Exercising regularly is good for your overall health for a number of reasons: it can improve your mood, increase your energy, help you sleep better, strengthen your immune system, and reduce your risk of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. But if your goal is to lose excess fat, not every type of exercise will help you get there.
Most people assume that lots of cardio is the best approach if you want to lose weight, but the best exercises for weight loss are those that combine cardio exercise with strength training. A good balance of these two activities will help you build muscle and increase your endurance, allowing you to replace pounds of fat with lean muscle. Combining cardio with strength training can also help you avoid being left with loose pockets of fat, since you’ll be tightening and toning your muscles.
Looking for new exercises that can accelerate your current rate of weight loss? Check out the following best (and worst) exercises for fat loss.
Best: Cardio circuit training
Cardio circuits provide a great way to burn calories, increase your heart rate, and build strength all at the same time. Cardio circuit training involves quickly moving from one activity to the next, completing as many reps as you can in one minute, with no break between exercises. Cardio circuits are great for avoiding boredom with your workout routine: not only are you constantly switching to a different activity, but you can change your workout each time to target different areas. For example, you can alternate your workouts between upper body, core, and lower body exercises. The bonus to combining cardio with resistance training? As you build muscle, you’ll naturally increase your resting metabolic rate. Because muscle burns more calories than fat, even at rest, you’ll continue to experience benefits after your workout is finished.
Best: High-intensity interval training
Similar to cardio circuits, high-intensity interval training, also known as HIIT, involves small bursts of high-intensity movements followed by short periods of rest. For instance, you might do three circuits consisting of 30 seconds of jumping jacks, 30 seconds of push-ups, and 30 seconds of planks, followed by a 30-second rest period. HIIT workouts can promote more fat loss in a shorter period of time than regular cardio workouts: one study found that people who participated in 20-minute HIIT workouts three times a week lost more fat than people who cycled at a steady rate for 40 minutes at the same frequency.
Best: Strength-based circuit training
This exercise is similar to HIIT, but uses only strength training movements instead of cardio movements like jumping jacks. You’ll also replace time intervals with sets of reps. For instance, you might do a circuit consisting of 20 push ups, 50 hip extensions, and 20 lunges, and repeat that circuit three times
Worst: Spot-focused exercises
Spot-focused exercises like bicep curls and abdominal crunches will strengthen your muscles, but won’t directly reduce the fat over those muscles. To eliminate fat, you must combine spot-focused exercises with cardio exercise and good nutrition. Together, these three healthy lifestyle habits can help you replace fat with muscle, and get you closer to your weight-loss goals.
CrossFit is more ideal for people of advanced fitness levels whose bodies can perform these movements while using proper form. Many of the movements involved in CrossFit are high in intensity, and involve complicated biomechanics, which can lead to injuries in those who are just starting out. However, CrossFit offers many of the same fitness benefits as HIIT workouts, and may end up being your go-to routine after you improve your fitness level.
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