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The Role of Exercise in Your Diet

When losing weight, there is a lot of information, tips, and advice available, but one thing that most sources will agree on, is that diet and exercise are the two most important things involved in losing weight and keeping healthy.

Along with getting enough sleep, diet and exercise make up the basic formula that leads to shedding a few pounds; you have to burn more calories than you are eating or drinking in order to lose weight. However, how much of a role does exercise play? And do different forms of exercise have different effects? You often hear statements such as, ‘80% diet, 20% exercise’, but what does this mean?

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When losing weight, there is a lot of information, tips, and advice available, but one thing that most sources will agree on, is that diet and exercise are the two most important things involved in losing weight and keeping healthy.

Along with getting enough sleep, diet and exercise make up the basic formula that leads to shedding a few pounds; you have to burn more calories than you are eating or drinking in order to lose weight. However, how much of a role does exercise play? And do different forms of exercise have different effects? You often hear statements such as, ‘80% diet, 20% exercise’, but what does this mean?

Why is exercise important?

At rest, or during your normal everyday activities, you are burning calories. These calories are very minimal, but your body needs to burn energy in order to run efficiently, and you need to burn energy to walk around, drive your car, cook your meals, and all of your usual activities. However, as these calories are minimal and constant, to drastically increase the calories you are burning, you must exercise on a regular basis.
The NHS recommends that the average adult should try to complete at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity each week, and additional time at least twice a week to work on muscle strengthening activities. This is a good place to start if you are new to exercise; 30 minutes of exercise for only 5 days a week should be achievable for almost everyone.

If you are eating healthy, then taking part in some form of exercise for this time length of time each day should mean that you are burning more calories than you are consuming, and you should steadily lose weight. However, the benefits of exercise do not end there.

It has been medically proven that people who do regular physical activity have significantly lower risk of developing a number of disease and health problems. For example, if you take part in regular exercise there is less chance of developing heart disease, colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, depression and dementia. Regular exercise will also increase your cardiovascular health, your stamina, improve your mood, and help you sleep more soundly. Exercise is truly an essential part of staying fit and healthy, and fewer people seem to be recognising that.

You might not feel like getting up the morning to workout, or heading to the gym after work, but once it is over you will feel happier and more energised. No one has ever regretted a workout. The statement ‘80% diet, 20% exercise’ can be misconstrued to mean that exercise is not as important as your diet, but exercise and diet are equally important if you want to lose weight, keep it off, and live a healthy life.

Does it matter what kind of exercise you do?

As mentioned above, the NHS recommends 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise in a week. They alternatively suggest 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise each week. Moderate intensity exercise includes activities such as fast walking, hiking, a bike ride, rollerblading, skateboarding, or water aerobics, while vigorous intensity exercise includes jogging or running, playing rugby or football, fast swimming, aerobics, or martial arts.

These vigorous intensity exercises are far more effective are burning calories than moderate intensity exercises are. However, it is also far more beneficial to carry out these kinds of exercise more frequently than the recommended 1 hour and 15 minutes, as this will vastly improve your chances of losing weight, and will more swiftly see your cardiovascular health improve.

Another form of exercise that would be considered vigorous is high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is an exercise strategy that involves short periods of intense anaerobic activity, alternated with low intensity recovery exercises. This is an extremely efficient way to exercise, and it is much more beneficial to complete 30 minutes of HIIT rather than 30 minutes of steady cardio exercises. HIIT exercise also increases your resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after your workout, which means that you will be burning calories at an accelerated rate even after you finish the workout.

You should aim to find exercises and workouts that you like and are fun to complete. It’s all very well finding something easy for you to do, but if it’s too easy that means that you won’t find much benefit in it; if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.