Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Do you need to hit the gym to lose weight?

Obesity is fast becoming an epidemic with around 30 million Indians being obese. Obesity increases the risk of developing various diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Equally awareness on physical fitness is growing, especially among the educated lot. However, this awareness is compounded by the need to have a shapely body. Many obese individuals hit the gym with the hope to shed their excess weight.

Let’s look at the simple fact underlying the problem of obesity. An otherwise healthy individual gains weight, only when s/he consumes more calories than s/he actually requires for optimal body function. So the problem actually lies in the intake! If you really want to lose weight, cut down the calories. Simply eat less!

Do you need to hit the gym to lose weight?

Though exercise reduces the risk of certain diseases, its effect on weight loss is variable. A recent study reported that people experienced greater weight loss with diet than with diet plus exercise! According to the The Lancet global burden of disease reports, poor diet causes more illnesses than alcohol, smoking and physical inactivity combined. It is not just the volume of food, but also the type of food that you consume impacts on your body weight and health. A recently published review notes that low carbohydrate diet is effective in reducing the features of metabolic syndrome.

You need not hit the gym to lose weight. However, there is no way you can avoid cutting down on carbohydrates, if you seriously wish to shed those extra kilos.

Gymming experience

Way back in 2009, I enrolled in a nearby gym to lose weight and of course, to keep fit. After initial evaluation, I was given an exercise schedule and a diet chart, which involved eating low calorie food at frequent intervals. This required extra effort to cook/prepare low calorie recipes over and above the regular cooking for my family.

Nevertheless, I strictly followed the diet, which was half the volume of my normal intake! In due course, my exercise routine at the gym covered cardio, muscle strengthening, and core body workout in addition to warm up/ cool down stretches; and the whole session took 1½ hours every day, for five days a week. Indeed, I did lose 8 kilos over a period of four months. Spending long hours at the gym soon became a problem, and hence, I started going to the gym on alternate days. Moreover, sticking to a diet that involved extra time in the kitchen was becoming increasingly difficult. Eventually, I stopped gymming as well as the dieting.


Considering the cost of gym annual membership I had paid, I felt it was best to permanently invest in an exercise bike than renewing the membership!

Fitting physical exercise into your daily routine

After the gymming experience, I resorted to walking for at least half an hour a day or cycling at home using the exercise bike, albeit not so regularly.

Recently, after a master health check-up, we (my husband included) have decided to take health and fitness a tad seriously; but this time around, we have started walking REGULARLY for 40-45 minutes every morning for 5 days a week. We have not changed out basic eating habits, but just reduced the food quantity by a third. There are a few ground rules though –
  • Carbohydrates in strictly measured quantity (rice, chapatti etc)
  • No added sugar
  • No sweets
  • No butter/ghee
  • No cheese
  • Oil in moderation (deep fried items, maximum once or twice a month)
  • Vegetable salad with lunch
  • A portion of fruit after dinner
With this diet-exercise schedule, I have lost 3 kilos (my husband 5 kilos) of weight in a month! Most importantly, this regimen does not disturb our daily routine. Daily exercise is making a difference, in terms of general well being and greater endurance. It will take a while for me to attain ideal weight, and sustained effort to maintain it. Nonetheless, I am hopeful of achieving my goal in due course.

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