The 18 best exercises to lose weight (and keep it off)

by | May 10, 2019 | Last updated Mar 16, 2023

  • The best exercise for weight loss is one you love doing—because it needs to be sustainable for the long-run.
  • The World Health Organization suggests around 21 minutes per day of moderate-intensity movement for adults.
  • Brisk walking is probably enough for most adults’ cardio needs, but there are also many other ways to move your body.

To achieve sustainable weight loss for the long-term, it’s important to find exercise that you enjoy—and can stick with.

Some people love early morning gym classes and long runs. Other people not so much, and that’s okay. Exercise doesn’t have to look the same for everyone.

At Noom, we believe the best exercises to lose weight are the ones that bring you joy and fit in with your schedule. This is what we call “joyful movement.”

Here are 18 everyday joyful movement activities to help you to lose weight. 

Note: Consult with your healthcare provider before making dietary or activity changes.

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

What type of exercise is best for losing weight?

The truth is, there isn’t one specific type of workout that’s best for weight loss.

What’s important is that you choose whatever exercise or movement style that brings you joy. Why? Because it’s very hard to stay with something you don’t like over the long-term.

Joyful movement helps you burn calories which, combined with healthy eating, creates the calorie deficit that you need to lose weight.

But how much joyful movement do you need?

The World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that adults (ages 18 to 64 years old) aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week—only about 21 minutes per day. 

If you want to do more intense workouts, the WHO recommends that adults aim for at least 75 minutes per week, or around 7 to 8 minutes per day.

How do you know the intensity of your exercise? Try singing.

  • Low-intensity exercise: You should be able to sing and talk normally.
  • Moderate-intensity exercise: You should be able to speak normally, but not sing.
  • High-intensity exercise: Singing and talking are challenging.

If you’re new to exercise, getting back in the swing of things, or have limited mobility, don’t worry too much about the exact minutes of exercises. Honor where you are today and start small. 

Let’s dive into a few everyday activities that can get your heart rate up and spark some fun in your day. These exercises include options for all fitness levels, so choose the one that feels right for you. 

1. Walking

It may seem too good to be true, but walking can provide a range of health benefits. It can help improve your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and even help you live longer.  

But that’s not all! Walking can also help you burn calories safely—from anywhere. 

In fact, research suggests that walking is probably enough for most adults’ cardiovascular exercise. And you don’t have to hop on a treadmill if that isn’t your thing. 

Walking can be as easy as heading out the door and turning back around after 20 minutes or so.

Or, you can sprinkle walks throughout your day. For example, park near the opposite end of the parking lot when you visit the grocery store. Or, use the stairs instead of the elevator at the mall.

2. HIIT (High-intensity interval training)

HIIT workouts pack a serious punch in less than 25 minutes. That’s why they’re perfect for anyone short on time.

Start by choosing a few of your favorite high-intensity, full-body exercises. Think jumping jacks, mountain climbers, or bicycle crunches. You can even jump on a trampoline. 

Choose moves that boost your heart rate and feel fun, yet challenging. We recommend picking five to ten exercises to keep the variety going.

From there, the formula is simple: Do one exercise for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of rest. Then, move on to your next exercise and keep the cycle going for 20 to 25 minutes. 

To allow your body time to rest and recover, HIIT workouts should only be done two to three times per week.

3. Shopping  

You might have heard the joke, “shopping is my cardio,” and it’s not technically wrong. Those morning mall walkers might be onto something!

Like walking, shopping counts as cardiovascular exercise, especially if you keep a brisk pace while browsing. 

Next time you head out for groceries or swing by your favorite shop, aim for about 30 minutes on your feet to burn some extra calories. 

4. Hiking

Hiking doubles as exercise and an invigorating way to experience nature. 

In addition to helping you lose weight, research suggests hiking in nature may also improve blood pressure and emotional well-being

So hop on your nearest trail to burn calories while you enjoy the beautiful scenery. Bring a map and a friend!

5. Gardening or yard work

Many people like to garden or do yard work as a way to get outside in the fresh air.

One meta-analysis found that yard work may be connected with a lower BMI, good mental health, and improved quality of life

And yard work doesn’t just mean mowing the lawn once a week. 

You can plant beautiful flowers to enjoy all year long, or work on getting rid of those pesky weeds once and (hopefully) for all. When the temperatures start to drop, you can chop wood to keep your house cozy.

If yard work isn’t your thing, that’s totally fine—keep reading for more options!

6. Biking 

Helmet? Check. Water bottle? Check. Time to hit the road! 

Biking is a versatile and low-impact cardio workout that can burn serious calories. 

Go for a spin down the block, hit some trails with the family, or sign up for a party-on-a-bike-style spin class. No matter what your interests are, there’s bound to be a biking style that suits you. 

7. Low-impact sports and games

Are you the first to say yes to a round of mini golf or bowling after a long week? Then low-impact sports and games might be your weight-loss jam. 

Any activities that keep you on your feet count—think laser tag, ax throwing, batting cages, or driving ranges. 

And if you want extra mental stimulation, head to an escape room. You can burn calories while you race to beat the clock.

8. Weight lifting

Weight training isn’t just for elite athletes. You don’t have to be a bodybuilder to benefit from lifting weights, and you can do it anywhere—no gym required. 

