There are a large number of reasons to work out that have nothing to do with losing weight. These reasons range from mental health benefits, better sleep, boosted immunity and increased muscle size. Exercise is an essential scientifically proven component of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise doesn’t have to be about losing weight, and for a huge number of people, it isn’t.
If your goal is to lose weight though, you need to be clear on the fact that working out isn’t enough on its own to actually make that happen. Exercise isn’t even technically necessary to lose weight for most people. Though, I would never recommend a weight loss regimen that doesn’t include exercise, because exercise is good for you and it’s a healthy way to live.
With all of that said, there are certain exercises and workouts that can be particularly useful in helping you lose weight, burn fat, or change your body composition. The best workouts for weight loss, as we explore below, all have certain elements in common: They’re generally high-intensity and they burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time.
BEFORE YOU GET STARTED
- FACT: Your food choices are even more important than your workout choices! I covered this above, but it’s worth reiterating – healthy eating habits are even more important than your exercise routine if your goal is to see permanent changes on the scale.
- Dieting to lose weight and then going off that diet, is not recommended. In fact, people who tend to do diet after diet, losing and gaining weight over and over again, most likely fall into the category of having an eating disorder. That’s right, serial dieters fall into this realm. A “diet” should be an overall change in your behaviors and habits that continue past your goals. A “diet” should be sustainable and the new way you go through life.
- Similarly, exercise should become part of your routine in a meaningful way. It needs to become a habit, just like brushing your teeth. In order to see results, hitting the elliptical for 30 minutes while you catch up with Oprah once a week just isn’t going to cut it. Instead, aim for two or three workouts if you’re just getting into a routine again and five to six sessions if you’ve been at it for a while. Don’t forget that rest is key to reset mentally, physically, and emotionally, so make sure to build in at least one or two full rest days.
- Bring your A-Game to each and every workout. You need to push yourself in every workout you do. Don’t just show up and not give it your all. I’d rather see you do workouts two or three times a week at 100% effort and intensity than see you give 50 percent or less for five days straight. Check-in with yourself throughout each workout with two simple questions, am I able to hold a conversation? Have you broken a sweat? You shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation as normal and you definitely need to see some sweat.
- If you have any hope of sticking with your exercise goals, find a workout that you genuinely enjoy. Finding a trainer or type of workout that makes you happy is actually really important to weight loss. When you enjoy doing something you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Below are the most beneficial types of workouts that will help you reach your weight loss goals. Also, if you’ve tried group classes and didn’t really love them, don’t give up. You may not have found an instructor that you love yet, and that can make or break your goals. Don’t think of this as a temporary part of your life either. You want to make this a new habit in your life and to continue just as you continue to brush your teeth every day.
- Considered the mother (or father) of all weight-loss techniques. Resistance training. Whether it’s with your bodyweight alone or with added weights, is an effective method to help you drop pounds. Lifting weights has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate, which means you’ll continue to burn calories even after you finish working out. It’s called the “afterburn effect.” Simply add weight training to your routine at least three times a week and mix it up about every three weeks to keep your body guessing otherwise it gets used to the routine and stops responding as well.
- The number one training method the experts turn to again and again for weight loss is interval training. This is any form of exercise where your heart rate spikes and then comes down repeatedly. This type of training keeps your heart rate elevated, which in turn keeps your metabolism humming. When that’s happening, you burn more calories. The more muscles you incorporate into the workout, the more calories you will burn.
- Running at a steady, moderate pace is a sure way to burn fat and calories, but it’s not the most economical way to build or even maintain muscle.
- For instance, a 180-lb. man can burn about 940 calories in an hour while running an 8.5-minute-per-mile pace—or 7 mph on the treadmill for an hour. This may be a good idea to do every couple of weeks or so, but it requires quite a bit of time and effort. Not only that but running at this pace will break down muscle and will put on a lot of wear and tear on your joints.
- If your chosen method of running is indoors and on a treadmill, the best way to burn fat during a long run is to run on an incline of at least 2-3%. This burns more calories and may actually be easier on the knees. If running on a treadmill feels boring for you, try hitting the outdoors, take different routes in your neighborhood or join a local running club. Running with a partner or group can make the time go by much easier.
- A stair climber offers another popular way to burn fat and calories, but only about 500-600 calories for a 180-lb. man at a moderate pace.
- The best way to burn fat on a stair climber is to incorporate 90% or more effort on the stair climber for 30 seconds with a one to two minutes active recovery. Do 10-15 rounds of this workout and it will bring you way above the normal range of calories burned.
