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Walk, Bike or Hike?

I was asked yet again what is the best exercise to lose weight.   You would think as a weight loss physician, I should have a set and memorized answer.  If I asked you to answer that question you may think that I should say, running and weightlifting.   You may think that I will tell you that you absolutely have to run marathons.  That you need to lift weights so much that you will not be able to lift your arms over your head or sit on the toilet for the next three days.

Lets cut to the chase.

The answer to your question, “what is the best exercise for weight loss?” is simple: the one you that you like.

For you, it may be running. It may be bicycling.  It may be hiking.   It may be walking your dog after dinner.   It may be yoga.   There are one hundred and one answers to the question.

The answer that is wrong is “nothing”.  The worst thing we can do is sit.   Prolonged sitting for hours a day, day after day after day, is very unhealthy for you.  Sitting has been described as the new smoking.   We all know smoking is an unhealthy habit.   Sitting is up there also at the top of the list for unhealthy.

There is a new campaign and it’s called six every sixty.

This simply means besides regular exercise, you should be active, get up and walk around, every hour for six minutes.   Maybe you choose to walk around your office; maybe you walk around your home or maybe go to the bathroom and then refill your water container.

If you have a choice (and you do) and the question is… what is healthier?

  1. Exercising regularly but are still remaining overweight or
  2. Having a normal body weight but spending most of your day in inactivity?

The answer is simple but not obvious.  The answer is the person who is active;

The person who exercises is healthier…  No matter what.

Getting back to the idea that the best exercise or activity is the exercise or activity that you like is important.   The more you enjoy your activity, the more likely you will do it regularly.   Let me say that again.   The more you enjoy your activity, the more likely you will do it regularly.   If you enjoy golfing, you will look forward to it.   If you enjoy running, you will look forward to it.   If you enjoy, Zumba at the gym, by all means, continue your membership.

The thing I do not recommend is to just do a particular exercise that you don’t like because you believe it to be a better exercise than another exercise.

So what is the best exercise for you?   For some, the answer is easy.  For some the answer is obvious.  For others, it is quite hard.   There are definitely some of you that I take care of that do not like ANY exercise.

Sometimes as a start to a discussion about exercise, I ask what you are doing for activity.   I sometimes hear back, “none, I do not exercise regularly; there is no time.”   This same person then goes on vacation and when they come back, I ask, “when on vacation, what exercise did you do?” Unfortunately, the answer is the same; “there is no time.”

OK, so you are telling me during your normal workweek, you are too busy to exercise and then you go on vacation and are also still too busy to exercise.   For this answer, you and I, we have a problem.   The problem is that all the benefit of exercise comes from doing it.   Reading through the lines, this means is that for you, exercise is just not a priority.  It doesn’t make your to-do list. Not even at the bottom.

Think of exercise like brushing your teeth.   We don’t really love brushing our teeth but we do it anyway.  When we were kids, our parents prompted us to brush our teeth.  Sometimes they had to remind us every day.   As adults, we know its necessary.  Not one of us LOVES brushing our teeth but yet day after day, morning after morning and night after night, we continually brush our teeth.

So, if you are not currently active at all, how should you start?

The first is deciding what activity to start with.  I will usually ask in the past, what did you do for exercise?  Most people have an answer for that and I will usually have them start with that exercise or one that they have been thinking about doing for a while but just haven’t been able to get going.

For runners, there is a program called couch to 5k.  Just Google “couch to 5k” or look in the app store for a couch to 5k app.   This is a running program that gives a structured way for someone who doesn’t run to build up over 8-10 weeks the ability to run 5k or 3.1 miles all at once.

For walkers, I just have them start out with what they can handle.  For some, it’s just walking around their home trying to get 500 steps per day.  For others, its 10-15 min a day and for others, it could be 30 min per day.

My recommendation is to start out with exercise and do enough to feel like you have done something but not enough to get sore.   We have to start by prompting your body to be ready for regular exercise.

I start with frequency (how often you exercise) and may recommend starting at three days a week.  After a few weeks, I recommend increasing to four days a week.  At 4 days a week, some planning may have to come into it.   Your workout days could be Monday, Wednesday, Friday and one of the weekend days each week.  For those who have trouble with weekdays, I will suggest Tuesday, Thursday and both Saturday and Sunday.

The standard recommendations are to get 150 minutes per week of exercise.   This works out to thirty minutes, five days a week.   For weight loss, it is more.  It is three hundred minutes a week.   That works out to one hour, five days a week.  Yes, this is a lot of exercise.   Yes, it will take time.  Yes, I know it is hot outside or cold outside or raining or windy.

It is obvious to me, but maybe not to you, that these recommendations do not work for everyone but none the less they are the recommendations.   We do have to start somewhere and also to have a goal in mind for optimal exercise.

2 Final Thoughts: 

  1. If you get hurt during exercise, see your physician. I make it my personal goal if anything hurts me severely and I cannot be active, I will see my doctor right away.  If I think something is broken, and I can’t walk or the lift my arm, etc., the ER is an appropriate place.   If something is hurt but more nagging for 3 weeks but without significant and steady improvements, I will see my medical provider.   Depending on what hurts depends on whom I see.  If it is not significantly better after three weeks, the likelihood of getting better on its own after four or even six weeks is quite low.
  2. Start Moving TODAY. Don’t put it off another day.  There is a saying that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.   As we all know, that is an impossible request.   Yes, you should have started movement or exercise already.  Stop feeling guilty.   Stop making excuses.

Most of all start TODAY!


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