Every small step you take toward a healthier lifestyle matters, says Jeff Katula, PhD, associate professor of health and exercise science at Wake Forest University. This may seem counterintuitive after advice to eat less overall, but busy people especially may need to space out their calories more throughout the day, says Jessica Bartfield, MD, clinical assistant professor at Loyola University's Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care. Setting aside time for a 30- or 60-minute workout is ideal, "but you can burn a lot of calories in not-so-ideal workout situations, too," says Katula. Just like Katula tells his patients to think of exercise like they do clipping coupons, he tells them to think of their food choices the same way.
You've heard it before: Too much sedentary behavior is bad for your heart, your brain, and yes, your waistline. When it feels like there aren't enough hours in the day, it may be tempting to stay up late or wake up super early just to get everything donea€”especially if you're trying to squeeze in regular exercise in addition to everything else you have to do. Even if your job requires long and grueling hours, hopefully you have at least a couple of days off every week to regroupa€”and plan ahead. You may argue that weekends are for family time, or that you'd rather spend your precious free time with friends.
We're often told to steer clear of packaged foods for better health, but some frozen and pre-made goods can truly help you whip up a healthy meal in minutes, says Bartfield. If you can't devote time to driving to the gym or you're stuck at home with kids, working out in your own home may be your best option for fitting in quick calorie-burning session.
Few of us have the time (or patience) to keep track of all the numbers involved in weight lossa€”calories eaten, calories burned, steps taken and so on. It's true: healthy weight loss can be a time commitment, especially if you're overweight thanks to a job that keeps you sedentary for much of the day or a schedule that lends itself to fast food and unhealthy snacking.
That's because going more than four or five hours without refueling can slow metabolism, affect hormones and insulin levels, and contribute to unhealthy food choices when you do finally sit down to eat. In fact, there's nothing wrong with breaking up your 150 recommended minutes of weekly moderate exercise into short bursts throughout your day.
Turning some of that sitting time into standing time (or, better yet, fidgeting, walking or working-out time) will help you burn more calories.
That strategy can backfire if you're not getting enough quality shuteye for your body to function properly, says Katula.
In fact, multiple studies show that a 20-minute high-intensity interval workout (HIIT) may burn more calories than 45 minutes chugging away on the elliptical.
You don't necessarily need to invest in a cardio machinea€”you can still get a great workout using nothing but your own body weight, or with a few simple tools (like hand weights and resistance bands) that take up next to no room in your home. A 2014 Imperial College London study found that social networks can be affordable and practical alternatives to real-life weight-loss support groups like Weight Watchers. Instead of looking at your whole day as a success or failure, says Katula, consider every decision you make a chance to do something healthy. Switching from soda to seltzer water with lemon (or even to diet soda), or using less sugar in your coffee, for example, can save you several pounds a year.
Try this workout, which you can do running, walking, biking or with any type of cardio equipment: Warm up at a moderate pace for 5 to 10 minutes. Talking about your weight loss journey with your virtual social circle can help you feel like part of a community. Just because you skipped the gym doesn't mean you shouldn't watch your calorie intake for the rest of the day, for example. Sell yourself short and you may lack the energy needed to complete your workouts; even worse, you'll crave sugary and fatty foods that will help you stay awake, but will wreak havoc on your waistline.
The type of tracker you wear on your wrista€”think Fitbit, Jawbone, and Garmin Vivofita€”typically log steps taken and calories burned, and pricier models may track your heart rate in real time. So join an Instagram fitness challenge, Tweet about your Pilates class or start a Facebook groupa€”all on your own time.
You can also log your meals with an app like MyFitnessPal, which automatically calculates calorie totals and nutrition content for you.
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