How To Get Active To Lose Weight

I challenge you to change your perspective about exercise. For most people, saying the word “exercise” gives us the same queasy stomach feeling as “IRS, taxes, or lawyer.” Instead of instantly imagining barbells, fitness clubs, and expensive personal trainers, consider another option. 

Consider being physically active, not necessarily exercising. When people decide they want to get healthier and lose some weight, they start by researching the newest and usually expensive workout programs, local fitness facilities, and they also look online for expensive exercise equipment. 

Again, in order to make progress or show commitment most people feel like they need to lay some serious cash down to start the process. This is completely wrong. In fact, it is literally working against your success and results. I’m not saying personal trainers, gym memberships or buying workout programs and equipment won’t help at all or can’t be effective.

What I’m saying is that it is often unnecessary and expensive. After you’ve been active or working out for a month or two, you may feel ready to get more intense and focused on your activities or workouts. 

At that point, it makes complete sense to consider hiring someone to help or buying a program or product to move you forward with the habits you’ve already formed. My perspective is to start simple and low cost and only then should you proceed with getting more complicated and expensive. Find an activity such as a daily walk, bike ride or a lightweight program you can do at home for free. 

Do this DAILY for a month or two to get your body used to the activity. This will help your endurance, flexibility, and strength while preventing injury. Also, the activity doesn’t have to be the same every day. Maybe one day you walk to the store and the next you ride your bike to a friend’s house.

Our bodies are remarkable machines that require daily physical activity to maintain overall function and longevity. Many diseases which plague us today were much less prevalent even 50-100 years ago. 

Conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity were significantly less prevalent in the past. The combination of high-calorie foods combined with a sedentary lifestyle is the 1-2 punch to our health and waistlines.

Our bodies work best when we are able to be physically active each and every day. For example, blood flow to limbs has been found to improve with activity. Our joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments hydrate and function properly when we are active. 

Our bones stay dense and strong which reduces the chance of breaking by working against gravity and moving. This is demonstrated by astronauts who live for any length of time in space. Their bones will become less dense due to a lack of resistance in a weightless environment. Our lungs function by using a combination of muscles and more importantly pressure changes.

When you are physically moving your chest and lungs are able to expand and move air more easily. The lack of physical activity is the reason for the fast decline of someone’s health when they are bed-ridden.

My medical colleagues and I often use sayings including, “motion is lotion” and “if you rest, you rust.” These accurately describe the mindset you should have when thinking about ways to incorporate more activity into your life. 

If people only stopped to consider all of the enormous benefits being physically active daily provides a person, they’d never sit still. Again, looking at the big picture of why you want to get healthy makes your decisions pretty easy. Even though you may want to become more active to lose weight or reverse a medical condition, the benefits of physical activity are universally beneficial to every organ and system in your body.

Being physically active is a remarkable thing. There are no other therapies, drugs, or technology that can provide enormous benefits to our health, waistline and future as being physically active. You should make it a simple habit to be active for at least 15-30 minutes daily by incorporating movement into an activity you already do every day. By making it every day you are removing the decision component and it becomes automatic. 

We all know if something is to be completed 5 days per week, it eventually turns into 3 days per week and within no time becomes, “wait, what am I supposed to be doing again?”

The current guidelines indicate all Americans, even those with disabilities, those who are pregnant, the elderly and children should be getting between 150-300 minutes per week of activity. ANY ACTIVITY, EVERY DAY. 

Preferably moderate-intensity activity but ANY will do. The previous guidelines published a decade ago recommended activity in about 10-minute intervals. That minimum has actually been removed since most Americans are getting so little activity and movement in their day that experts can’t even set a minimum block of time any longer! Currently, about 80% of Americans are not active enough and it is only going to get worse.

Being sedentary or sitting is the worst thing you can do during the day. Most of our days are spent sitting while at work, while driving/commuting, eating, watching TV, playing video games, and using a computer; and it is slowly killing us. Between the years 1940-1960, our lives quickly started to become more sedentary. 

Cars became much more affordable and easy for an American family to own. Also, television started showing up in most homes and families started tuning in to programs and the evening news. Housewives started watching soap operas in the afternoons which were literally dramas with commercials selling soap!

