One of the best ways to maximize your efforts to lose* body fat, change the way your body looks, and reduce* your risk for chronic disease is exercise. And you don’t have to be a marathon runner or professional body builder. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days a week, in addition to two days of resistance training.
Role of Exercise in Fat Loss
Exercise forces your heart, lungs, and muscles to work harder. It elevates your body temperature. And the effort turns your body into a fat-burning machine. You can burn calories doing aerobic exercise and strength training. And you can increase* your total calorie-burn and fat loss from a workout if you combine both types of exercise. For fat loss, the Harvard School of Public Health recommends setting a goal to lose* about a half-pound to one pound per week. And that’s a very reasonable goal if you’re eating healthy and making the effort to exercise.
Here are some proven and effective ways of exercise for fat loss:
# 1. Step Aerobics:
When Gin Miller injured her knee in 1989, she had to have surgery. And she didn’t want to spend months in a wheelchair or hobbling around on crutches. So she asked her doctor what she could do to strengthen her knee and regain the muscle strength she once had to walk, run, and be active. He told her to step up and down on a milk crate, and that was the beginning of an entire industry known as step aerobics.
Today step aerobics workouts are based on stepping up onto a raised platform, typically to music, and performing various moves that include the basic step, lunges, side step, split step, and others. This aerobic activity strengthens your heart, lungs, and muscles, and can burn an estimated 400 to 500 calories an hour, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
# 2. Swimming:
During the 2012 Olympics, U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps cruised through the water to win four gold medals and two silver medals. His swimming success won him 22 Olympic medals during his career, and helped him develop a chiseled physique. In training, he burns an estimated 3,000 calories a day.
Phelps probably burns 3,000 calories a day swimming. It’s a great way to burn calories, lose* fat, and get in shape. And even if you’re not training for the Olympics, swimming slow freestyle laps can burn about 250 calories in 30 minutes.
# 3. Jogging:
If you’re among the 47,000 people to compete in the New York City Marathon, the last 3.2-mile jog to the finish line is through the world-famous Central Park. But you don’t have to make a trip to New York City to enjoy the health benefits of jogging. It’s an ideal activity for weight loss*, because you can step out your door and start jogging. If you can jog at a pace of about 12 minutes per mile, you’ll burn about 300 calories in 30 minutes.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology even found that aerobic activity such as jogging, is an effective way to lose* weight. Researchers followed a group of 234 overweight adults for eight months. The people in the group that jogged four miles three days a week lost an average of 3.6 pounds during the study.
# 4. Running:
In terms of burning calories as an aerobic activity, running tops the list. And it’s proven to be more effective than any weight loss* supplement or pill. If you’re a serious runner, you’ll burn an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 calories in a 26.2-mile marathon, according to the Cleveland Clinic Center for Consumer Health. That’s nearly one pound of weight loss* in a few hours. And even you’re not aiming to take on the marathon distance, running is the most effective form of aerobic exercise to burn calories and lose* weight.
# 5. Dancing:
On the popular television program, Dancing With the Stars, a celebrity is paired with an experienced dancer who teaches them how to perform complex dance routines. It’s fun to watch, but even better if you get off the couch and start dancing yourself.
The American Council looked at a variety of dancing-related studies and found that dancing is an effective way to lose* weight, burn calories, improve* bone health, and even lower the risk for dementia as you age. In just 30 minutes, you can burn 250 or more calories by doing the foxtrot, waltz, salsa, or hip hop dancing.
# 6. Leg Raise:
When your core muscles are stronger and more developed, you can be more active, lift more weight, and ultimately burn more calories. One exercise you can perform to strengthen your core muscles is Straight Leg Raises. Lie on your back on the floor. Place your hands at your sides and raise both legs off the ground until they’re perpendicular to your body. Then slower lower your legs until they’re almost touch the ground, and repeat the move.
You’ll feel this exercise giving your abdominal core, back and hip flexors a workout. On its own, this exercise isn’t going to burn fat, but it will help strengthen your core so you can do more challenging workouts. Add Leg Raises to your workout by performing 3 sets of 15 reps each.
# 7. Burpees:
This compound exercise is considered one of the best moves to torch fat and work all the core muscle groups in your body. Completing a burpee workout will challenge your cardiovascular fitness and your muscle strength.
From a standing position, place your hands on the ground and kick out your feet so you’re in a push-up position. Then kick your feet forward, and push off on your hands to stand up. Then take one giant vertical leap as high as you can go with your hands raised above your head. That’s a burpee. Add it to your workout routine with 3 sets of 15 repetitions each.
This compound exercise burns calories as an aerobic activity. But it also burns calories long after your workout because of the added strength training required to perform the exercise, says McMaster University Kinesiology researcher Dr. Martin Gibala.
# 8. Mixed Cardio Drills:
Mixed cardio drills are workouts that combine bodyweight resistance training and aerobic exercise into a single workout. And based on recent studies, high intensity interval training using mixed cardio drills is a highly effective way to burn fat.
