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Workout tip: Losing 22 pounds in a year with just 15 minutes of exercise per day

Simplicity can be beautiful.  Which is why I was so intrigued when my barber told me that he had lost 22 pounds in a year by doing one simple thing: running 15 minutes, every single morning, before breakfast.  A miracle?  A one of a kind success?  Actually I think he’s onto something.

The math just works – if you change nothing else, you’ll burn enough calories

Let’s start with the basic math.  Running 15 minutes a day at a good pace he probably burns about 200 calories per day.  200 calories per day times 365 days in a year = 73000 calories, at about 3500 calories per pound...it makes sense he lost 20 pounds assuming no other changes.

Yes, there is a little more to losing weight than calories in, calories out….but not much more.

This is the tortoise approach, not the hare approach.  You don’t lose 10 pounds in a month.  Hell you might have weeks where your weight goes up.  But if you stay consistent and don’t otherwise mess up your diet, you really should lose weight this way.  Sustainably.

Slow and steady wins the race...

Why not do more than 15 minutes?

I’ve seen so many people upend their lifestyle completely and start going to the gym for an hour per day.  Then a month later they are back on the couch – it was too hard, too big a change, etc.

I love working out but I also find it hard to sustain such a furious pace.  First, you spend a lot of time at the gym.  But more than that, after your huge workout…the HUNGER kicks in.  Your body isn’t stupid, so if you burn 1000 calories, it will look to make that up somehow.  And you have to then find a second source of discipline – how to not overeat.  Just when you’re exhausted from the gym.

Personally this doesn’t work well for me.  I tend to eat exactly the calories I burned (or more) when I do bigger workouts.  AND, I don’t even want to get off the couch the rest of the day so I give back some of those calories from inactivity. I’ve measured it many times using fitness apps and it just seems I always outeat what I burn.  Hence the beauty of 200 calories - enough to create a small deficit without you going crazy at the next meal.

The other advantage of just going 15 minutes is: you can work out pretty hard since it’s so short.  It’s not easy to push yourself hard for 15 minutes, but it’s short enough that you can grin and bear it at a higher level of intensity.  So that 15 minutes is like 30 slower minutes.  Efficiency is wonderful.  And the endorphin rush is amazing.

Finally, if you already have a workout routine, 200 calories isn’t going to hurt you so much that you skip your hike, swimming, or other fun activities.

Why not add more variety? Or do it less often?

There’s something powerful about committing to doing something every day.  If you workout every single day, it becomes a habit just like brushing your teeth.  Even working out 4-5 days a week is strangely harder than 7 days a week.  Make it part of your routine, and you won’t even think about it.

As your body gets used to running, and you don’t radically alter your patterns every day, your body will get much stronger and injury-resistant in that sport.  15 minutes isn’t enough to injure most people, and by not radically changing the amount you do at any given time, you’re less likely to get an overuse injury.

Simple also makes it easier to notice improvements in your fitness.  When you have a lot of variety it might take a while before you notice improvement in any one area.  If you run 15 minutes every day, even going 100 yards further is progress.

Who’s it not for?

Some people just shouldn’t run.  We don’t typically see 90 year olds running, because eventually it doesn’t make sense for our bodies.  Rowing, elliptical, and other exercises might work here, or you can just skip this fitness tip altogether.

Other people just take a little longer to warm up.  For these others, perhaps 5 minutes of slow walking followed by 10-12 minutes of running makes more sense.  Now that I’m in my early 40s, I need a little bit of time before being able to push myself with intensity.

Sounds great?   Any tips on getting started?

Do it first thing in the morning

Lay out your clothes, in an area right beside your bed, to remove any friction.  By the time you realize you’re awake you’ll be out the door.

Finally, if you’re not ready for 15 minutes, start with 7 and then add a minute or two every few days as you get accustomed to the new level of activity.

I hope you enjoy this quick tip!

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