For most people, the risk of not being physically active is far more dangerous than the risk of starting to become active after being sedentary.

That said, if you have a history of heart attack, stroke or chronic conditions, I recommend seeing your health care provider for a quick check and to help set up an activity plan. I really can’t think of anyone who would be at high risk while going for a walk down the block and back to begin being active, but be smart, and if there is any question in your mind about being evaluated prior to getting more active, then get evaluated.

Being required to put in a disclaimer like this is irritating to me since there is going to be a group of you who read this and think, “Oh, I can’t start getting active until I check with my health care provider and since I can’t get in for several months, I guess it will have to wait.” 

This gives you a way out and allows you to postpone getting active. If this applies to you, stand up and go walk down the block and back. Again, everyone is exceptional, but most people

are rarely the exceptions. No health care provider in their right mind is going to argue against this as long as you use common sense and you have someone around or helping you. 

I’ve never seen the cause of death on a death certificate say “Walked around the block.” Every day you postpone getting moving is another day you get further behind. Everyone’s situation is different so just use common sense and get going already. 

Find some basic life activities you generally need to do most days of the week, like going to the mailbox and start walking instead of driving to get it done. You’ll be shocked at how much benefit this gives you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Technology can be a huge advantage when we are working to become healthier and lose weight. Your ability to search online and instantly find exercise programs, yoga programs, nutrition information and general information to become healthier is unparalleled. There are now activity trackers, smartwatches, and apps you can use to help reach your goals. While you may find these helpful, I don’t recommend buying any of them, yet. 

There are great free apps you can use to track your activities and these will be sufficient for 99% of people getting started. Only after you can go 5 miles or be active for at least an hour should you buy any sort of widget to use. 

Again, by buying the must-have new watch, activity band or software, you are shifting the responsibility and initiative of being active onto the technology or device instead of yourself. I

recommend avoiding this temptation and only buying the gadget once you have already established the daily habit. Maybe buy this device or app as a reward for being active 30 days in a row! Who said this had to be boring and no fun?

As I mentioned, the benefits of being physically active on a daily basis are vast and improve essentially every aspect of your health by optimizing the function of your body systems and organs. Below is just a small list of the benefits I am referring to. Prepare to have your mind blown!

Here are the research-proven health benefits of being active:’

  • Lower risk of vascular disease and heart disease.
  • Longer life span and health during later years.
  • Lower risk of heart attack and/or stroke
  • Lower risk of high blood pressure or hypertension.
  • Lower risk of high cholesterol.
  • Lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes pre-diabetes or insulin resistance.
  • Lower risk of bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, pelvic, kidney, lung and stomach cancers.
  • Improved mental health, energy level and mood.
  • Lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Improved overall quality of life.
  • Reduced anxiety and depression.
  • Improved sleep.
  • Improved weight loss and reduced weight gain.
  • Improved chance of keeping weight off.
  • Stronger bones.
  • Improved sexual function.
  • Improved physical function.
  • Improved flexibility.
  • Improved strength.
  • Lower risk of falls and broken bones in older adults.
  • Health benefits of daily activity for kids:
  • Improved bone health and weight status in ages 3-5 years old.
  • Improved ability to think and likely social, emotional and mental function aged 6-13 years old.
  • Health benefits of activity for pregnant women:
  • Reduced risk of weight gain.
  • Reduced risk of gestational diabetes.
  • Reduced postpartum depression.

*This list was adapted from the 2018 Guidelines for Physical Activity.

Something as simple as adding some physical activity to your daily life can improve your life in nearly every way! If exercise or physical activity was a new medication hitting the market – it would be sold out! It might not come in the form of a pill, powder or liquid but your health care provider can provide you with something to take daily. 

It’s called an activity prescription and should include 15-30 minutes of movement daily! Feel free to talk to your health care provider for specific recommendations based on your situation and medical conditions. Again, if this isn’t convenient then walk to the corner and back.

Trust me; every single health care provider would love to discuss ways for you to get healthier and less sick because they won’t have to work as hard trying to medicate your various medical conditions in a thankless and futile effort to counteract the effects of poor nutrition and living a sedentary lifestyle.

