Exercise Optimally

Getting into the swing of things and putting your body into action is a great step towards healthy weight loss. Get clued up on how to better achieve your weight loss and health goals by exercising optimally. Let’s look at how to exercise the correct way and get the most out of your workout.

Warming Up

Warming up is important to avoid injury. You need to wake up your muscles slowly to get your body ready to be exerted. Your body temperature needs to be elevated and your joints and muscles need to be eased into a warm up to get fuel and blood flowing correctly.

This allows you to ease into the exercise more easily than if your muscles and body started out cold.


Stretching is incredibly important. Most of us only associate it with running but stretching should be done before all exercise, even walking, and again after you have completed your training. We stretch to improve our flexibility, which helps to reduce the chance of injury in both the exercise we are about to do and also in our daily life. Muscle tenderness and pain is also reduced when you stretch before and after exercise. Stretching increases the blood and nutrient supply to the cartilage and muscles, resulting in muscle recovery.

When stretching, a common mistake is to hold the pose for too short a time. Each stretching position should be held for at least 20 seconds. Make sure that your muscles are stretched so you feel tightness but not so much that you are in pain. Ensure that each muscle group is stretched and that your muscles are stretched slowly and gradually, not quickly.

Make sure that you stretch after your exercise too, as your muscles will have shortened and tightened. By stretching them out, you will help restore and improve their length. If any sharp pain is felt or you are injured discontinue stretching immediately.


Cardio exercise is short for cardiovascular, which refers to the heart. Thus cardio exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for a period of time. Cardio exercise can also be called aerobic exercise. Cardio exercises include running, fast walking, swimming, squash, cycling and vigorous step and dance classes.

For general health and weight maintenance you should do cardio exercise at least 2–3 times weekly for 20–30 minutes per session. (Start conservatively at 20 minutes per session.) For weight loss results you should do cardio exercise 3–5 times per week at 20–40 minutes per session. The more cardio exercise you do, the more fat you will burn.

The benefits of cardio exercise include:

  • Burns fat
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Builds and strengthens muscle
  • Helps to maintain healthy blood vessels
  • Improves mood by releasing endorphins
  • Increases general energy levels
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Enhances physical strength
  • Improves sports performance
  • Builds and maintains healthy bones and joints
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Helps to lower unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Helps to manage diabetes


Interval training is exercise that alternates high-intensity effort levels with low-intensity effort levels. This formula keeps your body burning calories long after you have stopped working out. Interval training burns fat faster and also helps improve fitness. Rather than always doing the same steady, fixed-paced cardio you can alternate between fast-blast spurts and slower-paced exercise, e.g. you could alternate between a fast run followed by a slow walk. You can use a heart rate monitor or a Perceived Exertion Scale (PES) to determine your intensity.


Weight training is a kind of strength training that helps develop and tone muscle. It uses the force of gravity (in the form of weighted bars, dumbbells and machines that target muscle groups to lift weights) and the way that muscles are made to fight gravity by contracting, tightening and lifting the weights.

There are often bad associations with female weight training but unless you are taking muscle bulking supplements and power lifting very heavy weights every day, it is unlikely that you will ever look manly. Women don’t build muscle easily and thus have to work a lot harder than men to get rid of the flabby stuff and get toned. Weight training increases one’s muscle density, which is beneficial, as muscle burns fat. By weight training you can convert your body into a leaner, more toned version of yourself while keeping your womanly shape. Muscle requires more calories for operation, thus lifting weights transforms the body into a more effective, 24-hour calorie burning machine, enhancing your ability to both process foods and mobilise stored fat. More lean muscle equals less fat! When you are more toned with more lean muscle, during your daily activities you will burn far more calories than your former flabby self. Who doesn’t want a toned body? Replace that jelly with a flat tummy and toned thighs.

When choosing the weight to lift, choose a weight that is comfortable but after lifting it 10 times starts to hurt, then do 5–10 more. Repeating an exercise is called ‘reps’, you should aim for 15–20 reps for each exercise. Collectively 15–20 reps is called a set, you should do 3 sets per exercise. In order to achieve the best results make sure that there is no longer than a 20 second gap between exercises in order to keep your heart rate up. After just a few minutes of training you should have a light sweat and be slightly tired.


