Despite being approximately 100 pounds overweight I manage to exercise at least 4 days every week, alternating between hour long yoga sessions and 30 minutes of running in preparation for my next 5K on April 2nd. Despite this respectable routine I don’t seem to shed pounds any faster than I was when I wasn’t exercising. My eating isn’t changing, and with my metabolism (hopefully) speeding up you would think the weight would begin to come off, right?

This is where the excuses usually come in: muscle weighs more than fat, you’re retaining water from the muscle breakdown and regrowth, you might have eaten more because “exercise makes you hungry.” We’ve heard or said them all. In an effort to push past all of the excuses we can return to the basic mantra of “eat less and move more” or burn more calories than you take in.

Most exercise machines have a small chart on them that indicates a “fat burning zone” which indicates the heart rate relative to your age and weight that will burn the most fat. All that it really means is that if you stick with that heart rate you are just high enough to exert yourself (it’s usually walking at a brisk pace if you are overweight) but not so high that you can’t keep it up for a long time. The key is to do an activity for long enough to burn enough calories to make a difference. In my case whether I walk for an hour or run for 30 minutes I’m going to burn the same amount of calories. I might as well burn those calories training for something fun, plus I’m only spending 30 minutes doing it instead of 60. Not everyone has this choice, and it is for that reason that the heart rate charts exist. They give people hope: “If I keep my heart rate at 125 for an hour I’ll burn some fat.”

So the next time you try to get over-fancy about your weight loss efforts, remember that if you are moving purposefully you are burning calories, and if you are burning calories and not taking in any more in food than you usually would, then you are going to lose weight. I don’t care if you move for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or 60 minutes. You can do it without charts, machines, personal trainers, fancy weights or anything. If you can walk or run you can do it. You don’t need to know how many times your heart beats in a minute. (Disclaimer: if you have unusually high blood pressure you may actually need to track your heart rate. Always see a doctor if you have questions about starting a weight loss/exercise regimen.)

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