There are no doubts about the multiple health benefits of exercise, but there are many different forms of exercise. For example, Pilates is very different from running which is different from weight lifting. All may have benefits, but which type of exercise is best for weight loss?
While there may be no single exercise that trumps other forms of exercise for weight loss, there are benefits to different kinds of exercises.
Here are some of the benefits that can be expected from different kinds of exercise for weight loss.
This type of workout captures activities that keep your heart rate elevated like running, walking, dancing, swimming, etc. Cardio, or aerobic, exercise is known for having a high calorie burn which is beneficial for weight loss. In general, the harder you push yourself, the higher the calorie burn.
Does that mean it’s always best to push yourself as hard as you can with cardio exercise? Not necessarily. Varying your intensity levels with cardio exercise may have the most benefit for weight loss. Moderate exercise level has a higher percentage of fat burn but may not burn as many total calories. However, higher intensity exercise (vigorous) has a higher calorie burn but it is coming more from carbohydrates than fat.
Both intensity levels have benefit for weight loss. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, but for weight loss total exercise time may need to be higher than this.
Strength training can sometimes get overlooked for weight loss because the total calorie burn during a workout session of weight lifting won’t be as high as cardio exercise. However, strength training can have a significant benefit for weight loss.
According to a 2012 study, 10 weeks of strength training can help increase muscle mass, lower fat mass and increase resting metabolic rate by 7%. Losing muscle mass and gaining fat mass occurs with aging. In fact, adults can lose 3-8% of muscle mass each decade. Strength training can help lower muscle loss and decrease fat accumulation with age.
The ACSM recommends strength training each major muscle group 2-3 days per week. Sets per exercise and total repetitions will vary depending on your performance goals.
High intensity intervals
High intensity interval training (HIIT) is becoming a popular workout because it is touted as being a fat burner and metabolism booster. Instead of continuously exercising for 30-60 minutes, HIIT will exercise for very short durations but with high intensity followed by rest breaks.
Does HIIT have benefits for weight loss? There is research to suggest HIIT can have a benefit on increasing metabolism hours after exercise and increasing fat burn. HIIT exercise also can take less time than more traditional cardio exercise. Something to be aware of with HIIT workouts is that injury may be a higher risk because of the explosive exercises and high intensity.
What are you going to stick with?
This may be the most important question for which workout is best for weight loss. If you only do something for a week, it doesn’t matter how great it may be for your body if you don’t do it. Consistency is a major component for weight loss and losing fat mass.
Pick a variety of exercises that will challenge you and that you are committed to stick with instead of picking a workout that you don’t enjoy but think you have to do. For example, if you don’t want to run or do a stair machine for cardio exercise, you don’t have to choose those. Find something you enjoy!
What is best for your body?
This is another critical question. Do you have any medical issues, medical history or previous injuries? These may all affect which workout will be the best for you. Also, you want to be able to work out for a long time, not just a week or two. Injury prevention is key for continued success for weight loss and health benefits of exercise.
If you have a medical issue, on medication or have a previous injury, consult a health professional before starting an exercise program.
See also: Best exercise for your body type
There are many different workouts that can be beneficial for exercise, and a workout plan should include different types of exercise for best results. The best workouts are ones that you will stick with for the long haul, not just a week or two.
Cardio exercise gives a high calorie burn, and moderate intensity exercise can shift your body to utilizing fat as a primary fuel source. Strength training increases muscle mass, lowers fat mass and can help raise metabolic rate (i.e. higher calorie burn). A proper strength training program can also help reduce the risk for injury and help correct muscle imbalances.
If you have any medical history or previous injuries, you should consult a health professional before starting an exercise plan to avoid getting injured.
References used in this article