One of the greatest contributors to our obese society is lack of exercise. (Although improper diet is an even bigger contributor.) We have become a nation of “couch potatoes” who would rather sit in front of a television or computer than enjoy a brisk walk outdoors. It will come as no surprise that exercise, along with proper eating habits, is an essential key to weight loss and weight management. Our bodies burn calories at a faster rate when we exercise, but just as importantly, regular exercise speeds up the body’s metabolism so we continue burning calories at a faster rate even when at rest. Exercise improves regulation and balance of blood sugar levels giving us more energy and helping us feel better. It also promotes better sleep. All of this helps to improve our mood and energy level, so we tend to be more active, which helps perpetuate our exercise program.
Vigorous exercise for at least 15 to 20 minutes, three times a week, is a fundamental of health and a fundamental of weight loss and lifetime maintenance. Our exercise programs do not necessarily have to include intense activities such as jogging or running. A brisk walk at a comfortable pace is a good exercise for many people. Since walking is less vigorous than running or jogging, we should ideally try to do it for at least 40 minutes at a time, if health permits. If you have been sedentary for most of your life you might have to start slowly, gradually building up your endurance level. Other activities such as bicycling are also excellent as long as they are done on a regular basis—preferably every day, but at least three times a week.