Losing weight ultimately boils down to creating a calorie deficit -- burning more calories than you consume. Losing a large sum of weight in a short amount of time sounds attractive, but unfortunately it's not realistic. Burning 1,000 or more calories than you consume is tough to keep up day after day. A more realistic approach is a slow but steady one that uses both diet and light exercise to shed unwanted pounds over time.
Weight Loss by the Numbers
To burn a pound of fat, you need to create a calorie deficit of around 3,500 calories. That means, in order to lose a pound of fat per week, you'll have to find a way to burn 500 more calories than you consume every day. If you were going to only use light exercise to do this, you would have to devote a lot of time to exercise every day. A better approach is to combine light exercise with a reduced-calorie diet. Depending on how much time you devote to exercise and how many net calories you'll burn doing those exercises, you can figure out how many calories you need to cut from your diet to reach your daily deficit.
Calorie Counting Can Be Tricky
One of the reasons it's so tough to lose weight by only doing light exercise, is that you're not burning many net calories. Net calories are those burned above and beyond what you would normally burn if you were just sitting still. For example, a 150-pound woman walking at 2.5 mph for 30 minutes, will burn approximately 131 calories. But she would have burned 45 calories by just sitting idly during those 30 minutes, so her net calories burned from the walk is only 86 calories -- 131 - 45 = 86. She would have to walk at this pace for nearly three hours to create her 500-calorie deficit for the day.
Some Good Light Exercise Options
You can use any type of light exercise that you enjoy to supplement your dietary efforts. Walking is a great low-impact aerobic activity, and you can easily increase the intensity as you get more fit. Swimming, bicycling, yoga, tai chi and low-intensity forms of dance are some other good options. The American Council on Exercise reports that strength training can boost your metabolism, which means you'll be burning calories even when you're not exercising. You can do a strength circuit on weight machines set to a light weight or use light resistance bands or dumbbells to work all of the major muscle groups.
Consistency is the Key
The key to losing weight is sticking with your program over the long-term. Viewing your weight loss effort as temporary can mean that once you've lost weight, you'll abandon your new healthy habits and start gaining it back. Instead, work to instill these new habits into your lifestyle and make them permanent. Schedule time for exercise on your calendar the same way you do with other important events. Then give yourself that rewarding sense of accomplishment by checking off your workouts as you complete them. Plan your meals for the week, make a grocery list and stick to it. This will keep you from impulsively buying food you don't want to eat.