I recently had a reader question, and rather than respond directly I have decided to post the response here to help anyone in the same situation.
I’ve split my answer into five parts as it became rather long. This post is part two.
Q. I’m getting married soon and I’d like to lose weight for my wedding. I’ve been going to the gym now regularly since January.
My goal is to lose about 10lbs and move more because I have a sedentary job.
I do 20 min of bike or elliptical then usually do rowing for 10 15 min. Then I do some planks and some mat workout, abs, then stretch. Once in a while, I will finish with 5 minutes on the stairs.
That’s on average what I do, with some variation.
I’d like to use more weights but don’t know what to target to get lean and not bulky.
I have toned up nicely using the rowing machine and I do HIIT workouts at home, but I don’t have a schedule. I work out randomly.
I’m going to break these questions down and answer them independently in each of this five part blog series.
From the initial question, I will cover the following topics:
- Achieving Weight Loss – (part 1)
- Moving More – (part 2)
- The best exercises to Lose Weight – (part 3)
- How Not to Get Bulky – (part 4)
- Getting the schedule right – (part 5)
Moving more is a great thing to try and achieve. Most of us live quite sedentary lives these days which causes us to burn fewer calories, get loads of aches and pains, and generally be less healthy than we should be. Studies even show that exercise can’t undo the negative unhealthy effects that you get from sitting for too long.
As a general rule, you should get up and move around at least once an hour if you work in a sedentary job – if not more! It’s also recommended to complete around 10,000 steps per day. This equates to around 8km or 5miles depending on your height and stride length. A lot of people are shocked when they see that they have to try and fit this into their day, however, it doesn’t have to be done all at once – 5-10 minutes here and there can easily add up to 10,000 steps.
How to Move More
It depends entirely on your lifestyle and job as to how you can get more movement into your day. As humans, we have developed to try and be as efficient as possible in our lives. However, if you want to burn more calories, being inefficient will actually help you a lot!
Here are some ideas on how to get more movement into your day:
- Stand more when you have the option.
- Make time to walk instead of using public transport, or get off a few stops early.
- Always use the stairs instead of escalators and lifts.
- Don’t try and carry 10 things at once – make more trips to be less efficient.
- Walk around when you use the telephone.
- Take a planned 10-minute walk around your area and listen to a podcast or music.
These are just some ideas. There could be hundreds of ways that you could get a little bit more movement into your day, which will add up over time and help with weight loss.
How Activity Trackers Can Help
Activity trackers like the FitBit or Apps on your smartphone can be a great motivator to try and hit your daily step count. Having a measurable target can be motivating, plus it helps you equate your energy output which is important. If you move less (calories burned), you essentially have less allowance to eat (calories consumed), so on those days that you do move less, you should be eating a bit less. Activity trackers help you know if you’re hitting your movement targets.
It can also work the other way. If you have a day where you do double your step count, you can have an extra little treat knowing that you’ve earned it, and it will affect your weight loss a lot less than it would have otherwise.
Daily Movement vs Exercise
As a general rule, we tend to think of planned exercise as a good way to burn fat/calories. However, as explained above, any movement will burn energy too! So, in fact, if we do enough daily movement, we don’t need to do the long, boring fat burning exercises in the gym.
Our Resting Metabolic Rate will use up about 70% of the total calories that we consume, known as the TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure.
The rest of Total Daily Energy Expenditure comes from three components:
- EAT – Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
- NEAT – Non-Exercises Activity Thermogenesis
- TEF – Thermic Effect of Food
These are all just scientific ways of describing the energy burned by different things in your body.
- EAT – This is the energy burnt through doing planned exercise.
- NEAT – This is the energy burnt doing anything that isn’t planned exercise – walking, sitting, moving around, fidgeting, cleaning, tieing your shoelace – anything!
- TEF – This is the energy used up to digest the food you eat.
Of these three things, number two (NEAT) is the most important one to look at when you want to lose weight. As you drop your calories, you eat less, so the thermic effect of digesting your food (TEF) will go down, and planned exercise (EAT) is something that you can’t keep increasing – an hour or so a day is enough already! Also, the more exercise you do, the more efficient your body gets at it, so you end up burning fewer calories for the same exercise effort.
NEAT, however, is something you can play with a lot. It’s very easy to incorporate extra movement into your day.
Let’s use the two following graphs as an example of how NEAT can play a role in helping you lose weight.
Most people’s lives are like the first graph below. Throughout the day there are small spikes in activity, and then one big spike when they go to the gym.
Graph with low NEAT example.
The second graph, however shows a person who has a higher NEAT. Throughout the day there are larger spikes in their activity, which end up adding up to the total of the big spike in the first graph. That person didn’t even go to the gym, but ended up burning the same amount of calories as the first person who did just by doing more activity throughout the day.
Graph with high NEAT example.
This second example shows that just adding in extra activity over your day can really count. Making it a habit of using the stairs or walking around when you use the telephone can add up over the day. The extra effort put in means that you don’t even need to go to the gym to burn those calories off. When you hear of someone with a “fast metabolism“, NEAT is what they are referring too. Some people naturally move around more, fidget and burn more energy without even thinking about it – it’s genetic. However, anyone can burn more if they plan it into their day.
If you decide to go to the gym as well, that’s not a problem. Burning more calories means that you can enjoy more food, which makes dieting easier! Just don’t do too much as it may affect your recovery, make you tired, and make you burn less during the other 23 hours of the day.
Aiming to increase your NEAT is a great way to help you burn more calories and keep you healthier. Humans bodies were designed to move around too, so moving more helps decrease the aches and pains you get from sitting too much.