I saw a post in a Facebook group this morning, crowdsourcing for thoughts on workouts and weight loss. (I despise those, but that’s for another day).
The original poster had been working out at a chain gym for 2 months and generated little to no weight loss results. She wanted to know: “what am I doing wrong?”
A lot of the advice from the group was to change her diet. And that’s not wrong: exercise alone doesn’t tend to generate significant weight loss:
Dick Thijssen, a professor of cardiovascular physiology and exercise at Liverpool John Moores University, estimates that three to four months of exercising without altering your diet would only result in an approximately two-pound weight loss.
I refrained from responding, other than to share the information above. But had I chimed in more fully, I would have said “quit that gym!”
Why? I do not believe that middle aged women, especially those with young children (as is her situation), are generally going to benefit from high intensity cardio programs or HIIT. A body that is physically regenerating from child-bearing and the physical intensity of young-child rearing often benefits more from lower intensity, regenerative exercises such as yoga or Yamuna Body Rolling. And that regeneration takes (sorry) up to 7-10 years….
Our culture loves to promote working out at high intensity as the solution for “getting your body back”, but research shows that “lower-level cardiovascular training is actually beneficial”.
But even more, I do not believe that working out should be about weight loss results.
My instinct is to advise that woman to find a fitness program that she loves, no matter what the “result” is.
Folklore says that weight loss is “80 percent diet”. Clinical research says that weight loss is very little about exercise, but also that dietary changes don’t really work long term without exercise. There’s no magical “percentage,” of what part is in the kitchen and what part is about movement, but researchers know that one doesn’t really work without the other.
Fundamentally, that means we need to exercise programs are something that need to be undertaken and engaged in long term. Aka: forever.
Exercise does not need to be at a gym. My exercise for the past 7 years has looked very little like an “exercise” program in a traditional sense.
I recommend play-like activities. Hiking with a friend, paddleboarding, cycling solo, tag or hide and seek with a child (yours or someone else’s), trampoline parks, skating, or anything else playful, active and fun. Play outdoor chess on a mountaintop.
You don’t need a heart rate monitor, you don’t need an instructor, you just need your body and a child-like spirit.
The Facebook commentor wasn’t doing anything “wrong”. She’s on the right track incorporating “exercise” into her weight loss program.
I don’t have “the answer” for her either. But if she questions the results of her workout, it means she doesn’t like it enough to do it no matter what happens. So she needs to look for something else, in my opinion. I simply question if she’s doing the right exercise program for her body.
Exercise and movement doesn’t need a gym.
Exercise and movement doesn’t need a heart rate monitor.
Exercise and movement doesn’t need to be tracked and monitored to be successful.
Exercise and movement doesn’t need to be weight-loss focused.
Exercise and movement ought to feel good.
Exercise and movement should be fun.
So that poster isn’t doing anything “wrong”. But she might not be doing the right thing for her body either.