Now that you have set your fitness goals, it is time to develop an effective exercise program. If your target is to lose weight, there are a lot of online resources that will help you choose what is best for you. As mentioned in my article about setting weight-loss goals, I started out with a 12-week program developed by Paige Waehner (http://exercise.about.com/cs/weightloss//a/12weeks.htm). It worked for me initially, but as I progressed, I learned to develop my own program, suited to what I like and need.
What is the best exercise program for weight loss? If you want to lose weight, you need to burn calories. What better way to burn those fats than to focus on cardiovascular exercise? When I started running in 2010, I was not particularly aiming to lose weight. With regular running, the weight started to go south and I was very happy with the results. You might choose to combine various cardio activities like walking, running, cycling, skipping rope, dancing and other aerobic classes. Select an activity that you enjoy and you will be able to sustain it.
How about strength training? What’s in it for gym buffs who go to the gym regularly and lift those weights? I used to think that I did not need strength training. Lifting all those weights will just add to the muscles and make me look bulky. Just recently, I encouraged a colleague to join a circuit training class at our office gym. “No thanks”, she replied. “I’m afraid I might build bulging muscles since the class involves lifting weights.” When I started my strength training regimen, I noticed that I gained weight! Muscle weight, my gym instructor would say. This seems counterintuitive but apparently, this was a good sign. Why? In order to burn fat efficiently, you need more muscles. So, when you gain muscles, you would be able to lose those fats faster. The weight gain was temporary. With more muscles, my metabolism became faster and soon, I started to burn more fats, which contributed to my total weight loss. In strength training, you don’t need to lift very heavy weights and be savvy with the machines. In fact, I personally prefer free weights, using my own body to tone those muscles.
So, are we now ready to go? Not quite yet. A final critical element in your exercise regime is stretching. Stretching is important if you want a safe, injury-free program. It loosens stiff muscles brought about by your vigorous cardio and strength training exercises. It increases flexibility, thus widening your range of motion when you exercise, leading to a more effective and efficient work out. I personally do yoga to enhance my flexibility.
Wrapping it Up
For your exercise program to be effective, you have to combine the following:
- cardiovascular exercises
- strength training
And oh, don’t ever forget to warm up (and stretch) and cool down (and stretch). Have a safe work out!