Losing weight is about diet and exercise. Simplified, that pretty much sums it up. But it is not quite as cut and dried as that.
What is the best exercise for weight loss? The answer depends on who you ask! I did a quick google search and came up with 8 different answers in less than 30 seconds.
How can there be so many answers to one question?
Different Types of Exercise
Exercise can be broken down into several categories and whilst they all add to your overall health, they do have different functions and will serve a different purpose in your health or weight loss journey.
Cardiovascular exercise – gets your heart pumping and you will sweat if you do it for long enough. You will likely find it hard to carry on a full conversation while you are doing a cardio workout. Examples of cardio training include running, fast walking, cycling fast, rowing.
Strength training – uses weights or machines with weights on them to build your strength. Done at a moderate or higher intensity, strength training will also raise your heart beat, make it hard for you to talk normally, and you will sweat. Common strength training exercises are those such as dead lifts, bench press, bicep curls.
Resistance training – like strength training, resistance training will build your strength but it uses only your own body for resistance, not weights or machinery. It can raise your heart rate but its main function is to tone your muscles and make them stronger. Exercises such as lunges, push-ups, squats, planks.
Balance and Flexibility – as it sounds, balance and flexibility sessions are more about stretching and using core strength for balance. Yoga, Pilates and tai chi all fall into this category.
What is the Best Exercise for Weight Loss?
Now that we have categorised different types of exercise, let’s look at which ones are good for weight loss.
Your starting point is going to be the first determinant. Let’s take two extremes and what they can do to lose weight through exercise.
Jack – has 30 kgs to lose and has been inactive the past few years. A simple walking routine would get Jack started on weight loss. As Jack gets fitter though, he will need to walk even faster, walk for longer, or even start slow jogging to keep his weight loss up. The reason for this is that as we get fitter, the body makes us put in more effort for the same gains. For example, if Jack started out walking at a pace of 6 km per hour and that raised his heart beat to 135 beats per minute, as his fitness increases, his heart rate will not get as high when he walks at the same pace. Now he will need to walk faster to get his heart rate up. Or he can walk for longer periods, adding 5 to 10 minutes to each walk. Every few weeks, Jack will need to increase the intensity and length of training to continue to reap the benefits of exercise for weight loss. It might not be a good idea for Jack to run until he is closer to his goal weight as the extra weight he is carrying could be painful on his joints. Running is a high impact activity and can be unkind on the joints for anyone, but even more so with people carrying more weight than their body would ideally like.
Emma – has 5 kgs to lose and considers herself fairly active. She has always enjoyed playing team sports, going for walks and even hiking. Because Emma’s basic fitness level is already established, she will need to jump in at a higher rate of intensity than Jack. Just walking is unlikely to help Emma lose 5 kgs as that will not challenge her body.
To lose weight, Emma is also going to have to get her heart rate up. Because she doesn’t have much weight to lose, strength training or resistance training would most likely help her. Muscles accelerate fat loss by burning through more of what we eat. They will also help Emma’s limbs and body tone up as she gets closer to her ideal weight. To be effective in her overall weight loss plan, Emma would need to do strength or resistance training for at least 30 minutes, 3 or 4 times a week. On the days she is not doing those workouts, her body would love a walk even though it is unlikely to help her lose weight.
Walking for Weight Loss
There are whole books written just about walking for weight loss so let’s have a look at that before we close.
Personally, walking has never helped me lose weight. I have always been within 5 kgs of my ideal weight and have usually been fairly active. I am a lot like Emma. Even with a very healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, it takes either lots of running (20 kilometres a week or more) or 4 strength training sessions in the gym to get me back to my goal weight. Walking does absolutely nothing for my weight loss though it is still a healthy activity for my body. Walking helps the lymph system move toxins out of your body, it can lower blood sugar, boost your immune system and definitely boost your mood.
If the thought of doing any of the cardiovascular exercises, strength or resistance training makes you want to run and hide, walking is always going to be better than doing nothing. You could always experiment and see if it helps your weight loss. You could also add hills to your walking routine or throw in some push-ups, lunges or jumps to mix it up. Your body benefits from surprise and stagnates when it knows the routine.
As with any new exercise plan, listen to your body and don’t over do it because that could result in an injury. Please also check with your health care practitioner first if it is prudent to do so.
Exercise For Weight Loss
Above all else, have fun when exercising! Enjoy the session, enjoy challenging your body and watch as your weight comes down. If you need help with your weight loss or health journey, flick me an email or give me a call. I would love to help you reach your goals.