“What is the best exercise for weight loss?”
Whatever exercise you’ll stick to.
Not what you were expecting? Well, that’s the answer. As a personal trainer, you will get asked this question by 1 in every 3 or 4 people you meet as everyone searches for the one type of training; which will mean they make the most progress with minimal effort.
They’re hoping the answer is different from that which they’re currently doing so that it gives them a good excuse for their lack of progress thus far. They’re looking for hope that if they just change how they’re training but maintain their present effort levels then miracles will happen. We can all live in hope, but the reality is different.
If you’ve read our previous article on the physics equation taking place during Calorie Balance, you’ll be aware that the simple key to weight loss is using up more calories than you consume and forcing your body to pull energy from your fat stores in order to survive. Therefore, the logic says the more calories you can burn, the more fat you’ll lose.
A lot of the issues with perception here have stemmed from what has come to be known as “the fat burning zone”. It’s considered to be anywhere from 50-70% of their max heart rate, and it’s true; you do burn more fat in this stat but you don’t necessarily burn more calories.
Think of stored carbohydrates and fats as two different types of energy your body has at its disposal. In general, the higher the heart rate, the more skewed towards carbohydrates the usage becomes, but once exercise has concluded your body re-balances the storage of energy. Meaning, if you’ve burnt through mainly carbohydrate stores through exercise, your body just converts fat stores into glycogen to refuel the muscles. Fat will always get burnt eventually, it’s just a matter of whether it’s during or after exercise.
By following this logic, it says that the priority should be put on the exercise that burns the most calories. If you switch from 20 minutes of walking to 20 minutes of hill sprints, you will burn more calories in that 20 minutes and end up in a greater daily deficit, losing more weight.
What this doesn’t consider though, is that some people don’t like sprinting. They may spend the build-up to it almost in fear of training, and thus find excuses not to work out. Continued putting off of training usually results in someone giving up and next thing they’ve gone from spending 20 minutes walking to 20 minutes of sitting on the sofa trying to remove guilt from their minds. That doesn’t burn many calories.
On the flip side, they could love sprinting and the thrill of competing against their own previous times over certain distances. The exhilarating feeling of their legs being on fire and their lungs feeling like they’re about to explode. Throughout the process of this making someone more athletic, they see how they would be able to do lots of sprinting playing football and burn more calories through playing for longer.
They try this and love it too, however they are now far more susceptible to injury. Hard changing of direction with unpredictable variables as people slide in with tackles while the team only trains and plays 3 times a week. Being sat at home with a broken ankle or waiting for tomorrow because today isn’t “football night” and you want to “save yourself” burns significantly fewer calories than sprinting, or walking for that matter.
Post-match dinners and drinking then even go so far as adding to your calorie intake.
Our advice to anyone in a position where weight loss is an urgent priority is to find a balance of something enjoyable yet with a low injury risk to it. Even walking can be made more enjoyable with the inclusion of a friend or a podcast. For someone who really enjoys team sports, leave that until they can afford to be out of action for a few weeks and be able to maintain their weight during it.
In a similar vein, if one can’t find the motivation to do exercise without friends, they just need to find people to go for a jog with or play another sport with on the evenings when they don’t have football training and so on.
Another one of our articles titled "How Personal Trainers Build Muscle" discusses how the structured repetitiveness of bodybuilding exercises stimulates an adaptive response to build muscle. However, you may find gyms intimidating and that repetition boring. Some may love how an increased muscle mass makes your body look, others may not.
Ultimately though, the elephant in the room is that looking for the right exercises to lose weight is like looking in your underwear drawer for your car keys. You increased your fat stores by eating too much food. Check the bowl by the front door – you’ll lose weight by eating too little.
Exercise should be used as a tool for health. It builds your most vital muscle (the heart), keeps your drainage system flowing (your lymph) and keeps your processing plant in good condition (your gut). The list of vital systems in your body it assists goes on and warrants another article in itself.
If your goal is to increase your muscle mass, lifting weights will get you there. If coincidence has it that you also love training in a gym environment that you’re lucky – that’s a bonus.
However, if you want to lose weight and be healthy, the main concern should be finding something you enjoy that allows consistency and relative regularity. That might be one thing, that might be various activities, just make sure they’re easily accessible and you’re motivated to stick with them.
To check out our new article, head over to Which is Easier To Achieve: Weight Loss or Muscle Gain?