Summer is nearly upon us. It's time to panic – who's ready with a fit swimsuit body and toned muscles? You may have skipped a few trips to the gym and indulged in some extra comfort food over the last few months. It's time to get back in shape.
Many fitness blogs and even gym trainers promise a return to pre-holiday fitness in just one week of training. With a strenuous diet and strict exercise routine, they say, you can be beach-ready in seven days. Is it too good to be true? Let's look at the facts.
Getting – and staying – in shape takes consistency. Studies have shown that dramatic results don't happen overnight. Exercise must become a consistent part of a healthy lifestyle. Over time, with three hours of aerobic exercise each week, you will achieve greater strength, endurance, and health. But you should expect modest results each week you continue.
So after that summer exercise binge, expect to notice slightly stronger heart and lungs, sore muscles, and a little better endurance than before you began. Moderate weight loss has a better chance of staying off. Similarly, studies have shown that people who lose a modest one or one-and-a-half pounds each week have a better chance of maintaining a healthy weight over a longer period of time than those who lose weight more rapidly. So don't expect to lose ten pounds the week of spring break and not gain it back.
That does not mean you can't jump-start your diet over spring break, though. To get a leg up on your diet goals, go ahead and maximize your first week's losses. Drink plenty of water and consider cutting out sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods completely. With a healthy diet and no junk foods, you should see at least a pound lost and maybe more. If you then maintain your healthy eating habits over the subsequent weeks and months, the weight loss will continue while you establish healthy eating habits. That will all add up to weight loss you can maintain.
Combining exercise and diet changes for one week may produce some results. By all means, begin exercising again over spring break. While you're at it, plan physical activities for your vacation time to remain active while building fitness habits. Invite others to participate with you to increase your enjoyment and better your chances of success.
And by all means, start your diet, too! Begin logging your daily calories and how much water you drink. Ask a friend to keep you accountable for healthy eating habits. Plan ahead healthy meals and snacks so you aren't caught unawares and slip up.
By combining exercise and diet into your spring break plans, you should see modest results. If you include weight training for your abdominals, you may even drop one clothing size by the end of that week. Just remember – diet and exercise are lifestyle choices that will serve you well over time if you continue your healthy habits.