How To Exercise For Better Health
Diet and exercise go hand-in-hand if you are aiming to lose weight and live a happier, healthier life.
Adding exercise to your daily routine will not only help you lose weight, and help you keep it off, it provides many health benefits. Here are some more ideas on making new exercise habits.
What are the benefits of regular exercise?
- Fat loss and muscle gain
Many studies have shown the beneficial effects of combining high intensity aerobic exercise (like HIIT) with resistance training. The theory behind this is that these two exercise modalities together create the best environment for individuals to maximise fat loss while maintaining muscle mass, which is essential for a strong and healthy life beyond the weight loss journey.
- Curbed appetite
You may think that exercise would increase your hunger, but exercise uses stored calories in the form of glucose and fat, keeping blood sugar levels stable. This can help reduce the frequency and severity of your hunger sensation. For many, daily exercise also improves the quality of choices when it comes to food. You’ll find you’ll be less likely to opt for sugary junk food if you’ve given your all to a workout beforehand.
- Improved self-esteem and mental well-being
Physical activity stimulates the release of chemicals in the brain that regulate stress and anxiety, while elevating your level of endorphins that lift energy levels and improve mood. Exercise has been shown to increase brain sensitivity to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, leading to decreased feelings of depression 1.
- Boosted energy
A study found that six weeks of regular exercise reduced feelings of fatigue for a cohort of people who had previously reported persistent fatigue 2. When you feel like you have no energy and want to sit on the sofa in front of the TV, remember that even a short amount of activity is enough to revitalise your body by delivering some much needed oxygen and energy-producing nutrients to your muscles.
- Reduced risk of chronic disease
It has been shown that physical inactivity is a major causative factor in many chronic diseases 3, so any form of exercise you can manage will hugely improve your bodily functions and put you in good stead. Many studies have cited the importance of regular exercise in relation to chronic diseases, and it has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular fitness and decrease blood pressure, amongst other benefits 4, 5, 6.
Why should I do High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)?
- The secret is effort, not speed
HIIT is one of the most efficient ways to exercise, alternating work and rest periods that will get your blood pumping. During your work periods, push yourself, whether you’re on an exercise bike, running on the spot, doing sprints, jumping jacks or even running up the stairs. You can follow our HIIT sessions from home with no equipment at all. As long as you are putting in your maximum effort, at whatever speed that works for you, it will improve your health.
- It’s never too late to start
Extremely short duration high-intensity training has been shown to substantially improve physical function and self-reported health status of an elderly population 7. Dr Michael Mosley recently cited a study from Abertay University in Scotland that reported on a group of unfit volunteers aged between 65 and 75 who completed very short, high-intensity pedalling on an exercise bike. This done just twice a week was enough to produce improvements in both the participants’ physical health and their perception of their own ability to pursue physical activity 8. So, start today!
- Reduced visceral fat with cardiovascular benefits
Visceral fat is the intra-abdominal adipose tissue that can wrap around your major organs and release inflammatory markers that lead to many potentially life-threatening health problems such as diabetes and heart disease 9, 10. You might have heard of “spare tyres” and “beer bellies”, but visceral fat isn’t always visible from the outside, making it even more dangerous.
Thankfully, HIIT has been shown to be a time efficient and effective way to reduce visceral fat 11, and combining a low-carb Mediterranean-style diet and HIIT can be more effective at targeting visceral fat than doing either one alone.
Studies have also shown the improvements in cardiovascular outcomes as a result of HIIT, such as lower blood pressure and improving blood flow and heart function 12. And good news for type 2 diabetics – one study found that HIIT could be an effective means to reduce the burden of cardiovascular complications in those with the disease 13.
Why should I do resistance exercise?
- Increase your muscle mass
Weight loss that is induced purely by calorie restrictions has been shown to lead to a reduction in lean muscle mass 14. At around age 30 we start losing as much as five per cent of lean muscle mass per year thanks to ageing 15, but your rate of muscle wastage is significantly reduced with resistance training. This strength-based training will help maintain and increase your muscle mass and ensure that you are losing fat without compromising muscle.
- Better bone health
For everyone, muscle-strengthening activities help preserve or increase muscle mass, strength, and power, which are essential for bone, joint, and muscle health as we age 16. That means less risk of detrimental injuries as you age.
- Lasting weight loss
Exercise science researchers suspect strength training is helpful for weight loss because it helps increase your resting metabolism (the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re just going about your day, outside of exercising). It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
- Balance and posture
Strength training also benefits your balance, coordination, and posture. One study showed that in older people who are at higher risk of falling (and causing a lot of damage) because of worsening physical functioning, strength training reduced risk of falling by 40 per cent compared with individuals who did not do strength-training exercise 17.
Get in a routine
- Implement daily exercise that fits your routine and make it a habit
Being motivated to start exercising can be difficult for many people, but once you begin a new routine and start seeing results, you will be hooked!
Set yourself reminders, plan your daily meals around the exercise session, make it fun by doing it with your family or via video chat with friends, start at a level that is right for you, and keep progressing. Importantly, choose exercises that you enjoy and it’ll feel much less of a chore. The most important thing is that you do the exercise – here are some tips for exercising at home.
- Pick the time of day that works for you
There are advantages to exercising first thing in the morning, but there are also advantages to exercising later in the day. There is evidence, for example, that exercising before breakfast (i.e. in a fasted state) leads to more fat burning, but if you are interested in performance, then late afternoon or early evening may be a better time to work out.
You might like to complete your High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions in the mornings after fasting, to reap the benefits of fasted cardio, and schedule your resistance training in the afternoon when your muscles are warmer and more revved up, allowing you to work at a higher intensity. Really, the best time to exercise is the time of day you are most likely to consistently complete your workout, so if you are good at talking yourself out of exercise, perhaps a morning session will be better suited.