What’s the best exercise for weight loss?
This is a bit of a misleading question. Because everyone’s looking for that magical move that will shed fat from their belly or perfect their butt. Wouldn’t it be nice if all it took was one exercise?
But what I can give you is something even better. Because the best exercise for weight loss doesn’t come from a certain move. It comes from an approach to exercise. And if you get it right, you can easily lose weight for life.
But first, a couple of basics.
For years, experts thought that weight loss came down to just calories. If you took in less calories than you burned, you’d lose weight. And people who were overweight were just lazy gluttons. But weight loss experts now recognize that this isn’t the case. People can diet and exercise, and not lose weight. Because weight loss comes down to more than just burning calories And so does effective exercise.
Leaders in the weight loss industry like Dr. Robert Lustig, author of Fat Chance, recognize that weight loss has more to do with the hormone insulin. Insulin is responsible for storing sugar as fat. If you have too much insulin, you’ll store lots of sugar as fat.
When there is too much sugar in the diet, you become less sensitive to insulin. This means your body will produce large amounts of insulin, thinking there is never enough. And this becomes a bad situation. Because, the less sensitive you are to insulin, the more insulin you have. And the more you have, the more fat you’ll store fat.
Bottom line: Too much insulin = too much fat. That’s all you have to remember.
So what does this have to do with the best exercise for weight loss?
Because the best exercise for weight loss isn’t the one that burns the most calories. It’s the one that effectively increases your body’s insulin sensitivity. The best exercise helps you make less insulin and store less fat.
And the best exercise winner is….
The best exercise for weight loss is…HIIT!
Yes, there are lots of great exercises out there. But HIIT is a powerhouse when it comes to increasing insulin sensitivity and promoting long-term fat loss. If you’ve been living under a rock and don’t know, HIIT means high intensity interval training. In HIIT, you do short bursts of high intensity exercise as opposed to the steady, but more moderate intensity of classic cardio. HIIT encourages you to push yourself to the limit, but only for short periods.
And study after study after study shows HIIT exercise to be effective at increasing insulin sensitivity, improving metabolic function (and therefore, metabolism) and helping you lose weight. Don’t get me wrong, classic cardio also increases insulin sensitivity. Strength training does too, but not as much as cardio. But none of these increase insulin sensitivity as much as HIIT.
How do you incorporate HIIT into your routine?
There are plenty of classes out there that can get you started. But if you’re looking for HIIT at home or on a budget, there’s always good old fashioned running. Do this simple series.
- 60 seconds of fast walking.
- 60 seconds of running as fast as you can.
Do this for 30 minutes. By the last 10 minutes, you should be pretty out of breath, even during the walking intervals. That’s because this is hard work.
Eventually you would want to include strength building exercises into your HIIT routine. For instance, the next step could be 60 seconds of running, 60 seconds of (modified, if needed) push-ups, 60 seconds of squats, 60 seconds crunches, and 60 seconds of rest.
***Please always check with a doctor before starting any new exercise routine. I don’t know you or your specific health situation. So you want to make sure there isn’t anything in your health profile that would make this type of exercise wrong for you.
Important tips to get the most out of your exercise for weight loss
Don’t forget diet!!!!
Again, you get the most long-term benefit from exercise when it increases your insulin sensitivity, thereby discouraging your body from storing lots of fat. But exercise won’t help if you’re eating a diet with lots of sugar (even healthy sounding sugar) or eating lots of starchy carbohydrates.
Because foods that are starchy or full of sugar decrease your insulin sensitivity and encourage fat storage. So while you’ll still reap amazing cardiovascular benefits from your workout, you won’t lose weight without a good diet. It’s 80% diet/20% exercise.
Don’t push yourself too hard.
You don’t want to exercise so hard that you won’t be able to move for a week or you feel horrible and sick afterwards. You want to push yourself hard, but not over the top hard. Which can be hard to differentiate if you’re new to an exercise routine.
But watch how you’re feeling over time. If you push yourself too hard, you could injure yourself. Or tax your adrenals to a point of creating a stress response. And the stress response tends to slow your metabolism. So again, aim to feel tired, but good.
There’s no such thing as BAD exercise. All exercise is pretty good. So if HIIT feels too much for you, do something else instead.
While cardio alone is better than strength training alone for weight loss, all exercise has health benefits. So just do it!
But if you want to supercharge your healthy lifestyle, give HIIT a try. You should be very pleased with the results!
Marcie in Mommyland says
These are great tips! I hadn’t heard of HIIT before but I’m going to check it out!
Yes! Definitely check it out! It is a very different kind of workout.
Terri Steffes says
Is the idea to become winded? To be taking in a lot of air? I ask because I am not one to exercise at all and I do want to start but I know there is NO WAY I could do 30 minutes of this.