Going to gym is not the only way to exercise, here are some alternative ways to exercise to help you achieve your weight loss goals:

  • Fast-paced walking or running around your neighborhood or beachfront. To multi-task, walk with your friends, dog or with your baby in the pram.
  • Cycling with the kids, your husband or in your neighborhood. Cycling to gym can boost your workout and help you save money on petrol.
  • Look for exercise options in your area. You can learn a dancing style at a local dance studio, do yoga in the park or beach boot camp. First check your gym for their options, they may surprise you.
  • Work out to an exercise DVD at home – kata boxing, hip hop, bums and tums.
  • Tennis, squash and racket ball are great ways to socialise and burn those calories at the same time.
  • Swimming is a great workout that places no strain on your joints – perfect for all-round toning.
  • Console fitness programmes – many game consoles offer exercise workouts that are both interactive and fun.
  • Exercising with a friend/partner helps to keep you on track and adds a social side to exercise.


There are many kinds of classes that are on offer. Choose an option with which you are comfortable but don’t forget to try something different every once in a while! Look at your local gym timetable for classes and times.

Uses the major movements of kickboxing, kicking, punching, knees and elbows, without the fighting that is involved in an actual competition.
Drip with sweat, pump up the action and burn the fat.


Involves indoor cycling on a specially designed stationary bike with points of varied tensions and speeds. It is accompanied by motivational, pumping music and an instructor who talks you through a visualisation of an outdoor cycling workout: “You’re going up a long hill now, you can’t see the top yet…”
Involves stepping on and off a small plastic step in a routine, along with music to get the body moving and the heart racing.
An exercise class based on the training concepts boxers use to keep fit.
A mixture of aerobic exercise and weight lifting.
Uses music and the power of motion to get the heart rate up and the oxygen flowing. An instructor leads participants to do various hip-hop dance movements to the beat of the music.
Uses different exercises to get a full body workout. It might include stepping, light weightlifting, jump rope, aerobic exercises like jumping jacks and pull-ups.
A holistic workout, benefiting both your body and mind. It focuses on bringing control in different types of poses.
Light sweating and body toning.
A gentle, non-impact exercise and is a form of strength and flexibility training. It helps to improve posture, circulation and balance. Pilates trains the core abdominal and back muscles, which helps to stabilise your torso and allows your entire body to move freely.
A collection of exercises targeting thighs, bums and stomachs.
Aerobics in the water, it is done in shallow water and is ideal for older people and those who don’t want to put strain on their joints or past injuries.
Involves lavish feminine movements in the form of dance as exercise. It helps to work out and tone the stomach, legs and hips.
A relatively new dance class that incorporates specific elements of Latin dances, such as salsa and merengue, to help participants get an aerobic workout while also toning muscle.


When starting out, exercising and doing it right can be quite daunting. If you can afford it, although it is not necessary, hire a personal trainer to assist you.

You don’t need to hire them long term, you can hire a personal trainer for just a few sessions. Another option is to go in with a friend and work out with the trainer together – this will probably result in a reduced fee. Often gyms have a free introductory session with a consultant, try and find out about this. If you have a friend who is very clued up about training, ask them to join you and give you advice instead.

A personal trainer can help you learn the basics and teach you how to optimise your exercise time and lose weight faster. They are also trained in nutrition and often offer you healthy eating plans and weekly exercise schedules to assist your weight loss journey. Learning how to stretch, warm up, and master machines and dumbbells correctly can transform your workout and confidence – letting you to know that every exercise session is beneficial.

They also act as your personal cheerleader, helping you diarise exercise time and coaching you to give it your all on every movement. Discuss your weight loss and body shaping goals with them and they can customise your training to suit your individual needs.

Look for qualified personal trainers at your local gym or those recommended by friends. Sessions need not be restricted to the insides of gyms, training can also be done at your house, the beach or the park.