Highly contested and debated in the world of health and fitness, Noom has finally figured out the best exercise for weight loss. Simply put, the best exercise for weight loss is the exercise that best fits your life, schedule, and preference! Although it may sound counter intuitive, exercise alone does not lead to weight loss. Now don’t get us wrong, exercise can and does play an important role in losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight, when it is combined with a mindful and controlled approach to eating. Given this fact, finding an exercise plan that you will stick with and enjoy, is vital. Something as simple as walking daily can help burn calories which has an overall impact on your daily calorie balance; an important part of any weight loss plan.
Now I know what you are thinking. I’m here for the specifics! The low down on the types of exercises that can burn calories, build strength, and help me lose weight. Don’t worry! We are going to dive into those specifics soon but we first need to lay out some important groundwork in regards to exercise in general!
1. Exercise alone does not lead to weight loss
There are a number of data driven reasons as to why exercise does not directly influence weight loss:
- People tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn while exercising.
- Most people overcompensate for the calories they burn through activity by eating more (either subconsciously because they are hungrier, or by justifying eating certain foods since they worked out).
- Some people become less active the rest of the day, burning less calories overall than they would have had they not “exercised.”
- You can easily eat hundreds of calories in minutes, but depending on the activity, it can take hours or more to burn these calories.
2. Exercise has health benefits outside of burning calories
Besides burning calories and contributing to the necessary caloric balance for weight loss (expending more calories than you take in each day) exercise also provides your body and mind with many benefits. Exercise alone can provide an improved body composition (think higher muscle mass), reduced risk of chronic health diseases, reduced stress levels, and a natural energy boost! These benefits should not be overlooked when exploring and deciding what exercise is best for you!
3. The best exercise is the sustainable exercise
As mentioned earlier, there is not a one-size fits all approach to exercise. Despite what fitness magazines or infomercials may tell you, the best exercise to “burn fat” or “shed those unwanted pounds” is the exercise you enjoy and can maintain! Depending on your exercise history, ability, and schedule it is important to approach exercise intentionally and with a long-term approach! Just like everything at Noom, if you can’t do something for the rest of your life, why do it at all?
Ok, now that we have laid the groundwork around exercise in general, lets jump into two main distinctions within exercise and how those can impact weight loss!
Cardio and weight loss
Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise which is any activity that elevates the heart rate and looks to improve the overall capacity of the cardiovascular system (think heart rate and circulation). Within the broad category of cardiovascular exercise, there are two distinctions that are important to make. Cardiovascular exercise can be either aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (lacking oxygen). These distinctions directly relate to the intensity of the exercise and the subsequent biochemical energy system being used. Ok enough of that science talk, #noomnerds.
When looking at cardio and weight loss specifically, it’s important to factor in the intensity, duration, and frequency. The main benefit of cardiovascular exercise for weight loss, outside of increased cardiovascular health, is burning calories. Finding activities you enjoy and varying the intensity is the best approach to maximizing calories burned. It’s also important to remember these can be various activities and are not confined to simply hopping on a treadmill or elliptical. Walking, running, swimming, hiking, and even lifting weights at a faster pace can all fall into the category of cardiovascular exercise!
Strength training and weight loss
Strength training is any activity using resistance to induce muscular contractions resulting in an increase in endurance and size of skeletal muscle. Benefits include increased strength, bone density, and improved body composition (more muscle mass). When looking at weight lifting and weight loss it’s important to take into account calories burned. In general, weight lifting burns fewer calories than a steady state cardiovascular based activity of the same duration. This is due to overall intensity and the fact that weight lifting tends to include more rest and breaks between sets, to allow for muscle recovery and performance. Now don’t get us wrong, weight lifting is an important part of a healthy and balanced approach to exercise, but when looking at weight loss it will not provide as efficient or effective approach to burning calories. A program including a balance of cardio and weight lifting is the best of both worlds, as it allows for efficient calorie burning as well as strengthening and health of muscles and joints. Strength training exercises include things like push ups, bench press, shoulder press, squats, and deadlifts to name a few!
