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It would be nice if you could eat whatever you want and lose weight. If this were true more than two thirds of adult Americans would not be overweight. While what you eat is important, exercise is also an essential component of weight loss, and health. If you exercise hard for three days and moderately for two, you can burn more calories, and increase your weight loss, than if you just exercise moderately. But don't try to lose weight too fast.
To lose body fat, not just weight, you need to burn more calories than you consume on a consistent basis. Just 1 pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories. To understand just how much that actually is, if a 160-pound person walked for an hour at 3.5 miles per hour he would burn about 314 calories. So although increasing intensity three times per week will burn more calories, you should still aim for about 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week. In addition to increasing exercise, you can't increase your caloric intake. In fact, if you tend to overeat, or eat calorie-laden, high-fat foods, you may need to reduce your total calories in order to achieve weight loss.
Exercise Intensity Recommendations
Accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise each week. Spread over five workouts, this would be at least 30 minutes per session. There is a direct correlation between intensity and calories burned. So if you walk for exercise, increasing your speed or adding hills will increase the challenge and pace of your weight loss. If you have a significant amount of weight to lose, increase the duration of your workouts to up to 60 minutes. Combine both cardio and resistance training for the best results.
On days you exercise you can keep burning calories over your normal resting rate even after the workout is over. This is commonly known as exercise afterburn. When you exercise and raise your heart rate, you increase the number of calories you burn. After the workout is over, your body can burn at an elevated rate for a few hours. The higher the intensity of your workout, the more you burn during and after your workout. So vigorous exercise has benefits beyond just your training.
Tips and Considerations
Many people think they need to do cardio to lose weight and neglect resistance training. But adding muscle to your body will increase your metabolism, burning more calories even at rest. Train two or three times per week, and do at least one or two exercises per muscle group. Also, just because vigorous intensity burns more, don't cut the moderate workouts in favor of more challenging exercise. Moderate exercise gives your body a chance for active recovery. Recovery is necessary for your body to become stronger and for weight loss. Exercising at both moderate and vigorous intensities will give you results at a safe, effective rate.