When you decide to get serious about weight loss are you better off restricting calories or melting off the excess fat through exercise?
"A good diet is important but exercise is the single best predictor of who succeeds in keeping off the weight they've lost," says Jay Shafran, a fitness expert with Wellness 360 in New York City. "Of course the best way to lose weight is cut back a little bit on what you eat and by exercising for at least 30 minutes a day."
Shafran says the reason exercise is so essential for long term weight-loss success goes far beyond its ability to burn calories and body fat. He points to studies of non-exercising dieters who often report feeling feel hungry and deprived when they rely on calorie cutbacks alone. "Cardio workouts help dull the appetite so you're less likely to cave into cravings," he comments.
If you really push yourself to work up a sweat, it provides your metabolism a temporary boost that lasts for several hours. This so-called "afterburn effect" kicks in after you do an intense aerobic workout; you may burn just a few extra calories but if you really push yourself, you'll burn a hundred additional calories without any extra effort on your part. According to Shafran, "it's sort of like buying one and then getting one free."
Adding strength training into the mix will help you drop a dress size even faster because, it helps you preserve muscle mass and metabolism - something neither diet nor cardio can do for you. Plus, high intensity strength training packs an even greater temporary afterburn than cardio exercise. Another bonus: Sculpted muscles translate into lost inches even if the change doesn't register on the scale. "Muscle is denser than fat so it takes up less room," notes Shafran. "Firming up will make you look so much thinner even if you weigh the same."So if you're determined to lose weight and make it stick, eat right and maintain a steady diet of cardio and strength exercise. Aim for 3-5 cardio workouts and 2-3 strength training sessions per week. Cardio sessions should total up to at least 30 minutes a day and strength training sessions should hit every major muscle group with at least one set. (Major muscles include the back, chest, arms, legs and abs.) And if you're tired of trudging on a treadmill, grinding it out on an exercise bike or yawning your way through a weight circuit at the gym, get creative. Join a walking group or exercise with a friend. Consider hiring a personal trainer for a session or two. Pop a workout into your DVD player - DVDs are affordable and led by some of the top workout pros in the country.