To lose weight, increase strength, get fit, be healthy and generally feel great – exercise is key. Just like the air you breathe, our body needs physical exercise. And it needs exercise in a way that is so far-reaching that scientists are only just starting to unravel some of the amazing effects exercise has on our bodies.
Exercise reduces the risk of suffering with a new chronic condition, reduces the risk of progression if you already have a chronic condition and improve quality of life and physical function, and decreases the risk of some cancers.1 In fact, exercise can actually reprogram your DNA in a good way.2
Weight Loss Workout Plan
Putting aside all the complicated, scientific reasons to exercise, exercise offers benefits that dieting just can’t. Dieting, though key to weight loss (because you can’t out-run a bad diet) only reduces weight. It doesn’t build strength or muscle. Nor does it improve fitness. And of course, in conjunction with diet, exercise speeds up the whole weight loss process, and who doesn’t want that? More than that, research shows that people who successfully lose weight and maintain that weight loss exercise regularly.34
It’s also important to follow a nutritious diet and practice healthy portion control. To lose weight you need to create a calorie deficit. The simple math of it is, eating fewer calories than you burn. If you’re not already eating healthily, don’t do everything at once. Do it in stages. Some simple healthy swaps and starting a workout plan is a great start.
Go to: Calorie calculator to find out how many calories you need a day.
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have a medical condition.
The Workout Plan
This weight loss workout plan consists of both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. You’ll be doing two types of cardio – steady-steate cardio and HIIT.
- Steady-state cardio: 3x a week
- HIIT (or interval training): 1x a week
- Strength training: 2x a week
Perform strength workouts on non-consecutive days. Warm-up before and cool-down after each workout.
Steady-state cardio (simply referred to here as cardio, also called LISS) involves exercising (e.g. power walking, hiking, jogging, running, cycling) at about the same intensity for the entire workout.
Duration: Aim to exercise between 30 and 60 minutes. If are able a beginner start with 20 minutes. Also, if you’re following a beginner running plan follow the running plan schedule.
Type of Cardio
You can do any type of cardiovascular exercise, just make sure it’s something you like – or if you have no particular preference just stay away from those activities you know you do not enjoy. It is important that you like what you’re doing in order to stick with it, not just for the duration of this program, but also afterwards.
- Walking: Brisk walking is an excellent cardiovascular exercise. It’s relatively easy to incorporate into your daily schedule and requires no special skills. It’s an opportunity to get outside, to walk with friends, or even just walk the dog. Just make sure you walk at a brisk pace.
Go to: How to lose weight walking
- Running: You can also start a beginners run-walk plan, that slowly and steadily transitions you from walker to running 20 to 30 minutes continuously.
Go to: Beginners run-walk plan
- Low-Impact activities: If you are worried about high impact exercise, go for low-impact activities such as cycling, walking, swimming or using the elliptical machine.
How Hard Should You Exercise?
Aim to exercise at moderate intensity, a heart rate of about 70% of maximum heart rate (MHR). Another method of monitoring how hard you’re exercising by using the rating or perceived exertion (RPE) scale. The RPE Scale is a subjective measure of exercise intensity levels and uses a scale of 1 – 10. Aim to exercise at around level 5 or 6 RPE.
If you are a beginner, don’t worry too much about heart rate. Exercise at pace that allows you to speak in complete sentences. You should still be able to hold a conversation, but not sing. (This is called the “talk test“).
Progression: As you progress, your fitness levels will continually improve and exercising will feel easier. Therefore, to keep exercising at 70% MHR or RPE 6, you’ll need to slowly make your workouts more challenging.
For example, you can increase difficulty by walking a little faster, increasing workout duration, or walking on a slight incline. If you are using equipment in the gym you can increase the pace, level of resistance, or incline at which you’re exercising.
HIIT or Interval Training
What is it: Interval training (IT) is a shorter cardio workout, that alternates between higher levels of intensity and easier recovery intervals. If you are just starting to exercise after a long period of being inactive, start with interval training, before trying HIIT.
How: Alternate between exercising at RPE 4-5 for 2 minutes (recovery interval) and exercising at RPE 6 for 1 minute (work interval).*
For example, if your steady state cardio consists of brisk walking: Walk at a steady pace (slightly slower brisk pace), and add a few very brisk pace intervals (faster than your usual brisk pace).
Your fitness levels will slowly increase or 6 – 8 weeks. When you ready, progress to the more advanced form of interval training – HIIT.
High Intensity Interval Training
What is it: High intensity interval training (HIIT) is a more intense form of interval training. It consists of short bursts of high intensity exercise, so it’s important to progress gradually HIIT.
How: Recovery intervals at RPE 4 to 5 for 1 minute; Start with an intensity of RPE 7 for the work intervals. As you become more fit, you can slowly and incrementally increase the intensity.*
Go to: HIIT workout plans. Feel free to change them to suit your fitness level.
*If you’re following a beginner’s run-walk plan, choose an activity other than running for your interval/ HIIT workouts.
The other part of this weight loss workout plan is strength training. This is important because it’s the part that focuses on building muscle, increasing strength, health, and improving general day-to-day mobility.91011
Furthermore, during weight loss, not all the weight lost is fat, some of it is muscle. A full body strength workout helps to prevent the loss of muscle that usually occurs and may actually help you build muscle. It can also increase the amount of fat loss, compared to just dieting alone.1213 And as muscle is metabolically active, it means a faster metabolic rate!14
Aim to perform 2 strength workouts per week, on non-consecutive days. In terms of equipment, you only need is a pair of light dumbbells.
Go to: Full-Body Workout Plan
How to Follow this Workout Plan
This plan is flexible and this is just a one way you can structure your workouts. If you can, try to complete four days of cardio and two days of full-body strength workouts. If you can only do 3 days of cardio and 1 day of strength, don’t worry. That works too! And if you get bored, switch up the activities and try something new. But keep going! It’s not an all-or-nothing plan.
Recovery: Avoid back-to-back days of strength training and give your body enough time to recover from very hard workouts such as HIIT. It is during recovery your body actually gets stronger, repairing and rebuilding in response to those tough workouts.
The aim of this plan is to lose weight, get in shape and improve health. So the goal is not just to lose weight, but to do it healthily. That means you need to listen to your body. While you need to give each workout your best effort, you also need to make sure that you don’t overdo it.
Listen to Your Body
Every week you’re getting more fit and you’re burning more calories. With every workout your body becomes stronger – your heart, lungs, joints, muscles, tendons, and bones become stronger. But it is a gradual process, and you need to give your body time. Maybe you wanted to reach your goal in 4 weeks, but your body needs 6. What you want and what your body will do are not necessarily the same. So push yourself, but don’t shove.
This weight loss workout plan is just a guide. If you feel it is too easy, turn it up a notch. If you are struggling to keep up, take an extra recovery day or lower the intensity at which you are exercising – the options are endless.
Some weeks it may seem too easy, while other weeks you just seem stuck. Don’t despair. Just know that while it seems nothing is happening, there are a lot of improvements going on in your body you cannot see. Not all improvements are visible. So be patient and stick with it. Going slow, is better than not going at all!
No matter how long you decide to follow the exercise program, once you have achieved your goal, you should still continue to exercise regularly, in order to maintain a good level of fitness and to improve health.