Which exercise plan is best when taking GLP-1s?

By
Alex Bear
Certified Nutrition Specialist
March 20, 2024

Navigating the best approach to exercise for weight loss can feel overwhelming, especially when starting a new medication. You may have questions regarding the frequency, intensity, and type of exercise that's most beneficial when starting GLP-1 medications. In this article, we'll delve into crafting the ideal exercise plan while taking GLP-1s, aiming for optimal results while mitigating potential risks.

Consult with Your Doctor

Before diving into any exercise regimen, it's crucial to consult with your healthcare provider, particularly if you're just getting back into exercise or have pre-existing health conditions. This step is especially important when taking GLP-1s, as they can impact blood sugar levels. Your doctor can offer personalized advice based on your medical history and current health status.

Start Slow and Gradually Increase Intensity Over Time

If you're new to exercise or haven't been active for a while, it's essential to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity over time. This approach reduces the risk of injury and minimizes potential blood sugar fluctuations, which can occur when starting a new exercise routine. Begin with activities you enjoy at a comfortable pace, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, and gradually work your way up to more challenging workouts. For instance, you may try walking at a comfortable pace for 10 minutes per day your first week, and then increase your pace a bit while maintaining the exercise duration at 10 minutes. 

Work Up to Meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans

It will be helpful for both enhancing weight loss and blood sugar regulation on GLP-1s to follow the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (e.g. brisk walking, dancing, and lap swimming) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week (e.g. jogging, spinning class, and circuit training).1 Of course, you can always set your goals higher as you get more comfortable with exercising!

Incorporate Strength Training

Additionally, adding in strength-training exercises that involve all major muscle groups at least two days per week not only helps improve blood sugar levels and enhance weight loss but can also improve body composition. Exercising the major muscle groups can be accomplished by performing exercises such as squats, walking with weights, chest press, shoulder press, assisted pull-ups, and rows.

If that sounds intimidating, remember that these exercises can be performed with your own body weight or with light weights to start. We recommend enlisting the help of a qualified exercise professional. 

Combining Strength Training and Cardio

As you become comfortable with strength training, you may use it as a tool to both increase muscle mass and improve cardiovascular fitness. For instance, a 30-minute circuit training routine can allow you to strengthen all major muscle groups while also increasing your heart rate to a level that promotes fat loss.

Try beginning with 5 exercises, allowing yourself only 15 seconds of rest between each exercise. After a week or two of success, you may consider intensifying the workout by repeating the circuit 2 or more times, allowing yourself a few minutes to rest between each round.

Again, it is always helpful to have a trainer or group exercise instructor to guide you through a circuit training workout if it is new to you or if it has been some time since you have completed such a workout.

Avoid Overexertion and Extreme Caloric Restriction

While exercise is essential for weight loss and overall health, it's crucial not to overdo it. Overexertion can lead to burnout, injury, and fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

GLP-1s are designed to help suppress your appetite, which will naturally lead to eating less food and calories than you normally would have without the medication. It is therefore not essential and may even be dangerous to attempt to eat an extremely low-calorie diet. This may reduce your capacity to exercise, slow down your metabolism, and hinder weight loss efforts.

A caloric deficit that promotes 2 pounds or less of weight loss per week is a healthy and sustainable goal when losing weight with GLP-1s. Using tools such as fitness trackers or journaling can help you keep track of your workouts, calories burned, and any changes in weight or body composition. With the help of GLP-1s reducing appetite, tracking your food intake alongside your exercise efforts can help ensure you're expending more calories than you consume without overdoing it. 

Conclusion

Designing the best exercise plan while taking GLP-1s involves a personalized approach that considers your individual preferences, health status, and goals. By starting off light, gradually increasing intensity, incorporating activities you enjoy, diversifying your routine, tracking your progress, and avoiding overexertion and caloric restriction, you can optimize the benefits of both GLP-1 medication and exercise for successful weight management. Remember, consistency and balance are key to long-term success on your weight loss journey.

We encourage you to take the information included in this article and start where you feel most comfortable, even with a short walk!

 

References

1.      Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition.

* Limited Time Offer
An arrow icon.