Getting off the Couch
Exercise can keep a check on those holiday pounds, but the more calories you add, the harder you have to sweat or the more days you will have to exercise to take them off.
A Harvard study of overweight middle-aged women found that even shedding as few as 5 pounds can make a difference in a person's health. Yet, how much exercise you need to achieve that or make a difference in your weight depends on the amount and type of activity. It also depends on how much you eat.
A medium-sized adult would have to walk more than 30 miles to burn up 3,500 calories, which equals one pound of fat. Although that may seem like a lot, you don't have to walk the 30 miles all at once.
According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to maintain weight, you need to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. To lose weight, you need to exercise for 60 to 90 minutes most days of the week. Check with your doctor before you start any physical activity or exercise program.
Research has shown that the number one choice of exercise is walking. Make sure it's a fitness walk, not a leisurely stroll. You should have a swing in your arms, and your step should be brisk. Consider walking with 3- to 5-pound hand weights to burn more calories and to gain more definition in your upper body. Use the weights only if they won't aggravate an existing problem such as arthritis. Ask your doctor first.
Also make sure you pick an activity or exercise you enjoy and something that is accessible. Don't just pick an exercise because you heard it was good. Cross-country skiing is great, but not if you don't know how or don't have skis. If you pick something you like, you're more likely to stick with it.
Whether you walk or kick box, exercising regularly is the most important principle of training. Also exercise smarter, not harder. Intensity is important, but increase your duration or time spent with the exercise before intensity.
Finally, "no pain, no gain" is a fallacy. Exercise should not be painful, but it should fatigue you.