There is literally no better treatment you can give your body for at least twenty medical conditions than simple, daily activity. Consider all of the medications you are currently taking for your medical conditions. 

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to take pills, injections, and capsules all day? Wouldn’t it be great not to be sick and suffer the rest of your life? The way out of this dilemma is to perform daily, low to non-impact activities such as walking, riding a bike, lap swimming or light weights. A combination of these activities is even better.

For example, think about the heartburn you have after you eat meals and then sit down after dinner; it would likely improve if you went for a walk after dinner. Or consider the heaviness of the fluid in your legs you have on a daily basis due to some medical conditions. Walking daily would likely help return the fluid back into your blood vessels and get it out of your legs, wouldn’t that be nice?

Think about the vitamin D you might be low on; instead of taking a supplement with who knows what in it, you could go outside in the sunshine for 20 minutes since your body can usually make the vitamin D it needs. 

Or consider your blood sugar that seems to be always elevated and requires oral medication and insulin injections. Wouldn’t it be great if a daily walk could lower your blood sugars and reduce the amount of medications you need to take? Well, it can and will, but you have to do it. And in order to do it, make it easy and you’ll have much better success.

I can’t promise any specific results, but most of the patients I work with who adopt these simple nutrition and activity habits, generally decrease their daily medication regimen, which is pretty cool. Each person’s situation is different so talk to your health care provider and I can guarantee you can both agree on simple steps you can literally take to improve many medical conditions.

Physical activity is great at decreasing the levels in your body which are too high such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and is effective at increasing levels that are too low such as bone density, flexibility, mood and energy level.

I have also reviewed a lot of weight loss supplements, if you are interested, you might check them out.

Start Here to Get Active

There are hundreds of different ways to become more active. The goal is to start simple and get more complex overtime if needed. I see a lot of people who sign up for intense workouts when they can’t even walk around the block! 

They get injured or sore and end up discouraged. They lose motivation quickly and are back to square one. Find some activities you can easily add to your life such as walking, hiking, or pushups. Activity doesn’t have to be heart exploding intense or cost anything. Just get moving!

This guide is designed to provide a new perspective and overall recommendation for increasing daily activity. This guide is intentionally not specific with routines or programs since everyone is in a different situation concerning their fitness level, medical conditions and past injuries. I recommend starting simply by going for a walk, riding a bike, some stretching, and a simple pushup and sit-up program on a daily basis. If you’re alive, you can start here. If not, you’re too late, sorry. 

It doesn’t take great complexity to get great results. Start small and slowly and soon enough you’ll be going further than you ever imagined. There are great resources in this guide. Check them out and I think you’ll find them useful, easy to use, and best of all – free!

Stretching

Stretching is an awesome way to improve flexibility and prevent injury. There are a million different stretching programs available for free online. Also, yoga stretches and poses are very helpful to improve flexibility and reduce injury.

Search for a PDF version of one designed by a medical clinic or physical therapy office, print it, and hang it up where you will be finishing your walk, lightweight program or bike ride. The only stretch AFTER you are active. Never stretch much before being active. Muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints are not as flexible when they are cold. They will warm up as you are active or exercising. Always remember the saying: Warm Rubber Bands Stretch, Cold Rubber Bands Break.

Walking

By far the most effective habit for weight loss and to improve your overall health is to go for a daily walk. The daily walk has been the game-changer for my patients over the past decade. They have experienced a ridiculous amount of life-changing success when they start walking daily. The reason is simple: 99.9% of people can incorporate a 15-30 minute daily walk into their lives with little to no effort. 

A daily walk doesn’t require you to buy an expensive gym membership, new exercise equipment, or the latest gear. You never hear the latest fad exercise programs or diets recommend a daily walk because it seems too easy and isn’t “insider knowledge.” The ironic thing is, it works!

The benefits are significant and if you start walking daily, you will experience a transformation in your health and quality of life. How can this be? It’s because a brisk, daily walk gives you a good chunk of time to get away, relax, and enjoy some time to yourself. 

These days, having some time to yourself during the day is hard to find. Remember, the goal of any activity recommendations in this guide is not to add yet another activity to your life but to get more value and benefit from the activities you already do.

