The best exercise for weight loss
All exercise is good for you, within reason. Unless you plan to do 10 marathons back to back (this will make your knees hurt) any activity you do that elevates your heart rate will bring lots of health benefits. Walking, for example, has been shown to be hugely beneficial for health (physical and mental) and disease prevention.
But not all exercise is useful if you are trying to lose weight. Some exercises can actually make weight loss harder. We see this all the time; a client signs up for a yoga class. Yoga is a great way to exercise, particularly in a class setting. It is particularly useful for flexibility and mental well-being. But most types of yoga will not significantly increase your metabolic rate outside of the class or burn enough calories to help you lose weight. So if you go to yoga and then reward yourself with a cake upon return, it may actually make you fatter.
The 6 best exercises for weight loss
Sprinting/interval training. Long, slow running is great if you are training for an endurance event. But to lose weight increase the intensity. Maximal or near-maximal intervals of anything from 8 to 90 seconds will make you much fitter and also burn larger amounts of energy than jogging. Scientists in Australia found that just an hour of high-intensity interval training a week (3 twenty minute sessions for example) burned as much fat as 7 hours of slower jogging. Just be sure to warm up – the higher the intensity the greater the need to be warmed up properly.
Indoor or water rowing. Our personal favourite here at DDW. In New York indoor rowing classes are the new spin. According to studies by Ohio University, rowing at 60% of maximum pace burned 10-15% more calories than running or swimming at the same level of intensity. Rowing engages more muscles than almost any other form of cardio-vascular exercise. There is also no impact and limited weight-bearing, so even those with bad knees and injuries can do it. You can’t hide from the rower. Just be sure to have good form and correct technique – see a coach or trainer first if in doubt.
Circuit training. Compound, whole-body exercise like push ups, star jumps and burpees done in quick succession (in a circuit) will burn nearly twice the amount of calories as steady-state running or elliptical training (the machine variety). These functional exercises will also promote muscle and joint stability as well as upping the metabolic rate long after exercise has finished. Although classes like British Military Fitness and Crossfit are popular, a simple home circuit will more than suffice.
Spinning. Provided your class includes lots of full-throttle sprints and some slower high resistance peddling (most do) you will burn huge amounts of energy; up to 1200 in a 45 minute class. Spinning is also a great group class where you can share the pain and meet friends.
Strength training. A recent study at Harvard University found that middle aged men and women who did 20 minutes of compound strength training several times a week kept their tummies much flatter than those doing cardio only. Strength training is one of the fastest ways to boost metabolic rate, strength, stamina and fat loss. And no, you won’t bulk up ladies, that would take hours of dedicated training a day.
Tabata. Tabata is a very intense way of working out. The whole session lasts for only 4 minutes, in which you go flat out for 20 seconds, rest for 10 and then go again over just 8 intense rounds. A study at Montgomery University showed that these super-intense classes burned nearly twice as many calories than swimming breast stroke and raised the metabolic rate for nearly an hour afterward. A reasonable base of fitness might be advisable before you try this one.
Boxing. The fittest men on the planet? Probably. Great for both toning and cardio, boxing works the whole body, and when combined with skipping is a great way of upping the metabolic rate. It’s also great for releasing tension.
Exercise that’s great, but not so great for weight loss
Yoga: A typical yoga session burns just 130 calories, or the same as a brisk walk. We’re not saying it’s not good for you, just not the best for fat loss.
Pilates: According to the American Council on exercise, a typical pilates class did not meet the recommendations for improving basic cardio-respiratory fitness. Even advanced pilates burned just 254 calories per hour, the same as most gentle aerobic activity. Great for core strength, posture and a stable back; not so much for fat loss.
Jogging. The slower you go, the more impact up and down on the knees. The slower you go the less energy used. Cut the time, add the speed.
Powerplate. Just useless. Standing on it vibrating hard will use the same calories as thinking about a big mac.