A weight-loss plan requires you to continuously make small adjustments to your lifestyle. You may start walking one week, add a strength training routine the next week, and gradually cut back on sweets and alcohol after that. The exact path to weight loss varies for each person. However, there are a few things that everyone should keep in mind, whether you are part way through your weight-loss journey or about to begin. Here are four key considerations for long-term weight loss.
A Varied Exercise Routine Is Best
Our bodies adapt to change quickly. Once you’ve carried out the same fitness routine so many times, your body gets used to the movements, burns fewer calories, and sheds fewer pounds. In other words, your weight loss hits a plateau.
To break out of a plateau (or avoid it), you should switch up your exercise routine every four to six weeks. The guidelines to follow are FITT: frequency, intensity, time, and type. Change at least one of these factors, and it’ll give your muscles a new challenge. For example, you could increase the amount of weights you lift and do fewer reps, shorten the rest time between each round in circuit training, or switch from running to swimming.
Your Sleep Habits Matter
Sticking to a diet is harder when you’re sleep-deprived. A study found that people who got less than 7.5 hours of sleep were more likely to lapse on their diet than people who got at least 7.5 to eight hours of sleep.
Make sure you get the proper amount of sleep each night. Healthy sleep habits include shutting off your TV, cell phone, and laptop at least one hour before bed, avoiding caffeine after 2 p.m., and going to bed at the same time every night.
Strength Training Helps Burn Calories
It’s true that cardio is effective for losing weight, but strength training is important, too. Building muscle improves your basal metabolic rate, which means you’ll burn more calories during everyday activities like sleeping, driving to work, and watching TV.
Also worth noting is that a cardio-only fitness regimen can make you lose muscle along with fat. If you want to look toned (and not just thin), make sure to strength train three to four times a week for 45 to 60 minutes.
Your Calorie Needs Are Unique
For your fitness routine to be effective, you need to make sure you’re putting out more calories than you’re taking in. The number of calories you need depends on factors like your weight, activity level, and age. Fitness companies like LifeSum can help you understand how much energy you really need and even help you track your calorie intake.
Keep in mind that your calorie needs will change as you progress with your weight-loss plan. Once you’ve hit your goal, you’ll be able to adjust your diet to calorie maintenance, which will keep you at a steady weight.
Long-term weight loss is most successful when you make permanent changes to your habits such as getting enough sleep, exercising right, and accounting for your calories. And you won’t just look better — you’ll feel better, too.