Instead of committing to some expensive or complicated exercise regimen, just start going for a simple walk once a day. Take a family member or friend and go explore your neighbourhood or community. Maybe make a habit that you can’t have dinner or sit down to watch television or the computer until you’ve gone for your walk. 

Once you have done this for a month or so, this will become a habit and you’ll look forward to it. At this point, you will be able to decide what to do next. Do you go farther, faster, or maybe start lifting some weights? 

Do you decide to add some stairs or maybe riding a bike next time? It’s really up to you but remembers, you need to walk before you run! Be sure to get your heart rate pumping a bit, maybe even a slight sweat and you’ll know you are working hard enough. If you aren’t able to talk while you are being active, then you are working too hard and need to dial it back a bit.

Our lifestyles have changed over time reducing the amount of activity we are getting both at work and at play. How many neighbourhoods do you drive through in your town and see kids everywhere on their bikes and outside playing? 

It’s very rare and ultimately the research reveals this is becoming a serious issue in our society as children are much less active and the rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes in kids as young as ten years old are growing rapidly.

Another benefit of being outside walking is the community-building and security aspects. For example, during my education I moved several times across the nation and every time I moved to a new area, I drove around looking at different neighbourhoods to see if there were kids outside playing and riding bikes. 

Even though I was driving through unfamiliar communities, I instantly had a pretty good idea which neighbourhoods would be safe to live in versus those not as safe. When homeowners are out walking and visiting with each other and a bunch of kids are playing outside, it seems like a natural deterrent to trouble- makers in my opinion.

Many patients I’ve had over the years are very busy parents, business owners, executives and are also involved in the community. However, they are still able to incorporate a daily walk into their lives. 

In fact, many indicate their daily walk has significantly improved careers, businesses, relationships and health since they had the advantage of having time to think, plan and brainstorm during their walks. 

Overall, there are two ways these successful people use a daily walk. The first use is to take a break from the day and think about the big decisions and directions they wish to take in their professional and personal lives. Often, coworkers or family members think they are going for a walk for only their physical health, however, the walk is actually for their physical, mental, and emotional health as well. So they are getting healthier in many ways and taking guilt-free time for themselves.

The second way people use their walking time is to be productive during their walk. Advances in technology have allowed music, podcasts, audiobooks and visiting on the phone to happen with our mobile phones and earbuds. 

These days we can do all kinds of activities while being on the move. Many salespeople take the time to make phone calls to clients to follow up and attend to their needs. Others listen to audiobooks and podcasts or complete continuing education which allows them to stay up to date in their field. Another patient who is in sales will call old friends and past clients in her contact list. She’s able to reconnect with old friends and clients and get her walk-in as well. 

Review your responsibilities in life and brainstorm tasks you can complete while walking or riding a bike. It’s always a rewarding feeling to get out and go for a walk while also getting some other required tasks completed. If you have children, have them walk too or ride their bikes while you go for a walk. 

They’ll learn this habit and look forward to it each day. Also, this can also be valuable family time away from distractions which we all need.

To start walking, just start walking. It sounds simple because it is. No need to buy a $99 walking program or a contraption. Just start walking daily. Walk down to the end of the block if that’s all you can do at first. Slowly, over time, try and walk a bit further until you are comfortable walking much longer distances, just be smart and safe. Keep it simple and take a walk!

Running or Jogging

For some reason whenever people want to get in shape they start a running or jogging program. If a person is overweight or obese this is pretty much the worst thing they could possibly do. 

Running causes high impact forces and jarring to your joints and muscles which can cause inflammation, pain and soreness. A significant amount of force goes through your ankles, knees, and hips when a person runs. Add extra weight to this and it’s a recipe for disaster. If you are overweight or considered obese I do not recommend running for you. If you aren’t overweight or obese, only at the point you can walk a mile or two at a reasonably quick pace should you even consider running. 

There is essentially no significant difference or benefit in energy expended for a person who walks at a quick pace or someone who runs. Save yourself pain, injury and from quitting and don’t run when you’re starting out. You’ll be glad you avoided it.