- This takes a bit of coordination and hopefully, your body will remember how to do this from your childhood. If not though, it’s easy to learn and just takes a little practice to get going. The jump rope is a great fat burner and a mainstay in a boxer’s training regimen. Why? Because it’s cheap, easy to do, increases foot speed and burns a ton of calories. It works your arms, upper and lower body and simulates sprinting, allowing you to burn as much as 500 calories in just 30 minutes.
- Thirty minutes of jumping rope might be difficult to do if you’re not a world-class boxer. Instead, you should do intervals of fast and slow jumps to keep you going. Jump as fast as you can for one minute, then rest for 20-30 seconds. Repeat until you’re done.
- While a kettlebell workout isn’t technically a cardio-only exercise, its calorie-burning effects are too high to keep off this list. Kettlebell workouts combine the best of both worlds – strength training, and cardio. In addition, a recent study by ACE on the calorie-burning effects of this type of workout puts it at around 20 calories per minute. This total takes into account not only the aerobic calorie expenditure but also the anaerobic calories burned. Very few cardio exercises build muscle—this is one of the exceptions. You can expect to burn around 400-600 calories in just 30 minutes. https://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/kettlebells012010.pdf
- If you can do a particular movement for 40-50 reps, chances are your kettlebell isn’t heavy enough. Don’t go too light, but don’t go too heavy either. Some of the best ways to do a kettlebell workout to maximize calorie burning is to do a movement for 30-40 seconds, rest for 20-30 seconds, then repeat the movement or cycle through several movements. Set your timer for 30 minutes and see how many rounds you can get through. Set goals and try to increase your rounds as you stay consistent.
- If you can’t stand the thought of running or just want to work out without a ton of pounding on your joints, do a few laps in the pool. You can burn over 750 calories in an hour of swimming and you’ll work all of your major muscle groups.
- An easy way to burn calories in the water is to simply tread water. You can do a few laps, then have a water-treading interval, then repeat. If you’re able to swim at a high level, then swim as fast as you can for as long as possible. If you aren’t such a strong swimmer, then do swimming intervals: Swim as fast as you can down the length of the pool and back, then swim slower for the same distance. Alternate these intervals for the duration of your workout.
- Sprinting outside, on a treadmill, upstairs or bleachers are all great ways to burn the most calories in the least amount of time. No equipment is really necessary and you can do these workouts just about anywhere. While steady-state running or jogging burns plenty of calories, increasing your speed and intensity will really pay off.
- The best part? Sprinting leaves no muscle untouched. It’s a huge full-body workout. If your destination is Shredded City…then go full-steam ahead with your sprints.
- If you’re outside on a track, try sprinting a lap and then jog a lap. Keep repeating this for as long as you can. If you’re on a treadmill, do an all-out sprint for 20-30 seconds, then slow down and jog for a minute or so before repeating. At a stadium or have flights of stairs? Run up to the top as fast as you can, then jog or walk down. It’s never really a good idea to run downstairs or bleachers, so use the downward portion for your active rest periods. And if you lift your knees high, you will give your glutes a great workout while building your sprinting power.
- Although cycling is traditionally done outdoors, many gyms and fitness centers have stationary bikes that allow you to cycle while staying indoors.
- Harvard Health estimates that a 155-pound person burns around 260 calories per 30 minutes of cycling on a stationary bike at a moderate pace, or 298 calories per 30 minutes on a bicycle at a moderate pace of 12–13.9 mph.
- Cycling is great for people of all fitness levels, from beginners to athletes. Plus, it’s a non-weight-bearing and low-impact exercise, so it won’t place much stress on your joints. It has been linked to various health benefits, including increased insulin sensitivity and a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases.
- Try a cycling Tabata the next time you are at the gym. In each set, you will cycle at 100% (that means as hard and as fast as you can) for 20 seconds and rest or slowly cycle for 10 seconds. Do 8 sets. This will burn away your fat!
I will reiterate, that when you find a workout that you genuinely enjoy you will more than likely stick with it. Finding a trainer or workout that makes you happy is actually really important to weight loss and doing an exercise that produces results will save you time, money, and energy! Try them all out and see which ones you enjoy doing. You might have noticed a common thread between all of the cardio exercises. They all require some sort of hard or explosive work followed by rest and then repeated. Keep this in mind and you’ll do great! Throw away the mindset that you can just walk slowly for hours on a treadmill and expect to see big results. It will take some work and it will feel difficult at first. Keep going though. Keep trying and it will slowly get easier as your body adapts to the new routine you’ve made for yourself.