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The 10 best exercises to lose weight

We recently got a question about exercising to lose weight. You’ll find plenty of exercise tips in our books and on social media, but we’ve yet to touch on the subject here on the blog, so let’s start. The question was “which activities are best for weight-loss’’.

There are hundreds of activities you can do. Some activities burn more calories than others, but the effectiveness of an exercise is not the only thing to consider when deciding which to engage in.

First of all, you should know, all activity uses up energy (calories). It doesn’t need to be intense activity either. All the time you’re moving, calories which you’ve consumed are being spent. This using up of calories is called burning.

Keep on moving throughout the day and you’ll burn more and more calories, getting you closer to the calorie deficit you need to lose weight. Incidentally, you can lose weight without exercise, but it’s easier to control your weight if you do some form of activity.

Think long term

Exercise is not something you do for a short while and then stop. For long term success you’re best choosing an activity you can keep doing. Something you enjoy or that’s easy to fit into your lifestyle. It’s also a good idea to add variety so you don’t get bored.

Your choice will probably come down to how much time you have available. I quite enjoy exercise, but not everyone does. If you’re not too keen on fitness, you may want to take a different approach. Read how to use up energy without going to the gym

There are 2 kinds of exercise

The 2 main types of exercise are aerobic and anaerobic exercise.

Aerobic exercise
Also known as cardiovascular exercise or cardio for short. Any exercise which improves the cardiovascular system is called cardio. This type of exercise is one which gets your heart rate elevated and it is the best form of exercise for using up calories and losing weight. One example of aerobic exercise which comes to mind is aerobics.

Anaerobic exercise
This is any exercise which does not improve the cardiovascular system. These are short powerful movements such as those used in weight-training. This is the best form of exercise for changing body composition, the ratio of muscle to body fat. To improve body shape, you should definitely consider adding some anaerobic exercise to your workout.

This can come later. First you must concentrate on losing excess body-fat. For this, you’re best sticking with cardiovascular activities and the kind of exercise which will get you out of breath.

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10 best exercises for losing weight

All of these exercise are great because they use up calories with little stress on joints. They can be performed at low or high intensity. Some can be done outside of the gym, such as cycling.

  1. walking | low joint stress
  2. swimming | low joint stress
  3. cross trainer |  low joint stress
  4. cycling/spinning | low joint stress
  5. stepper | low joint stress
  6. rowing | low joint stress
  7. HIIT workout | medium stress
  8. aerobics | low to med
  9. dancing/Zumba | low to med
  10. boxing/martial arts |  low to med

I tend to think the best exercises for weight-loss are ones you can do anywhere, any time and without any specialist equipment. Walking, dancing and aerobics fall into this category.

TIP: It’s worth pointing out that running is NOT the best form of cardio, particularly if you’re overweight. The impact on the knees can be quite severe and may lead to problems in the future. If you do intend to go jogging or running, do it on the beach, so the stress on your ankles and knees isn’t quite so severe.

What about intensity

There’s no point knowing what exercises to perform, if you don’t know what intensity to perform them at. Not sure what this means, intensity just means the amount of effort required to to do the exercise.

When you increase the intensity on cardio-equipment, the exercise becomes more difficult. The higher the intensity, the harder it is to perform, but the more calories you burn. On a running machine, you would steepen the incline, on a bike you would increase the resistance.

The fat burning zone

What sort of intensity level will be most effective for weight-loss. High, low or a combination of both.

It is often argued that staying in the fat burning zone (around 60% of MHR – max heart rate) is the right level of intensity for losing weight. Others claim high intensity is better. In truth, you can improve on the fat burning zone, but staying in this zone is good for 2 reasons.

1/ When you exercise in the fat burning zone, a good proportion of the energy you use up will be from body-fat. This makes it a great choice for anyone trying to shift excess weight.

2/ High intensity exercise burns more calories, but its more gruelling. Putting in a greater amount of effort can be risky. You may run out of steam too quickly, take longer to recover and there’s a chance you’ll quit altogether. As such, it may not be the best choice for dieters.

One thing that everyone agrees is, regular exercise is good for you and worthwhile doing. All exercise benefits us by strengthening our heart, lungs and limbs, so whichever exercise you go with, it’ll be doing you good.

What is the right amount of intensity?

Alternating between high and low intensity is called interval training and it gives you the best of both worlds. The higher intensity will shift a greater number of calories, while the low intensity will ensure you’re mostly burning body-fat.

Really, the amount of intensity you employ, comes down to the amount of time you have or how much time you want to spend exercising in the gym.

The downside with low intensity is it takes longer to burn those calories and you have to spend more time in the gym or on the exercise bike. It’a all very well saying, get in the gym and do some cardio, but not everyone wants to spend 40-60 mins on a treadmill or bike.

If you cringe at the thought of cardio or any mention of the word, you might prefer an activity you can get out of the way quickly. That’s where HIIT comes in.

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For something quick, pick HIIT

If you’ve not heard of HIIT, it stands for high intensity interval training. It’s been around for a while, but has gained more notoriety in recent years. Think of it like Jamies meals in minutes. A few bursts of short, but intense activity and you’re done.

The idea is you perform some intense activity for 20-30 mins rather than spending 40-60 mins in the gym, on a bike or outside walking. In fact, most workouts are over in less than 20 mins. Very helpful, if you’re short on time or if exercise is something you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing.

Start with a warm up. Do around 30 seconds of intense movement with 30-40 seconds of rest in between.

You should give HIIT a go for 3 reasons:

1/ It’ll save you time

The beauty of a quick HIIT workout is you can burn a lot of calories quickly and then get on with your day. By performing a variety of quick, intense movements like lunges, burpees, knee lifts etc you can reduce the amount of time you spend exercising.

2/ You can be spontaneous

There’s no need to schedule in a HIIT workout. You can launch into some HIIT moves anytime, anywhere. In the kitchen, the garden or whilst you’re still in your pyjamas. No equipment or special clothing necessary. Follow along with someone online or do any exercises you know, but do them with speed and intensity. If you don’t know any, make them up.

3/ You won’t get bored.

A HIIT workout is over quickly and there’s lots of variety, so you won’t get bored.

HIIT is quite popular these days, so you shouldn’t find it too difficult to find a routine. Do a quick search online and you’ll find an array of different workouts to try. Use a stop-watch or activity monitor to time your moves.

Final thought..

The best exercise is the one you can fit into your lifestyle. It’s the one you can do long term without tiring of it. It depends on your lifestyle, how much time you have and how you feel about doing exercise.

Some people are happy to spend time in the gym, some people will prefer something quick, they can get out of the way. For others, simply walking the dog each day is enough. Choose the exercise which is right for you or do something fun instead.

Spending time in the fat burning zone may take longer, but it’s still a good strategy for weight-loss. If you can spare the time, it is an excellent fat-burner.

Regular cardio will undoubtedly, help you to lose weight, but it’s not for everyone. In fact, some people are ditching their cardio equipment and replacing it with a short intense workout instead.

This is no surprise, we’ve had convenience meals, now there’s convenient exercise. It was bound to become a thing. HIIT is the perfect solution for a modern busy lifestyle. It’s the perfect acronym too, because a HIIT workout is a hit with most people – it can be done anytime, anywhere and it won’t take much time out of your busy schedule. WINNER.

There’s an important tip, every dieter should know regarding intensity, to find out about this and get more useful tips on diet and exercise – become a member of our group page on facebook.

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