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Dr. Zac Turner: The best exercise for weight loss

Dr. Zac Turner: The best exercise for weight loss
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The weight loss workouts for all ages – and foods to avoid before exercise. Photo / 123RF

Ask Doctor Zac is a weekly column assisting readers with their health and wellbeing endeavors.

Question: Hi Dr Zac, The only way to accomplish a new year’s resolution is to do it with another person, because you can guilt trip each other if you aren’t doing anything. With this in mind, my entire family has decided 2023 is the year of being healthy!

We have decided to lose weight together, but I’m at a loss at how my teenage son can exercise with his 75-year-old grandmother. What are the best exercises for each age group? And what is the best time to work out?

This may seem like a dumb question, but what are the best exercises to lose weight? Are there foods we should be avoiding at all costs this year if we want to lose weight? – Karina, 49, NSW

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Answer: Hi Karina, great question! I think accomplishing a new year’s resolution with someone, or a whole group of people, is a fantastic way of getting things done. Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say.

There’s a lot to unpack here, so I’ll break it down into bite-sized sections. There’s nothing worse than starting out and being overloaded with confusing information. You have all year to complete the resolution, so I recommend you add one thing at a time to your workout regime.

Most resolutions are abandoned in January because people go the whole hog and burn out. I will give one recommendation, that rather than losing weight you shift your aspirations to being healthy. If you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you will lose weight as a bonus.

The other big thing to remember is that starting small will lead to more. Often we think that to achieve something big we need to plan, set a date and be prepared. Whilst it is good to plan, let’s not forget that if you can make a tiny change immediately to what you’re already doing, I bet cumulatively it will have a massive impact within only a few months.

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"I will give one recommendation, that rather than losing weight you shift your aspirations to being healthy.  If you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you will lose weight as a bonus." Photo/Brett Phibbs
“I will give one recommendation, that rather than losing weight you shift your aspirations to being healthy. If you adopt a healthy lifestyle, you will lose weight as a bonus.” Photo/Brett Phibbs

Let’s start with five great exercises to lose weight

Walking

It seems simple doesn’t it? But it’s always the first stepping stone I recommend to patients who are looking to start exercising. You can do it anywhere, with anyone, at any time. No need to spend money on equipment, and it puts limited stress on your joints. Perfect for the teenager and grandmother.

Swimming

Another simple practice you can pick up which has great health benefits. It’s low-impact and nearly everyone in towns or cities has a local pool they can join.

Cycling

Studies have linked this universal exercise with a reduced risk of chronic diseases. The whole family can take part. I recommend finding a cycle loop, and letting the family take their own pace.

Yoga

Don’t waste your money on expensive yoga class memberships. Have your family set up an impromptu studio in the living room and chuck Youtube up on the telly. There are thousands of free yoga classes there.

weight training

I’ll be friends if I don’t put training with weights in this list. You’ll burn calories during and after the workout, while building muscle mass to improve your overall strength. Your family can vary weights according to age and strength. And yes, Nana should definitely be lifting weights as well. This will improve her mobility and preserve her independence as she ages.

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"Studies have linked this universal exercise with a reduced risk of chronic diseases.  The whole family can take part." Photo/Warren Buckland
“Studies have linked this universal exercise with a reduced risk of chronic diseases. The whole family can take part.” Photo/Warren Buckland

Best exercises for each age group

Teenagers

Teenagers should first aim to build a positive body image and wellbeing. This can be achieved by the oldies setting the standard as role models, whilst also learning how to adopt healthy practices into their lifestyle.

They should aim for around 60 minutes of exercise a day, and can enjoy a variety of physical activities. This can be sports training, playing sports with friends, going for a jog or walk, or doing pushups at home.

adults

Adults should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. This can be as simple as a brisk walk in the morning or cycling.

There should also be a minimum of strength training twice a week. I recommend attending an interval training session at your local gym.

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Seniors

Same as adults, seniors should aim for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week and do strength training twice a week.

They should also be improving their balance in exercise, which can include simple things such as standing on one foot.

You need to find a time of day which suits you so well, you'll stick to it.  Photo / New Zealand Herald Photograph by Brett Phibbs
You need to find a time of day which suits you so well, you’ll stick to it. Photo / New Zealand Herald Photograph by Brett Phibbs

Best time of day to exercise

I’m sorry to say, but the best time comes down to your preference. You need to find a time of day which suits you so well, you’ll stick to it. Some prefer first thing in the morning, others prefer in the afternoon. Consistency is the key for exercise.

Nuts are filled with healthy fats but they aren't so great right before exercising.  They slow down your digestion.  Photo / Pratik Bachhav, Unsplash
Nuts are filled with healthy fats but they aren’t so great right before exercising. They slow down your digestion. Photo / Pratik Bachhav, Unsplash

Foods to avoid (pre-exercise)

nuts

These are filled with healthy fats but they aren’t so great right before exercising. They slow down your digestion. Before working out you want all your food digested and turned into energy to be burned. Nuts will slow down the process.

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Broccoli

I love broccoli, but don’t recommend eating it right before working out. It’s high in raffinose, which is an indigestible carbohydrate that can trigger abdominal bloating and excessive gas.

Dairy

Leave yogurt, cheese and milk for after your workout. The high fat content will make you feel tired and increase your stomach’s acid content. This will make you feel gassy and bloated.

soft drinks

Don’t be fooled by the idea that a sugar kick from a soft drink will keep you energized in a workout. The high sugar kick will make you bloated and nauseous. You’ll then enter a miserable sugar crash.

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Don't waste your money on expensive yoga class memberships.  Have your family set up an impromptu studio in the living room and chuck YouTube up on the telly.  There are thousands of free yoga classes there.  Photo/Getty Images
Don’t waste your money on expensive yoga class memberships. Have your family set up an impromptu studio in the living room and chuck YouTube up on the telly. There are thousands of free yoga classes there. Photo/Getty Images

Have a think about a few things you and the family already do regularly. Write them down and let’s see what things you do regularly such as chatting on the phone or listening to music or a podcast. Now if you combine this with allocating a 20-minute walk it will be life optimizing.

We all eat and drink and we all have vices, and I’m not telling you to get rid of them. Maybe eventually, over time we can make some small alterations but tomorrow just add a carrot and a glass of water to everyone’s snack packs and see how they go.

Another tip is to have fruits and water first thing in the day which means you won’t forget and having them before lunch will keep you feeling full for longer and speed up your metabolism.

A few small 1-2 per cent changes across a few areas of your life over several months, let alone years, and you’ll start to see changes across all the family age groups.

Best of luck on your journey! I hope 2023 really is the year of being healthy for your family!

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