According to a report of the NHS in May 2019, 64% of the population in the UK is overweight or obese. This means that more than half of Brits are marked "out of shape." When it comes to health and fitness, we all know the basics: eating healthy fresh food, exercising regularly, and resting. There's no magic to it, and yet so many people find it hard to follow these three simple principles. Why is that?
Admittedly, trying to get in shape can feel overwhelming. There is an overabundance of information on the net, and it's easy to get confused and feel in need of a clear path to follow. A multitude of diet-related marketing messages find their way to the average consumer via social media, magazines, TV, and radio, often promoting "magic formulas" or drastic solutions.
This phenomenon causes confusion. When people try to lose weight by mixing and matching different pieces of information, they usually end up quitting and gaining back all the weight they've lost. The reality is that for most people that are overweight or obese (and have a sedentary lifestyle) having "the best strategies" won't do much.
A recent article from the Harvard School of Health points out that the two most crucial determinants of success when it comes to dieting are:
Quality of food (possibly cooked at home)
Quantity of food consumed
They observed that obsessing over macronutrient ratios or calories in versus calories out was not as significant when it came to weight loss and general health. In simple words: buying fresh food, cooking it at home, and simply watching your food portions are what most people need to lose weight and be healthier.
A similar scenario repeats when it comes to starting an exercise routine, where consistency is key.
According to a statistic from GOV.uk, 24% of the British population aged 16-54 is marked as inactive.This number may seem low, but if you look carefully at their definition of an "inactive individual", they consider "active" every person that undertakes more than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Unfortunately, in the real world 30 minutes of moderate activity, a week won't do much for your health, let alone getting you in shape.
According to the American Heart Association, the minimum amount of exercise per week should be 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. They also note that for optimal health, you need 300 minutes of moderate aerobics (or 150 minutes of intense aerobics) combined with some moderate to intense strength training each week.
These numbers may seem frightening if you don't like doing physical activities, or you're not used to it. In reality, if you're just starting an exercise routine after years of inactivity, even a third of that figure could be a good beginner's goal.
As I mentioned before, any sort of moderate activity is a good place to start. Not knowing how to run, swim or lift weights shouldn't stop you from moving your body (in the case of lifting weight is always advisable to hire a personal trainer at first to avoid possible injuries).
Setting a goal of moving your body for as little as 30 minutes, three times a week, could work wonders if you're overweight and inactive. This could simply mean commuting to work via bicycle or foot. When your weight starts dropping and your energy raising, you can embark more challenging physical activities like running or weight training.
Once again, most people don't need "the best exercise protocol" to see results. Starting from the basics, and building up from there, will definitely give you good results and a higher chance of sticking to the plan.
Finally, all these efforts may actually be futile if you don't get enough sleep.
The amount of sleep you get directly affects your diet. Not getting enough - less than seven hours - of sleep can influence your appetite levels, making you hungrier. According to a study published in the Annals Of Internal Medicine, people that are on a diet and get an adequate amount of sleep, are more likely to lose weight from fat - when people that are chronically sleep-deprived will lose weight from muscle tissue and are more likely to quit dieting.
Also, the quality and quantity of sleep you get directly impacts your physical and mental performance. Your body and muscles need time to repair while you sleep. When you miss out on more than two hours of sleep per night, these processes are highly impaired, and this will reflect in a decrease in energy and mental focus. In this scenario, you would be more likely to skip your daily exercise session.
According to scientists, 7-9 hours of sleep per night are the optimum amount for individuals aged 17-65. Less than that, and you might actually not be able to experience the benefit of the new diet and exercise routines you're following.
As a general rule, fitness should improve your life, not consume it. If you experience the opposite, you are probably overseeing some of the basic principles highlighted in this article.