Here's a basic fact of dieting life: If you want to lose weight, you need to burn calories. That means exercise. Since the guidelines regarding just how much weekly exercise is needed for optimal health seem to be a moving target, the Harvard Heart Letter recommends you concentrate instead on how many calories you're burning.
A recent Harvard University study determined that burning an additional 700 to 2,000 calories a week through dynamic exercise will not only make your heart stronger and lower your blood pressure, but also help you lose weight.
The amount of calories you burn during a workout depends on your weight, as well as the intensity and duration of the activity. Interestingly, brief sessions of intense activity burn the same number of calories as longer, less intense workouts. The Harvard Heart Letter suggests finding benchmarks for various activities you enjoy based on your weight. Then, by adjusting the three dimensions of exercise--intensity, duration, and frequency--you can choose activities that suit your lifestyle.
Here are a few benchmarks, all given for a 155-pound person:
- Walking briskly (at 4 miles per hour) for 30 minutes burns 150 calories.
- Heavy cleaning for 45 minutes burns 250 calories.
- An hour of singles tennis burns 300 calories.
Of course, exercise choices are varied. But the Harvard Heart Letter recommends brisk walking as one of the best ways to burn calories. Not only is it inexpensive and accessible--all you really need are a good pair of walking shoes and a sidewalk, trail, or treadmill--but also walking has been shown to prevent or help control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.