutes than for 40 minutes!

In their trial, women either exercised for 20 minutes, alternating 8 seconds of sprinting on a bike with 12 seconds of exercising lightly, or exercised at a regular pace for 40 minutes.

After exercising three times a week for 15 weeks, those who did the 20-minute, alternating routine lost three times as much fat as the other women.

“We think the reason that it works is because it produces a unique metabolic response,” said the team leader, associate professor Steve Boutcher, head of the Health and Exercise Science program, in the School of Medical Sciences at UNSW.

“Intermittent sprinting produces high levels of chemical compounds called catecholamines, which allow more fat to be burned from under the skin and within the exercising muscles. The resulting increase in fat oxidation drives the greater weight loss,” he continued.

The bottom line? If you only have a short time to exercise, doing it “interval style” can greatly increase your results.

More Exercise Essentials

Along with cardio (both endurance and interval) your exercise routine should include strength training (at least twice a week) and possibly something to promote flexibility and core muscles, such as yoga.

When you engage in cardio-type exercises, make sure you do it intensely enough so that it’s difficult to carry on a conversation. If you can’t talk at all, you need to tone it down, but if conversation is a breeze, you’re going too slowly to generate the aerobic benefits that exercise is capable of doing.

To help you keep track, you can print out this daily exercise table. I find that keeping this schedule someplace visible (on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, or desktop at work) is an extremely motivating way to stick to your routine.

If you find you need even more help getting psyched up for exercise, give the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) a try. It can help you remove the blocks that are preventing you from successfully implementing your program.