Gym is for weight loss. That’s what people think, but the reality has a different take on it.
Even though crowds swarm around exercise equipment and put in massive effort, only a rare soul actually gets trimmer. For the rest of the hopefuls, the plight for a flatter belly will carry on hopelessly as if they got cursed with stubborn fat genes.
Expectations vs reality
Shouldn’t it be a rather obvious conclusion that the gym promotes weight loss? One goes to the gym to exercise and since exercise burns calories, weight loss should naturally follow. Well, this straight-forward logic however has very little to do with the tricky reality.
Of course, there are few circumstances that for sure limit the results, like poor gym attendance, poor exercise effort, or low muscle mass, but besides the obvious, there is one major factor that no one seems to be talking about: the heart rate.
Heart rate vs weight loss
For most people heart rate does not mean much and for that reason hardly anyone uses it as a weight loss tool. Too bad, because this is one of the easiest and the most effective ways of monitoring fat burn minute after minute.
It didn’t dawn on me either to use heart rate for that purpose, until I learnt that some fitness trackers use it to calculate calories. I was curious how it worked and after validating it with research I started to use the heart rate method as a weight loss tool myself.
The new approach paid off immediately. The day I ditched Zumba classes and traded them for a ticker counter marked the day when my weight loss effort was no longer left for chance. From that day on the pounds came off the waist in a highly predictable fashion and in an exceptional hurry.
Why the Zumba class just won’t do
Exactly that discovery led me to realize why gym goers seldom get slimmer and why even if one sweats a bucket at the Zumba class three times a week, zero results may ensue.
Slow progress is not really motivating and lack of positive returns eventually turn people away from exercising. The dropout rate for gyms is extremely high. 40% give up after just three months. Only about half remain after six.[i] If you are one of them, don`t capitulate as yet. Even though you think you are genetically stuck with buttery hips and about to cancel your membership, resist your temptation to quit. You may be just one step away from the success.
Heart rate up, belly fat down
Before you melt butter chunks off your fanny you need to have one extra trick up the sleeve, a heart rate monitor that does not lie. Why? Because it is your heart behaviour, not your Zumba class, that decides on your weight loss progress.
Heart rate correlates to metabolic rate, which in turn correlates to caloric use. That means when your heart pounds hard it turbo-accelerates caloric burn to extreme and that translates to a very simple relationship: when the heart rate goes up, the belly fat goes down. Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. When the heart rate goes down, the chances of a fatter waist goes up.
This is why Zumba classes won`t do: they only lasts an hour. The fact that an exercise class stimulates the heart only for a short time is overlooked by too many. Don`t fool yourself. Weight loss won’t happen if you go to the gym for an hour and then continue sitting for the remainder of the day. The minute you sit down, so does your heart.
Weight loss needs tools
Most people are not aware of the above roadblock, because either they don`t own a heart rate monitor or they don`t know how to use it for weight loss. Here is a tip: if you see no progress despite gym attendance, don’t give up, just change your strategy and get yourself a pulse meter. Do it especially if you have a sedentary job, are addicted to browsing news on internet or spend hours on social media.
However, before you rush to order any sleek gadget that pops on your screen, know that heart rate monitors are not created equal. There are only two of them I know of that feature continuous HR checks: FitBit HR and Garmin Vivo. But only Vivo can help you lose weight through the heart rate method.
Vivo, unlike Fitbit, divides daily calories into resting and active. Active calories are calculated based on the heart rate, the area you can be in full control of. This smart feature can help you see clearly when your body is in a full burn, semi-burn, or no burn at all. A successful weight loss boils down to this: keep your heart rate up whenever you can.
How to keep you ticker ticking
There are a few methods for upping your metabolism and of course, some are better than others. The lazy way to keep the heart rate up is to use stimulants. They work and get you trimmer, but the drawback is: they seldom lead to health. For a healthy weight loss you need to move about.
Here is the thing, not every move will translate into weight loss. Sloth walking and exercise that lacks the effort won’t do. Only exertion and intensity will deliver. Don’t panic. You don’t need to sign up for advanced pilates or high speed spin classes. All you need to do is to modify your day to counteract your sedentary moments.
There are literally two thousand ways of gearing the numbers up by moving about. Your creativity can shine here. Experiment with fast breathing, drawing pictures in air, or simply tapping your foot to pop tunes. Have fun. Figure out your own formula. In case you get stuck, here are some suggestions:
- Take stairs just for fun of it, climbing is strenuous
- Ride a bike, that’s more intense than taking the bus
- Walk about while reading a book, your eyes won’t notice your legs moving
- Pedal while watching films, choose an exciting action movie for a faster ride
- Gesticulate while talking, besides burning more calories you will also look more convincing
- Squat, do not bend, more effort burns more calories
- Spend weekend hiking not partying, you need some novelty in your life
- Fidget, it can work as long as you don’t distract others
- Boogie to music, it is so natural
- Walk uphill with an urge, because you love challenges
- Carry heavy objects , it is like having a mini weight training session
- Dust out these ankle weights, they will keep your legs working
- Laugh, laughter uses many muscles,
- Speed up! It urges the heart
- Keep moving, the minute you sit down your ticking dies down
The formula for a successful weight loss
Let`s drop the hormone argument. I’ve seen way too many people blaming their fat stuckness on some condition, only to prove them otherwise when proper steps have been taken. Women locked in a menopausal prison, or unfortunates with insulin resistance are no exception. Everybody can lose their belly flab by keeping their hearts on the move.
Just set your device to 1000 active calories a day and make it happen. If you do and eat sensibly to keep your blood sugar levelled, you can drop about two pounds a week. Give it a try, because why not? You may surprise yourself and finally fit into the pants you never thought possible.
And here is one more thing…. Even though you may be happy with your current body frame that’s perfectly fitting into the neighbourhood standard, even though you may have no trouble finding your size in the plus clothing aisle, don’t settle for less. Mother Nature has not changed its mind on bulges. Regardless how well you may feel, her rules are unbendable: excess weight isn’t healthy.
Hi Dr. D, I’m a 66 year old Black woman with hypoglycemia issues. I currently weigh 160 lbs eat all natural foods , exercise daily and want to lose 15-20 lbs. I have 2 questions: what should be my target heart rate while exercising on treadmill? What meal and snack suggestions do you have that will help me to continue to lose weight? Thanks!
I have a few clarifications. 1) Natural foods is not the same as unprocessed foods. Eg. Jam is a natural food, so is fried chicken. If you want to lose weight stick to unprocessed food and prepare meals at home. 2) Treadmill is not the best equipment for weight loss unless you run on it. Daily walks on treadmill seldom translate to substantial weight loss. One of the reasons is insufficient exertion while walking (aka low heart rate) and other is inadequate activity level for the rest of the day. If you want to make a dent in your fat loss ensure that you are burning at least 1000 calories from physical activity alone day after day. You need Garmin Vivo for that. Otherwise, to maximize weight loss while on the treadmill, you need to maximize your heart rate. That means you need to go up to 130, provided that your MD is fine with that.