Now that we understand the distinctions between cardiovascular exercise and strength training as they relate to weight loss, let’s dive into some specific modalities and exercises in particular that are great for helping you lose weight!
Best exercises for weight loss (in no specific order)
You may be surprised to see this on the list but walking is a great aerobic activity that can help you safely burn calories! Depending on your height and weight, you can expect to burn between 60-100 calories per mile. Average out a few miles per week and those calories add up quick! Walking is also a great activity because it is relatively safe and easy to incorporate throughout the day!
2. HIIT (High intensity interval training)
HIIT or High intensity interval training is a form of anaerobic cardiovascular exercise that combines short and intense intervals of training and timed rest intervals. This allows for high intensity workouts that can be done quickly and efficiently. A popular example of interval training is “Tabata” which is a workout of 8 rounds of :20 seconds of work followed by :10 seconds of rest. Doing the math that workout comes out to only 4 minutes of work… It may not sound like a lot but intensity is key here. The high speed and intensity of the working sets can result in anywhere from 10-15 calories burned per minute.
3. Weight lifting
Weight lifting is a subset of strength training and a specific approach to increasing muscular strength. A common misconception is that lifting weights will directly lead to weight gain or an increase in muscle mass. The fact is, with controlled calories and a balanced approach to eating, weight gain is no more likely to occur than any other form of training. With that said, weight lifting does burn fewer calories than a steady state cardiovascular based activity of the same duration. The best approach to weight lifting for weight loss is circuits or supersets. Supersets are simply the pairing of two or more movements done back to back with no rest. An example may be doing 3 rounds of 12 bench press followed by 12 rows. This would be classified as an antagonist superset as you are working opposing muscle groups within the same workout.
Growing in popularity in the past 10 years, Crossfit is a hybrid program that combines multiple modalities of training. Workouts can include weight lifting, gymnastics, running, HIIT, and plyometrics. The aim of Crossfit is develop all around general physical preparedness and expose followers to a large variety of movements. If you are interested in starting Crossfit, it is important to ease into it and find a gym that values technique and form over intensity. The intensity of the workouts are what make them so effective but it is important to possess the requisite technique before amplifying the intensity!
Swimming is a great way to burn calories, tone muscles, and build endurance. Swimming made our list because of its low impact nature. Swimming is easy on the joints and a great way to get a cardiovascular workout without placing undue stress on the body. Rather than jumping into the deep end and doggy paddling for 30 minutes, Team USA offers many simple swimming workouts to follow. The work to rest balance of these workouts ensures you are able to focus on proper form, breathing, and efficiency.
Running is probably the most common and implemented form of exercise for weight loss. It is fairly simple to run and requires no equipment. Similar to walking, running is a great way to burn calories and is a favorite among many. To improve effectiveness of your running workouts, set out with a goal in mind. Running a certain distance for time or intervals can help you keep the intensity high and get the most out of your running workouts. If you do start running, make sure you take the time for proper warm-ups, cool downs (foam rolling anyone?), and stretching!
Biking is another great cardiovascular workout that is low impact and just downright fun! When looking at implementing biking as part of your weight loss routine, it is important to keep a few things in mind. First, make sure you have the proper equipment. A fitted bike, helmet, and spare tires are all important things to have before you hit the road. Second, make sure you have a trail you can ride on or understand traffic laws as they relate to biking in your area! If you aren’t comfortable hitting the road, opt of a spin class or stationary bike. Although the scenery may not be as nice, it is still a great workout!
Yoga is a great way to restore both the body and mind. When looking at yoga for weight loss, there are forms that can help you burn more calories. Opting for a hot yoga class or a more intense Vinyasa flow class will ensure you are burning the maximum amount of calories and putting your body and mind to the test. Don’t get us wrong, restorative yoga also has its place in this journey, especially if you begin a vigorous and regimented workout routine. Yoga can help keep your muscles and joints healthy and improve strength in your core, which is vital in keeping a healthy and pain free body.
At the end of the day it is all about finding the workout that is best for you! This is by no means an exhaustive list but we hope it gives you an idea of some of the best exercises for weight loss and gives you a starting point to jump into finding your best approach!
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