What’s the best exercise for weight loss?

We have looked at the diet for weight loss, now its time to look at exercise for weight loss.  The most common question I am asked is ‘What’s the best exercise for weight loss?’  The answer is simple – the one that you enjoy!  It’s well documented that exercise adherence increases when you enjoy what you are doing.  And if you adhere to exercise long term your chances of weight loss success increases greatly.

Cardiovascular Exercise is ideal for losing weight.  Besides the long list of health benefits received from improving your cardiovascular fitness it burns the most amount of calories.  Below is some common types of cardiovascular exercises and how many calories I would burn by performing them for 30 minutes at a moderate intensity.  These numbers are based on my height, weight and age, but take time out to do your own sums with the Calorie Burned Calculator.

     Cardiovascular Exercise           Calories Burned – Moderate Intensity     
Home Exercise DVD 281
Running 351
Cycling 351
Boxing 211
Rowing 246
Walking 134
Elliptical Trainer 246
Swimming 246
Aerobics 281

How long should I exercise for weight loss?

The second most common question I am asked is ‘How long should I exercise for?’  My response to this is ‘How much time do you have?’  The reason I say this is because doing something is better than nothing.  Remember to lose weight is a simple equation of energy in vs energy out.  Exercise is only one part of the equation.  It’s much easier not to eat calories than to burn them off!  From the numbers above you can work out how long you would have to exercise to burn 3500 calories to lose 0.5kg a week.  It’s more than 150 minutes in most cases!

The recommendation for cardiovascular exercise is a total 150 minutes per week in 5 x 30 minute blocks.  If you do not think you have that much time to exercise per week, start with what you have available now, even if it’s just 60 minutes.  Something is better than nothing!  Set yourself a realistic achievable goal with your weekly exercise.   Achieving even a small goal is a great way to increase your motivation to stay on track.

How hard do I need to exercise for weight loss?

Are you currently exercising?  Has it been ‘a while’ since you have exercised?  Then I am sorry to say but there is a chance you might be a little sore after your first exercise session.  I have been told many stories about a person’s inability to walk the next day after beginning an exercise program!  Do not be disheartened it happens to all of us.  It’s just your body’s way of preparing itself for future exercise.  What can you to reduce the severity of the soreness?

  • Begin with low to moderate intensity exercise initially;
  • Try not to perform too much high impact movement;
  • Exercise for a reasonable period of time 20-30 minutes.

OK so you have got past the soreness?  How hard should you exercise for weight loss?   The optimal goal is improve your cardiovascular fitness which will allow you to incorporate higher intensity exercise into your program.  During low intensity cardiovascular exercise a higher percentage of the calories burned come from fat.  Because it is not as strenuous, the total calories burned will not be as high as for higher intensity exercise.  Higher intensity cardiovascular exercise is effective for fat loss because your body is working harder so you will burn more calories per minute.  It is best to incorporate low, moderate and higher intensity cardiovascular exercise.  A warning though.  Too much high intensity cardiovascular exercise can burn you out leaving you too exhausted to exercise.

Interval training is another great way to increase the amount of energy you burn during an exercise session.  This involves alternating higher intensity periods with low to moderate intensity periods.  With this type of training you will continue to burn calories even after you have stopped exercising. This is an advanced style of training so if you are a beginner start out slow and work toward increasing your cardiovascular fitness first.

When’s the best time to exercise for weight loss?

This is another common question I am asked.  I normally answer with “When do you have time to exercise?’  Whenever you have time is the best time for you to exercise.  If you sit down and plan your week it becomes pretty easy to identify times you have available to exercise.  If you do not want to work out in the morning and have time after work, that’s the best time for you.  Developing good consistent habits is the key when it comes to exercising.  If you consistently exercise at the same time each day, your body clock will adjust to provide you with the energy to be ready physically and mentally to exercise.  At low to moderate intensities the difference in calories burned between exercising in the morning, afternoon or evening is minimal.