Push-ups and Sit-ups

An even easier way to get started is to make a routine to do push-ups and sit-ups every day. These two exercises can be completed anywhere at any time and do not require any equipment. Start by doing a couple of push-ups and see how many you can do. 

Strive to do this several times daily and see how many you can do in a day! Try to do at least five of each exercise twice a day and soon it will be a habit that can make the difference in your upper body strength and core strength. 

If push-ups are tough, start in a kneeling position instead of stretching out to balance on your toes, this is a bit easier and can help prevent injury as you are starting out. You can find some fun push-up and sit-up programs free online which can help you stay consistent. 

There is also at least one free app for your phone and tablet which will remind you and keep count of your push-ups each day. Before long you’ll be able to drop and give me twenty without even a sweat!

Treadmill or Stationary Bike Indoors

Having a treadmill or stationary bike in your home is incredibly helpful for getting your daily activity completed. If you have a treadmill or stationary bike but don’t use it, now’s the time! If you don’t have one, you might be able to find an inexpensive, quality, used treadmill or stationary bike that someone is excited to get rid of! 

I recommend putting them in front of the television or computer in your home. This way, you can be active while watching your favourite TV show or movie! Better yet, feel free to binge-watch several episodes in a row and you’ll have a much longer walk or ride to help get in shape. Try and do about 5 minutes at first and see how that goes. 

Based on that experience, you’ll be able to decide how much you want to do the next day. The goal is to increase the time you are riding every week so you see progress. I recommend buying an inexpensive dry erase whiteboard calendar and putting it up on the wall next to the treadmill or stationary bike. Write down either the time, distance or both of these each day and you’ll see these numbers increase over time! It’s very rewarding.

Walking With Friends

Some people use their time while walking to improve their friendships and spend quality time with loved ones. Some neighbours get together at 6:30 pm every night to go for a walk around the neighbourhood and have great conversations about their families and life, which builds community. 

Others I know from different departments at work meet to discuss their day and get their exercise together. Interestingly, the employees who get out of the office at lunchtime seem to be more effective and refreshed in the afternoon than those who stayed and tried to get extra work completed.

Walking For Meetings

Some of my colleagues will go for a walk during lunch or during their working hours of the day to discuss important work issues in private. By going for a walk, they are able to have a personal meeting while addressing issues they need to cover. 

This allows them to not be stuck in a stressful office environment and helps them get some fresh air and seems to help them think and discuss decisions. These days, many employers realize the importance of having their staff standing or walking instead of sitting at desks all day. A walking meeting with an agenda can be very useful and effective for staff.

While going for a walk the most important issue is your safety. If it’s sunny when you walk I recommend sunscreen and maybe taking your water bottle if the weather is warm or hot. If you live in a region with heavy rains or winters, please dress accordingly and be prepared for slick sidewalks and drivers who likely don’t know how to drive in bad weather. 

Wear shoes or boots with traction if it’s icy or there is snow on the ground. Keep your phone nearby and always know where you are. Reflective clothing or headlamps are great to let drivers and others know you’re there. Never assume they see you walking or crossing the road. Always be proactive rather than reactive about your safety.

Walking the Mall

A great way to get out of the house for people who stay at home or for our older generations is to head to the local mall for their daily walk. Most malls love having walkers cruising around in front of their stores as it brings people into the mall which helps their business while allowing the walker to get their walk completed in a safe, temperature-controlled, well-lit building. 

It’s a win-win and helps everyone. Check out your mall announcement board or ask around. There is likely a great group of folks you will meet and you might be able to get in some social time while being active.

Walking the Dog

Dog owners are one of the most common walkers in most neighbourhoods and around apartment buildings. Taking the dog for a walk is a great way to incorporate activity into your day. The dog is able to be outside and get some exercise while the owner also gets these benefits. These days there are many more dog parks that allow dogs to be off their leash and play with other dogs.

If one is nearby, walk to it and let your dog run! Just don’t be that guy who puts your dog inside the fence at the dog park and sits in your car eating potato chips

Riding Your Bike

One of the most underutilized forms of transportation in America is the bicycle. As children, we gladly rode bikes everywhere and no one thought a thing about it. I can remember being gone for hours of the day on my bike with friends running free. 