And surprisingly, you don’t need much equipment. A kettlebell or pair of dumbbells is ideal. But you can replace weights with things you have around the house, like soup cans or water bottles. 

Try taking a class or following along with at-home, beginner-friendly workout videos (like this one) until you get your form down. 

Remember, the quality of your reps is more important than doing as many as possible. Listen to your body and take breaks anytime you need them.

9. Yoga

Need to unwind and fit in a full-body workout? Yoga invigorates the body and mind while helping you work toward a healthy weight.

You can try yoga at home with free follow-along videos, or hit up your local gym or studio for guided sessions. 

To get the most weight-loss benefits, opt for active styles, like vinyasa, ashtanga, and power yoga. 

10. Table games  

If you get hyped up by a friendly game of foosball, that competitive streak spells good news for weight loss. 

With table games, you can have a blast while also blasting calories. 

Grab some friends and head out to a local arcade for an afternoon of ping pong, air hockey, and shuffleboard. The winner picks dinner!

11. Dancing

Dancing is a feel-good way to get lost in the music while boosting your calorie deficit. 

You can dance anywhere—in your kitchen, on a dance floor, or in a local salsa class. If you’re feeling bored with your workouts, this is your sign to mix it up!

12. Swimming 

Swimming is a great cardio exercise to burn calories, tone muscles, and build endurance—and its low-impact nature makes it easy on your body and joints. 

Technically, you can just jump in the deep end of the gym pool and doggy paddle. But it’s a good idea to go into your workout with a structure in mind. 

Start by swimming laps (kickboard optional!) for 20 minutes, taking as many breaks as you need to rest. If you prefer a guided workout, try signing up for a water aerobics class. 

Ready to make a lasting change?

A healthier you, wherever you are.

13. Group strength and conditioning workouts 

If you like socializing and a bit of competition, then group strength and conditioning workouts might be for you.

There are many branded programs that offer challenging workouts for overall fitness—for example, CrossFit and F45.  

These workouts typically combine multiple types of training. For example, workouts often include strength training, gymnastics, and HIIT.

One study found that, in addition to burning calories, these programs may help you change your body composition and build muscle.

If you’re interested in starting a group workout, ease into it slowly. They can be very demanding. Find a gym that values technique first, and doesn’t just focus on fitting in as many reps as possible.

14. Jumping rope 

Jumping rope is an easy, inexpensive way to work out your entire body and boost fat loss over time. 

A recent study found that jumping rope combined with a caloric deficit helped participants lose a clinically significant amount of weight after eight weeks. 

Getting started is easy—just grab a jump rope and go. Start by jumping rope for 5 minutes and build up the intensity as you get stronger. 

But if you can only jump rope a few times to start, don’t worry! Focus on getting a little better each session, and you’ll be jumping around in no time. 

Once you get the hang of it, jumping rope can also be a fun (and surprisingly competitive) activity to try with your family or friends. Try jumping on one foot or swinging your rope around twice, and see who can do the most tricks. 

15. Fishing

Fishing is an exciting calorie-burning activity for fans of the great outdoors. 

And we’re not talking about a leisurely afternoon reclining in a boat. If you’re constantly casting and reeling to catch that next fish, you’re burning calories. 

On your next fishing expedition, try standing instead of sitting while you’re waiting for that first nibble to come in.

16. Running

People turn to running to lose weight because it’s simple. 

You don’t need a gym or any exercise equipment. It’s also easy to fit into your schedule anytime you have a few free minutes.

When you lace up those running shoes, set out with a goal in mind. Plan a certain distance or choose pre-timed running and walking intervals to keep the intensity high and to get the most out of your workout.

Remember, you don’t have to run a marathon to burn some calories. Small sprints count, too—like racing your friends to the car or chasing your kids around the living room. 

17. Playing with your kids or grandkids

Playing with your kids or grandkids is a simple way to work toward your weight-loss goals and connect with your family. And what’s better than bonding with your family while you burn calories? We’ll wait! 

Play may also offer many health benefits, and not just for kids. In fact, research suggests that playing may boost mood, connections with others, and overall well-being in adults. 

Whether it’s a spontaneous water balloon fight or a quick game of basketball, plan something that your family will love.

18. Taking your dog to the park

Owning a pet can inspire you to get active. After all, your pet needs movement, too. 

It’s hard to resist those puppy dog eyes, so don’t! Leash up your furry friend and go for an adventure at the park.

Grab a tennis ball and play a game of fetch, or bring your pup’s favorite rope for a tug-of-war session. You’ll get in some joyful movement, and your dog will seriously appreciate the extra playtime. 

Reflection exercise:

Think about the movement-based activities you usually enjoy. What do they have in common?

Maybe they’re all creative, low-impact, or involve your family and friends. Look for physical activities with these qualities to bring joy to your movement routine (while you burn body fat). 

Want a more structured workout plan to lose weight? 

As we’ve said, there are many ways to approach exercise. If you prefer a scheduled workout routine you can follow day-by-day, we’ve created a four-week weight loss exercise routine to help you get started. 

Remember to follow what feels good and take it easy at first. Over time, a simple walk around the block might lead to joining a fun 5k!