You want to be breathing heavy but not feeling like your gasping for air and gonna die. Does that make more sense? And always workout within your own fitness level. So if you haven’t worked out in years, this will probably be too much for you. So you can modify it depending on your fitness level. For instance, you could start by only doing this for 10 minutes and work up. Or for someone who really isn’t used to being active at all, it might be challenging to just go between a moderate walk and a really fast walk at first. Start slow and build up based on where you are physically in the moment.
HIIT workouts are my favorite types! I love the variation as I tend to easily get bored or distracted working out.
I agree. I’m always envious of people who can go on a long run and be entertained.
Foodie Finds Home says
I love HIIT training. Tabata and MMA are my favorite workouts because they involve rounds. I also like doing running that involves sprints w/walking.
I had to actually look up Tabata. The town I live in is so fitness crazy that I’m surprised I don’t see more of that here. Looks challenging.
Elizabeth O. says
I agree with this. That’s why it’s important to limit your sugar in take even when you’re not in a diet. It really helps your body in so many ways. I think it’s good to incorporate HIIT workouts.
I agree. I’ll personally never go back to eating sugar on a regular basis like I did as a kid. Sugar is so bad for you anyway, even if you’re naturally skinny.
Elizabeth O. says
These are great workouts! I think it’s really important to think about how you’re going to exercise and if it works for you. Losing weight is a combination of good diet and a good workout routine.
Yes! It can’t just be diet or exercise. It doesn’t work that way.
Amanda Love says
I have to do this one of these days. I’ve been thinking about different exercise routines to get rid of the extra weight before our summer vacation. This definitely makes sense.
I hope you give it a try!
I’ve been working out now for about 40 years and watching my diet. Then, I lost my mind for a few years and started eating things I really shouldn’t have. I gained 40 pounds and was really sick. After going through tons of tests from Doctors, I just realized I was the problem and needed to get back on track. Lost the 40 pounds and I fell so much better working out again. I will be 60 soon and walking tapes or my kind of pleasure with weights. I truly believe what you are saying in this post and it works. Get away from the sugar!!!!!!!
Tammy, that is such a great story. I’m so glad you figured out how to get back on track and are in such a good place!
Nicola @ Happy Healthy Motivated says
I really, really, really hate HIIT! I know it’s the best way to lose weight, but I find it so exhausting that I end up totally despising it and then I don’t bother at all. Buuuuuut…your workout suggestion of 60 seconds of running, pushups, etc… looks like something I could totally handle, so I’m going to give it another try! 🙂
I totally get it because I HATE yoga even though everyone else I know raves about it. I can’t make myself do it anymore. I hope you give the running a try!
This is so great to know. I am trying to lose a few pounds since having baby #7 and it hasn’t been the easiest thing for me. So this may help me!
Wow..baby #7!!! Congrats!
Amber Nelson says
I have done a lot of HIIT workouts and I do really like them. Diet is a huge part of it also!
Good to hear!
Latasha A Peterson says
Oh, this is awesome! I am currently gearing up to start back to working out and these are perfect tips.
So glad you find this helpful! Good luck with your new exercise adventure.
Ginger Marie says
HIIT is so good! I definitely have to be in the mood for it haha. I also love pilates for core work!
I love pilates too. You feel so good afterwards.
Karina @ Lovemade Handmade says
Awesome tips! I loved HIIT when I use to do it, but convincing myself to start it up again has me scuuureeed. You aren’t kidding when you say its HARD work. But it definitely works. I know it from past experience… so I better get to it for my summer bod!
I have to mentally psych myself up too. Especially on those low-energy days. It’s kind of like jumping off a high diving board. You just have to jump and not obsess about what it will feel like when you hit…lol.
I started going to a studio that does HIIT and I love it so far!
Glad you’re enjoying it Alexa!
Shoshana Sue says
Yep, you are right, exercise will not help if your diet is crap. It all starts with the diet. HIIT workouts are what we all must be doing at least once a week, it is a killer workout.
Yeah..it makes me so sad when I see people working out so hard and not paying attention to their diets.
I take all fitness and exercise information with a grain of salt. Everyone is different. I have had success with this type of workout when I do them regularly.
So true. If you’re gonna benefit from anything, you have to make it a regular habit.
I just got a treadmill and am so excited to start doing HIIT!
RoseMary Griffith says
Sounds like just the thing I need to do to shake up my exercise routine. I used to subscribe to FitnessGlo and most of their routines were HIIT based. They were almost for crazy strong people who could follow the super fast workouts. I am such a klutz that I finally gave up. But I think with the elliptical, free weights and my leg bench, I should be able to buzz through the 60 second segments and not get bored. Or knock myself out!