As an adult, I still love riding my bike because of the sense of freedom it provides. Riding a bike as an adult is like being a kid again. It allows us to go where we want and enjoy the ride, not only the destination. It is also an excellent source of non-impact exercise which helps every body system.

As people drive by in their 6,000 pound SUV and they see me riding my bike to work or to the store, their looks seem to say, “Poor guy, he must be homeless and he can’t afford a car or maybe he has too many DUI’s and has to ride his bike now.” 

It’s ironic and makes me chuckle due to the irony. They think the bike riders are the ones who are losing out and sacrificing. However, the bike riders are out enjoying the weather, getting some exercise, having some time to themselves to relax and think while listening to music or podcasts. And they are spending no money on the ride.

Meanwhile, drivers are spending nearly $1 per mile in gas, insurance, maintenance, tires, registration fees and taxes not to mention the high costs of taking care of eventual diseases associated with being sedentary. 

So, if you’re an average American, then you drive about 10,000 miles per year, which costs you about $10,000 per year out of your bank account! Yikes, think about that next time you ponder where all your money goes each month. 

By the time someone uses common sense to compare the advantages of riding your bike for short distance activities compared to driving a car, I figure the joke is on the driver – they just don’t know it yet. Bike commuting to work is one of the best activities

I do it for myself. It’s a great way to start a morning, get your blood pumping and your mind fired up and ready for the day! I have a hands-free cell phone holder on my handlebars so I can listen to the latest podcast or audiobook which gets automatically downloaded for free to my phone from the public library’s free app.

We became much more sedentary when automobiles became mainstream in the 1940-the 60s. We stopped walking and riding bikes for errands such as commuting, grocery shopping, and our waistlines now reflect this. 

Find your old bike, tune it up and hit the road. It’s amazing what we miss out on driving our two-ton SUV’s around. Riding a bike helps you, the environment, and your checking account.

When starting to ride your bike again, be smart and wear a helmet. Ride a way and see how you feel. Start small and work your way up. Obey traffic laws and assume drivers have no idea you’re there – because they don’t!

Similar to starting walking, getting started riding a bike is to simply start riding. If you don’t have a bike, then borrow one at first so you don’t have to buy one until you are surely riding a bike will be something you will actually do. There are awesome deals to be found online and your local classifieds, including Craigslist. 

Start by riding around your neighbourhood or at a local park to get started biking. Many communities have trail systems and rails to trails areas for safe bike riding. There is a nationwide program that has converted old byways used for railroad tracks to trails by removing the tracks. These wind through amazingly scenic areas of our nation and are great to explore.

Weight a Minute

Weight training is beneficial for weight loss (3). It is an incredible way to improve strength, flexibility, and endurance. Lifting weights can be completed with equipment at home or in the gym. 

Free weights or resistance bands seem to be the best and least expensive option. Using free weights and bands will also help build balance and coordination in your muscles to hold up a weight or perform reps correctly.

Weight lifting machines can be used if you already have a gym membership however it’s not necessary. There are tons of resources online to help you with starting a basic weight lifting program. Again, I recommend finding a cheap set of dumbbells, barbells, or resistance bands on Craigslist or some other local used site. 

Don’t buy new unless you absolutely have to. Simply go online and you can find awesome sites with tons of helpful information. Stay away from any website which charges you a fee to use it or is trying to sell you something.

Swimming

Swimming can help you lose weight (4). Lap swimming, water aerobics and aqua classes are probably the easiest on your body of any exercises. That doesn’t mean they’re easy, it just means they aren’t as tough on your body. Movement in water is easier on your joints and back than land-based exercise. 

Lap swimming is a great way to get aerobic exercise without the jarring effects of the ground. Even though it does require access to a swimming pool, it doesn’t require much else besides a swimsuit, goggles and a swim cap. 

Most fitness facilities with pools generally provide relatively inexpensive swim lessons and classes on how to swim if you need to learn or hone your skills. Water-based aerobics classes aren’t just for grandmas anymore.

Many wellness centres even offer sessions where yoga is performed on paddleboards. Don’t rush out and pay for an expensive gym membership just to use the pool. If you already have a membership, that’s great. But if not, keep your cash and just start with the other forms of activity for now.

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