The health and fitness industry is awash with branded diets and exercise programmes, and has been for decades. And it's a lucrative industry for gurus and sponsors alike, mostly perhaps because no two people are the same. People attempting to lose weight will invariably need to try more than one way of doing so, as there's no single programme which works for all.
However, despite there being so many different diets available, all claiming to help consumers shed pounds in their own unique way, losing weight really comes down to one basic principle: establishing a calorie deficit (or put simply, spending more calories than you consume).
To provide some insight into the numbers involved: to lose one pound (1lb), someone would have to create a deficit of 3,500 calories (kcal). Over the course of one week (and 1-2lbs per week is the generally accepted healthy rate of weight loss for someone who is overweight), this would mean creating a deficit of 500 kcal per day.
Diet undoubtedly plays a huge part in this. The more you stay within recommended calorie intake limits, the less you will need to burn off.
But keeping an active lifestyle is integral, not only to losing weight safely, but also to maintaining your target weight once you've reached it, and ensuring long-term health.
For some, incorporating more activity into an already busy professional and social life might be difficult. But the notion that to stay fit, someone needs to spends hours sweating it out in the gym is just plain inaccurate.
There are several ways you can burn calories, without making too drastic a lifestyle change:
Sport: Watch less, play more
It's safe to say that many of us will spend at least one hour a week watching our favourite sport on television.
But swapping the remote for your own kit, even just for two or three half hour sessions per week, can make an incredible difference.
Several sports in the olympic stable spend upwards of 300 calories with just 30 minutes of participation.
And don't worry about being a world class athlete to take part. Sports by their nature are competitive, but pursuing them with the objective of getting active and (perhaps just as importantly) having fun will be enough to make them a healthy and worthwhile exercise.
Commuting: Go to work by foot
The journey to work is a great opportunity to squeeze in some exercise. Research by Virgin Active found that the average UK commuter will burn 324 calories on a day's round trip, and a few simple tweaks can help bump up your total even further.
First of all, those who can feasibly walk all the way to work absolutely should. It's an ideal exercise if your office is within 15-40 minutes walking distance of your home.
Obviously not everyone has this luxury, but there are still ways you can incorporate physical activity into your commute, whether you use public transport or not.
If you drive, then you might try parking at a location which gives you the chance to walk for 20 minutes each way between your place of work and your car. If you take the bus, tube or train, getting off one or two stops early and walking the rest of the way means that you aren't sedentary for the whole journey.
Lunchtime: Get away from your desk
While it's true that the body burns calories when it is simply sitting at a workstation, it doesn't do so at an astounding rate.
In the August 2011 issue of their monthly journal, the American College of Sports Medicine published the Compendium of Physical Activities, an extensive guide detailing the calorie burning (MET) value of over 750 different physical activities.
Using this to calculate the estimated calorie burn for 30 minute's worth of sitting and typing at a desk, an 11-stone person could expect to burn 45 calories.
Getting up to go for a half hour brisk walk instead, a person of this same weight would burn 150 calories.
So if you're looking to shift more calories, be it at lunchtime or whenever you have the opportunity to do so throughout your working day, leaving your desk to do something as simple as going for a stroll can make a significant difference.
Dinnertime: Cook from scratch
The nutritional benefits of preparing your own evening meal as opposed to ringing out for takeaway are numerous. By cooking dinner from scratch, you'll be able to keep tighter controls of the amount of fat and sugar that goes into what you eat, thereby reducing the calorie content.
But the act of standing up and cooking in your own kitchen as opposed to sitting and waiting for take away food to arrive exponentially increases your calorie deficit too. Once again referencing the MET values system provided in the compendium above, cooking using 'moderate effort' for half an hour would burn 122 calories. It isn't as many as someone would burn walking, but it's still nearly three times as many as they would burn sitting down (45).
It might not sound like much, but with minor tweaks like this and walking for 30 minutes at lunch, it's the cumulative effect thats make all the difference. 182 extra calories (77 from cooking dinner added to 105 from a 30-minute walk during a work break) burnt each day over the course of a 5 day working week adds up to 910 calories, which for someone aiming for a 3,500 weekly calorie deficit, certainly constitutes a considerable chunk.
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