To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit, which means you need to burn more calories than you consume. The best way to achieve this is through a weight loss diet and exercise. While most of the calorie deficit to lose weight comes from diet, the role of exercise goes beyond that.
For good health, to lose weight, and to boost aerobic fitness, cardiovascular exercise is key. Cardiovascular exercise increases the calorie deficit created through diet to increase weight loss.
Even more importantly perhaps, exercise appears to be key to maintaining weight loss.12 Increased physical activity is one of the best predictors of long-term weight loss success. Research shows that 90% of successful maintainers exercise every day.3
How hard should you exercise? Aim to exercise at moderate intensity (walking briskly) to high intensity (e.g. running, jump rope) and try a weight loss exercise plan based around cardio.
How much should you exercise? According to the CDC to lose more than 5% of body weight or keep the weight lost off may require 300 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity a week. This would be less (about 150 minutes) if you’re doing high-intensity exercise.4
Add HIIT (high-intensity interval training) to your exercise routine. HIIT improves fat-burning, boosts metabolism, burns a lot of calories, and can increase muscle mass. It’s is a sure-fire way to lose weight.567
HIIT involves short bouts of high-intensity exercise separated by short periods of recovery. In all HIIT only lasts only about 20 minutes. But studies suggest it is as, if not more, effective than 40 minutes of steady-state moderate-intensity exercise.89
HIIT works best when you mix it up with traditional cardio. For example, if you exercise 5 days a week, do 2 sessions of HIIT on non-consecutive days.
You can do an HIIT workout with cardio-based activities such as running, jump rope, stair climbing, cycling, and swimming. Alternatively, you can also do it as a circuit workout, with full body exercises.
Here is an example of a HIIT workout.
- Walk at an easy pace for one minute.
- Walk or run at a moderately intense pace for one minute. On a scale of 1 to 10, it should feel like an effort of 7 or 8, which is about 75% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.
- Return to an easy pace for one minute.
- Repeat this for 20 minutes.
Read more: 5 Science-backed HIIT workouts
Incorporate strength training to tone up, increase strength, and aid weight loss. Strength training will help stave off the loss of muscle that usually occurs during dieting and increase metabolism.1011 It also improves fitness, strength, bone density, and health.
The problem with using only cardio for fat loss is it only burns calories while you are doing it (the exception is HIIT). Your metabolic rate increases while you exercise but once you stop, your metabolism returns to normal. This means you only burn extra calories and lose weight while you exercise.
However, strength training builds muscle, which is metabolically active. Increasing muscle mass translates into a faster metabolism, and burning extra calories – even when you are sleeping. Basically, the more muscle mass you have, the easier it is to control your weight.
Another reason strength training plays an important role in the weight loss process, is that when you lose weight you typically don’t just lose fat – you also lose some muscle mass. In other words, weight loss can lead to the slowing of your metabolic rate, as well as adversely affecting muscle strength.
So strength training can at the very least counteract that loss of muscle with usually happens during weight loss, keep your metabolism higher, and improve muscle strength, ultimately helping weight loss.1213
Weight Loss Exercise Resources
Incorporate regular exercise into your schedule to aid weight loss and keep it off.
- Best Weight Loss Exercise
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
- Moderate Intensity Exercise
- LISS Cardio (Low-intensity steady-state cardio)
- Low-Impact Exercises that Burn a lot of Calories
- How to Lose Weight Walking
- Exercise Music List
- Running & Weight Loss
- Beginner Running Plan
- How to Start Exercise if You are Overweight