So if exercise is important for a healthy life, yet exercising can be an impediment to weight loss, what are you supposed to do if you need to lose that spare tire you're carrying around your waist? Exercise smart. Research is showing that the most effective way to torch a lot of calories, yet not wipe yourself out so that you're eating a lot more or collapsing on the couch, is to engage in shorter, more intensive workouts.
Think high-intensity circuit training, interval training or both. High-intensity circuit training involves lifting weights with shorter-than-normal rest periods in between sets. Aerobic interval training might entail alternating jogging and sprinting, or biking at a fast-but-easy cadence, then peddling as fast as you can in a higher gear [source: Bowden]. Other researchers have a slightly different take on the topic, saying it's best to engage in moderate forms of exercise, such as walking. This way you shouldn't end up exhausted, or with a raging appetite. Yet you'll have burned some calories [source: John].
Dismayed that things aren't a little more cut-and-dried? Don't let that prevent you from exercising, even if you're not sure you're doing the "right" kind. As noted, it's critical for good health. In addition, if you do manage to lose weight, exercise has been proven necessary to keep it off. A full 90 percent of the people in the National Weight Control Registry, which is tracking more than 10,000 people who have lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off, work out regularly. Be aware, though, that in order to maintain weight loss, research shows you have to exercise a pretty long time — about an hour a day of moderate-intensity exercise, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. A bummer, perhaps, if you're not a fan of the gym. But you'll be happy come bikini season, or when you hit your 90th birthday, healthy and strong.