Being sedentary is a major risk factor of metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes. But every type of movement is helpful—even small gestures we make throughout the day, like tapping our toes or pacing while talking on the phone. These moves, known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT, can constitute as much as 50 percent of the total energy expenditure of a person who keeps busy throughout the day. Simple things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator and taking a brisk walk on your lunch hour can help sizzle calories and reduce fat. These 22 ideas can keep you moving, no sneakers required.
And some of these factors can go pretty deep. Albers says that people often don’t realize how dramatically past experiences influence our relationships with ourselves and bodies. For example, having to clean your plate as a child, getting sweet treats to “cheer up” after a bad day at school, or being called “fat” when you were 8 years old all likely have an impact. “Comments about your body or being urged to lose weight by a parent can do emotional damage for the rest of your life,” Albers says. Unless you deal with these issues, “many people spin their wheels and don't know why they feel so stuck,” she says. For this reason, Langer often refers clients to psychologists who specialize in food issues, and she won’t work with those clients on the nutrition side of things until they’ve started to unpack these fundamental emotional factors. Understanding your relationship to food is an important step in trying to change it.
Weight loss isn’t a linear event over time. When you cut calories, you may drop weight for the first few weeks, for example, and then something changes. You eat the same number of calories but you lose less weight or no weight at all. That’s because when you lose weight you’re losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, your metabolism slows, and your body changes in other ways. So, in order to continue dropping weight each week, you need to continue cutting calories.
“Exercise should not be used to purge calories,” Albers says. “Instead, to boost your mood to keep you motivated.” The thing is, exercise is great for you and can make you feel awesome. And feeling good about yourself seems to be actually useful in weight-loss efforts. Plus, some research has shown that changes in exercise behavior can lead to changes in eating behavior. “In part, it is neurochemical. Movement and exercise you enjoy boosts your serotonin and dopamine levels, which makes you feel good all the way around,” Albers says.
Earlier, belly fat was considered healthy; it was perceived as a reservoir of adipose tissues that could be utilized when a person needed extra energy. With time, the views have changed. Researchers state that excess belly fat triggers chronic cardiovascular diseases. So, it is important to measure belly fat and check how much you need to reduce. Here are some parameters to measure your waistline.
If you don’t have an established exercise routine, simply walking is the best first step toward weight loss. “Walking is a pretty good entry point for people,” says Gagliardi. This is particularly true if you have been out of the gym for a while and want to ease back into a workout routine. One small study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that obese women who did a walking program for 50 to 70 minutes three days per week for 12 weeks significantly slashed their visceral fat compared to a sedentary control group.
Your parents weren’t kidding about how important veggies are for a healthy body. What they probably didn’t tell you, however, was that snacking on veggies is also one of the easiest ways to shed unwanted belly fat, too. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, opting for non-starchy veggies, like cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumber, as snacks helped overweight kids shed 17 percent of their visceral fat while improving their insulin sensitivity over a five-year period. Think snacking on veggies will leave you hungry? The 20 Most Filling Fruits and Veggies will have your belly satisfied in no time.
Considering that only 1 in 10 Americans meet their produce requirements, it’s pretty safe to say you need to eat more veggies. And no matter what food philosophy you subscribe to, veggies are a big part of the program. Vegetables have a lot going for them: They fill you up for very few calories, and they flood your body with the nutrients it needs to fight diseases, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
This two-week program mandates the use of heavy compound exercises to start every weight workout. By keeping heavy training in your program, you’ll force your body to keep its natural production of growth hormone (GH). High GH, which peaks while you sleep, is a key player in the fat-burning process. Then, by targeting individual body parts with Tabata-style work, you’ll increase local blood flow to working muscles. On each Tabata exercise, start with a weight you can handle for 12–15 reps. As the work drags on, your rep counts will fade. Pause only when needed, and perform partial reps if necessary to keep going the entire 20 seconds.
For even more impressive effects on body composition: aim for exercise forms which elicit a positive hormonal response. This means lifting really heavy things (strength training), or interval training. Such exercise increases levels of the sex hormone testosterone (primarily in men) as well as growth hormone. Not only do greater levels of these hormones increase your muscle mass, but they also decrease your visceral fat (belly fat) in the long term.
Skimp on fluids, and your body will release an antidiuretic hormone that leads to water retention that could affect the scale, Dr. Setlzer says. While this sneaky effect is one reason why the scale is a poor measure of body mass loss, you can outsmart it by drinking more—particularly if you fill your glass with water or non-calorie alternatives like unsweetened coffee and tea.
“Getting deep down to the root of why you want to lose weight is a very powerful and eye-opening experience,” she says. “I do this exercise with my clients. I give them a piece of paper and they start at the top with the initial reason they want to lose weight. Often, it starts with reasons like ‘I will look better.’ Under that, I ask them why that is important. Sometimes there are some very deep and powerful reasons that are incredibly motivating like ‘I want to lose weight to travel on an airplane with my husband on our second honeymoon’ or ‘to be able to really play with my kids.’”
Regular exercise is key to weight loss and maintenance. And since there’s no consensus on whether the ideal workout is aerobic or resistance training, your best bet is to do a little of both. Resistance training is especially important for people over 30, who will otherwise begin to lose bone density. Contrary to popular belief, abdominal crunches are not going to melt away belly fat, though they will help build muscle that could help define the area. And since muscle mass has a higher resting metabolic rate and energy expenditure than fat, it could help you trim down. Mix up your workout routine with these exercises that flatten your belly—without a single crunch.
Rather than a long and low-intensity cardio workout, try the HIIT method of cardio: intense, fast-paced intervals that leave you completely exhausted after only a 20- to 30-minute session. This form of cardio training increases the afterburn effect, allowing your body to continue burning calories long after your workout is over. You can rotate between 30 seconds of your favorite exercises, with rest in between, as long as they work different muscle groups—such as squats, push-ups and kettlebell swings.
"Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It can cause our body to produce the steroid hormone cortisol, which can make you crave sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. Short-term bursts of cortisol are necessary to help us cope with immediate danger, but our body will also release this hormone if we’re feeling stressed or anxious. When our cortisol levels are high for a long amount of time, it can increase the amount of fat you hold in your belly."