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What's the Best Exercise for Weight Loss?

Would you explain whether it is better to run for 30 minutes at a good pace or one hour (at a slower pace). I want to take off weight and still get a healthy workout.

Answer (Published 5/21/2004)

In deciding what kind of exercise you need to help you lose weight and get a healthy workout, you have to consider your age and present fitness level. If you haven't been exercising at all recently, it is best to begin by walking, which can become almost equal to jogging in terms of getting your heart rate pumping for a healthy cardiovascular workout. You're also less likely to injure yourself while walking. A big danger when beginning to work out is doing too much too soon, leading to injuries that can put at least a temporary end to your exercise program.

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For optimum cardiovascular fitness, I recommend walking every day. At first, aim for at least 30 minutes five times a week and work up to 45 minutes a day every day. Once you feel that you're in shape you can consider whether to continue with your walking program or to try jogging.

Fitness expert, Dan Bornstein, says that the number of calories burned during exercise depends on the speed at which you jog or walk and on whether or not you are going up inclines. Jogging has the potential to use more calories, although the higher impact of jogging places greater stress on the joints than walking. Dan says that if your body can handle the impact, jogging is fine.

He also emphasizes the need for variety in your workouts. The more you vary the intensity, duration, and even type of exercise (walking, jogging, biking, swimming, hiking) the more physically challenging each workout will be and the more calories you will burn. Further, the more you alternate the types of exercise you do, the less likely you are to suffer from repetitive stress injuries.

Once you're in the habit of regular exercise, be sure to add stretching, muscle toning and strengthening to your routine. Strength training (working out with weights) can firm and tone your body. When starting out, it is best to work with a trainer who can best suggest the exercises that will benefit you most and teach you how do to them safely.

Congratulations on your resolve to lose weight and get fit. Have fun!

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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