In the Journal of Metabolism, researchers found that high intensity interval training workouts using mixed cardio drills burned nine times more fat in 15 weeks than a 20-week program based on endurance training. The mixed cardio drill group lost more body fat and showed greater improvements in body composition than the endurance training group.
Mixed cardio drills are basically a workout that includes a combination of exercises performed together with little rest. Here’s a sample workout: 25 jumping jacks, 5 push-ups, 5 pull-ups, 10 burpees, 10 lunges, 25 crunches. Perform this set of exercises, moving from one to the next without rest. Then take 30 seconds to catch your breath and repeat. Cycle through this workout for 30 minutes, and you’ll burn fat, build muscle, faster than going for a 30-minute jog.
# 9. Squat:
The squat is a powerful exercise that engages your quadriceps, hamstrings, and other supporting leg muscles. This is the largest muscle group in the body, and it can be performed using your own bodyweight, with dumbbells or a medicine ball, or with a weighted barbell. It’s an excellent stand-along exercise to lose* weight and burn fat. But squats can also help improve* your power to run, sprint, and jump, and perform other forms of exercise.
To perform a bodyweight squat, stand with your feet about shoulder-width. Extend your arms in front of you parallel to the floor. Bending with your hips and knees, lower your body until your keens are bent at 90-degrees. Start with bodyweight squats (3 sets of 10 repetitions each). As you get stronger, add weight using a medicine ball or barbell.
# 10. Push-Up:
You lift about 65 percent of your body weight when you perform a push-up. It’s a challenging exercise that engages nine major muscles in the body, according to study published in the International Journal of Exercise Science. You’re not going to burn a large amount of calories by performing push-ups, but this single exercise will build muscle in your chest and arms and strengthen your core. The American College of Sports Medicine uses the push-up as a way to measure your fitness level.
If you’re a man in good shape (age 49 or younger) you should be able to do 16 to 27 push-ups. If you’re a woman (age 49 or younger) your target is 14 to 20 push-ups on your knees. And in the U.S. Army, you have to be able to do 71 push-ups in two minutes or less to earn the maximum amounts possible for the physical fitness test. Make push-ups a regular part of your exercise routine with 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
# 11. Lifting Weights:
In addition to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends strength training activity at least two days a week. For weight loss*, 60 minutes of aerobic activity and strength training is recommended. One form of strength training is weight lifting, and it’s a proven method for burning fat and building muscle. Compound exercises with weights can help increase* fat loss, especially when combine with alternate days of high intensity interval training.
The best weight lifting exercises for weight loss* that engage all the major muscle groups include squats, lunges, bench presses, shoulder presses, and deadlifts. Lifting weights forces your muscles to get stronger and bigger, and muscle burns an average of 50 calories more per day than fat. That’s why weight lifting or strength training is an important part of a well-rounded exercise program.
# 12. Jumping Lunges:
Step forward placing one knee on the ground and your other knee bent at 90 degrees. That’s a lunge. On its own this is an excellent exercise to build muscle strength and flexibility in your legs and hips. But you can modify this exercise and turn it into an aerobic exercise and a strength training exercise. Follow the same motion to complete a lunge, but switch from side to side by rapidly jumping from one leg to the other in lunge position. This exercise is commonly used in high intensity interval training programs to help burn fat and build muscle.
# 13. Mountain Climbers:
Place your hands on the ground palms-down with your feet flat on the ground. Then act as if you’re trying to run up a mountain, moving your legs forward and backward like similar to running. It’s an excellent exercise to incorporate into a mixed cardio drill workout that will serve as both an aerobic exercise and strength training exercise to help you burn calories and lose* weight.
# 14. Jumping Jacks:
This universal exercise can be used to help you burn fat and lose* weight. Many trainers recommend jumping jacks as a casual warm-up before beginning a workout. But you can also use this basic exercise to burn fat. Instead of performing a casual set of jumping jacks. Do as many as you can with proper form in one-minute. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Keep this up for a 30-minute workout and you’ll burn an estimated 300 calories.
# 15. Using Stair & Elliptical Machines:
Stair and elliptical machines can help you burn calories and lose* weight. One of the helpful features on these pieces of equipment are the options to create a workout to help you burn fat. You can choose a steady-pace cardio workout to burn calories. Or you can test your aerobic capacity with a high interval intensity workout using a stair or elliptical machine. You’ll burn an estimated 400 to 600 calories in an hour-long workout using a stair-stepper or elliptical machine.
If you want to lose* body fat, eating a healthy diet is a critical lifestyle change you must adopt. But to maximize your efforts and see results in less time, you’ve got to make exercise a priority. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes, and choose activities that you enjoy. There are many forms of exercise that will help you burn calories, build muscle, and lose* weight. Some are more efficient than others, but any form of exercise will help get closer to your weight loss* goal than watching TV.