When it comes to determining which specific exercises are best for weight loss, this answer is debatable. However, experts agree on one general answer: whatever workout the individual will do consistently.
That said, some types of exercise tend to be more effective when it comes to weight loss, so consider including some (or all) of the following exercises in your fitness regimen to help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Despite its connotation, weight lifting can refer to any type of resistance training that helps build muscle. It doesn’t matter if the workout uses dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands or even strength training machines in a gym. As long as there is a load that challenges the muscles, it is considered resistance training.
To further improve your results during resistance training, Saladino recommends completing compound exercises that strengthen moves that require the use of more than one joint. Studies show that compound exercises like the classic squat, deadlift or chest press tax the body far more than an isolation exercise, he says.
Wing agrees, adding that multi-joint movements elevate heart rate more than isolated movements, creating maximum stress across joints and muscles to promote positive muscle change. They also translate more efficiently towards activities of daily living. A combination of squats and presses is one of his favorite moves he offers to clients who are strength training to improve their weight loss goals.
When trying to lose weight, it’s important to focus on the type of weight you’re losing, says Wing. Focusing on building or maintaining lean body mass through resistance training (rather than losing weight) should be a priority.
High intensity interval training
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates short bouts of intense exercise with low-intensity recovery periods. For example, a HIIT workout using a treadmill might pair 30-second intervals of running or sprinting as fast as possible with several minutes of slow, easy jogging.
While actual activity may vary, HIIT is considered an extremely time-efficient way to exercise. In fact, a short HIIT workout can burn as many calories as a longer steady-state workout (a typical HIIT session lasts about 10 to 30 minutes) and can lead to similar body composition changes in people with overweight and obesity as a continuous workout. of moderate intensity. training.
To facilitate this style of training, Wing suggests starting with a low-intensity mode and longer rest periods. He tries to work hard for at least 30 seconds and then rest for at least 60 seconds. For example, he starts with a lighter run or jog for 30 seconds rather than an all-out sprint and walks for 60 to 90 seconds, repeating this set interval over and over, he says.
Aquatic exercise, which can range from swimming to water aerobics, allows people to focus on increasing cardiovascular endurance, muscle strength and flexibility with minimal stress on their joints. While nearly anyone can benefit from a water workout, this exercise option is especially beneficial for people with obesity and/or joint issues as it allows them to train without the negative effects of gravity, says Laura Chevalier, director of fitness and sports. outdoors for Canyon Ranch Lenox in Massachusetts.
Water is a forgiving substance that allows a person to exercise intensely and regularly while incurring only a fraction of the impact of exercising on land. Plus, water workouts do a great job of challenging your muscles. When you train in the water, you train both halves of each muscle pair (i.e., both biceps and triceps) equally while providing 12 times more air resistance in each direction, says Chevalier, who adds that you can maximize resistance by increasing the speed of your movements. Not to mention, workouts in water can make your heart work more efficiently, as heart rates can be nearly 15 percent lower in water than exercises like running on land, according to one 2019 study published in Sports.
Chevalier also suggests integrating tools into aquatic exercise to add extra challenge, support, and fun to an aqua workout. Try a pair of resistance bells, a noodle or a kickboard for variety, he adds.
Walking is consistently ranked one of the best exercise options for weight loss because it’s a free, low-impact workout that’s accessible to a wide range of ages and abilities, according to Wing.
Studies show that walking can increase cardiovascular fitness and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to the American Heart Association.
Additionally, walking can help reduce visceral body fat (fat stored in the abdominal cavity) regardless of the pace at which a person moves. In fact, a 2022 study in Nutrients found that total body fat is lost by walking at all speeds, though a slower pace over a long distance and duration is initially more effective for overweight people.
Simply start by lacing up your sneakers. Taking a stroll around the block for some fresh air, meeting a colleague for a walking meeting, and exploring your city on foot can effectively support your weight-loss journey.
Whether you’re riding outdoors on a road or trail or enjoying a guided ride on a stationary bike, the average person can burn anywhere from 400 to more than 500 calories per hour while pedalling, depending on their vigor level. Plus, it’s a low-impact form of exercise, so it’s accessible to a wider range of people.
When it comes to weight loss, studies show that cycling can have a clear effect on both overall body weight and fat loss. In fact, a very small study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that after three cycling sessions a week for a 12-week period with no dietary restrictions, study subjects who were overweight lost an average of 3.2 % of their body weight and 5% of their fat mass.
Another recent review of studies examining the benefits of indoor cycling suggests that regular participation in stationary bike workouts can improve a person’s aerobic capacity, blood pressure, lipid profile, and body composition.
Pilates and yoga
While pilates and yoga may not burn as many calories as more intense cardio workouts, both can be supportive fitness tools for weight loss.
Pilates uses a series of precise, rhythmic, flowing movements along with a deep focus on the breath to strengthen core muscles, improve posture, help relieve back pain, and prevent injury. It can also help reduce overall body weight and improve body composition, and may affect lean body mass, according to Chevalier.
Similarly, yoga includes specific postures, breathing practices and meditation techniques that promote balance and can help practitioners burn calories, as well as increase muscle mass and tone, says Chevalier. Additionally, when practiced regularly, yoga can improve awareness of the body and breath, relax the mind, strengthen and stretch the body, and improve balance.
Being a holistic mind-body practice, yoga improves many of the causes of weight gain by improving physical pain and sleep and reducing stress which can lead to an increase in cortisol (which can exacerbate fat retention and increase of weight), says Chevalier. Research shows that yoga can be a useful tool for reducing abdominal obesity in women in particular.
While not a classic type of exercise, physical activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is very important for weight loss because it can account for a significant portion of a person’s daily energy expenditure, such as fidgeting, cleaning, walking, climbing stairs or change position from laying to standing.
NEAT takes into account all of a person’s energy expenditure outside of focused exercise and resistance training, Dr. Weber explains. A significant amount of calories can be consumed through NEAT which can contribute to weight loss and potentially help prevent cardiovascular and metabolic complications in people with obesity, he adds.
Fidgeting burns calories, offers Dr. Weber as an example. She’s also a fan of building up habits, like squatting while brushing your teeth, to increase NEAT. She adds that engaging in simple activities like climbing stairs, walking and dancing can also increase this count.
In fact, a study in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that high-impact NEAT movements like the ones mentioned above could lead a person to burn up to 2,000 extra calories per day, depending on body weight and general activity level.
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