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Top 3 Physical Activity Goals for Weight Loss

July 17, 2023

To lose weight, you have to set aside time to be active — this week, this day and even this hour. But it’s important to ease in.

“Find physical activities that are safe and feasible to do in your current body, that are enjoyable for your mind, and that you can gradually build up into a sustainable pattern,” says Danielle Friedman, MD, a bariatric and minimally invasive surgeon at Hartford HealthCare’s Medical & Surgical Weight Loss Program.

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Here are a few suggestions.

1. Every hour, stand up

Obviously, when you’re perched over your work laptop, you’re not burning many calories. That’s not the only problem, though. Sitting for long stretches also interferes with how your body regulates blood sugar and metabolism.

Luckily, even short breaks make a big difference. Every time you stand, you activate your muscles, which keeps your metabolism and insulin response running smoothly.

Do some light stretches. Walk around the room. Make a phone call while you’re standing. Or just go look out the window.

“Every 60 minutes, set an alarm to stand up for two to five minutes,” says Dr. Friedman. “Adding simple breathing exercises or gentle stretching can make this a ‘mindfulness moment’ as well as a physical one.”

> Related: 3 Things to Know if You’re Struggling to Lose Weight

2. Every day, get moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.

“Moderate” generally means your breathing and heart rate go up. You can talk during the activity, but not sing your favorite song.

Depending on your level of fitness, this could mean:

  • Walking briskly
  • Pushing a lawn mower
  • Bicycling on level terrain
  • Taking a water aerobics class
  • Taking a dance, barre or movement class

Most people should get about 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day, five times per week.

Oh, and if you prefer higher-intensity workouts — like running, tennis or that cycling class that turns your legs to jelly — you can get away with half the time commitment. These vigorous-intensity exercises should have you breathing fast, and only able to say a few words at a time during the activity. Consult your doctor before starting.

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3. At least twice a week, do strength or resistance training.

Want your body to burn extra calories even when you’re relaxing? Build those muscles.

More muscle mass usually equals a higher resting metabolic rate. Plus, exercises aimed at muscle strength tend to consume a lot of calories — even for a few hours after.

Strength and resistance training can mean:

  • Bodyweight exercises, like squats and push-ups
  • Working with resistance bands
  • Weightlifting, like barbells and kettlebells
  • Strength training machines at the gym
  • Heavy gardening like digging and shoveling
  • Yoga, pilates or barre classes that emphasize core strength and body weight resistance

If you’re new to this type of exercise, learn the proper form and technique from an expert.

“Many private gyms as well as community centers like the YMCA will offer training sessions to introduce you to these activities. An injury can discourage you, delay your goals and set you on a path to weight gain,” says Dr. Friedman.

To maximize weight loss, don’t just focus on physical activity.

Losing weight is hard, and exercise is just one piece of the puzzle. You’ll also need to pay attention to your nutrition, sleep, stress and other habits and lifestyle components. Even your work schedule can contribute.

An expert can help you bring all these factors into focus — and find success sooner than you may expect.

“Weight management is about long-term change and a thoughtful approach,” says Dr. Friedman. “And weight is not the only number that matters in terms of overall health. But the good news is that even in the short-term, your quality of life will start improving long before you get to any number on a scale. Our goal is to help you achieve that quality of life, not one set idea of weight or body type.”