Is there a “best” exercise for weight loss?
You would think there would be a clear answer looking at the best exercise for weight loss. One exercise to rule them all; a one-way ticket to cutting calories and ending up with a slimmer you. But as with most things based on health and fitness, it’s not that simple.
Nutrition plays a more than significant role in weight loss, genetics too. Some take other exercises to lose weight better than others. There is an ever-growing list of the best exercise machines for weight loss. (opens in a new tab) to consider. The list continues.
Fortunately, we have the science and practical knowledge of health and fitness professionals to guide us. Here we run through the reams of research and dive deep into this oft-requested topic with the help of OriGym Co-Founder Luke Hughes. (opens in a new tab).
Luke is the CEO and co-founder of OriGym. With an undergraduate degree in sport and exercise and a master’s degree in sport and nutrition, he is also qualified as a level 4 personal trainer with various specialist qualifications covering the entire spectrum of health, fitness and business.
How Exercise Helps Weight Loss
So, let’s just start. Exercise can lead to weight loss simply because physical activity increases the number of calories your body uses for energy.
“Doing high levels of physical activity can help put you in a calorie deficit. (opens in a new tab)says Hughes, “which means you’re consuming fewer calories than you’re burning, which will lead to weight loss.”
“Reducing your calorie intake and increasing the amount of physical activity you do, essentially moving more while eating less, will create a larger calorie deficit and naturally lead to weight loss.”
There’s a bit more, of course, and research, particularly over the past two decades, has pointed to the fact that weight loss is more about diet, even though it would be unwise to focus solely on one or the other.
A systematic review of studies, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (opens in a new tab)suggested that subjects who used exercise alone for weight loss experienced minimal weight loss, while the American College of Sports Medicine (opens in a new tab) states that the “recommended levels of PA [physical activity] can help produce weight loss. However, up to 60 minutes a day may be needed when relying solely on exercise for weight loss.
The best exercises to burn calories
With that in mind, there are still some exercises that are proven to burn more calories than others.
Science shows cardio burns more calories than resistance training, with a 2012 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (opens in a new tab) discover that running on a treadmill burns 25-39% more calories than doing kettlebell exercises at the same level of effort.
Jumping rope is also a great exercise for weight loss by burning 462 calories for half an hour of work (based on a person weighing 170 pounds) according to estimates by the American Council on Exercise (opens in a new tab)while a hard stint on one of the best rowers (opens in a new tab) over the same amount of time will burn about 404 calories.
But don’t throw away the heavyweights just yet. “A regular workout routine that includes weightlifting and resistance training is one of the top groups of exercises for burning the most calories,” says Hughes.
“It’s a common misconception that strength training should be reserved only for those looking to build muscle mass, but it’s also very effective at burning calories. Muscle is metabolically active tissue that burns fats.
“In simple terms, this means that muscle requires the use of calories, even at rest. This same tissue also plays a role in increasing the number of fat-burning enzymes in your body. Therefore, the more you have muscle, the more calories you will naturally burn.
What is FatMax training and can it help you lose weight?
The FatMax workout is a concept that has grown in popularity in recent years and offers an even deeper dive for those looking to find their best exercise for weight loss.
Simply put, FatMax is the amount of fat an athlete can “burn” per hour. Specifically, FatMax is the exercise intensity at which an individual’s fat oxidation—measured in grams per minute—is at its peak.
At low intensity, you won’t burn much fat because you won’t burn much energy at all. When the intensity increases, fat oxidation also increases, but only up to a certain point – the so-called FatMax. This peak also tends to be much lower than what you are doing at 100%.
Everyone’s FatMax is very individual, with a lab test currently being the best way to find out your specific “FatMax.”
“If you know your FatMax Zone, that means you’ll be able to train your fat oxidation and increase your endurance,” says Hughes. “It’s great for sports such as running and cycling, especially when trying to lose weight.
“Increasing your endurance both in terms of cardiovascular and muscular endurance is important for losing weight because you will be able to train longer, which means you will use more energy over a longer period of time and burn more calories. “
General tips when exercising to lose weight
So, as we have seen, there is no clear cut answer to the best exercise for weight loss. The best path is to focus more on healthy lifestyle interventions that will aid in overall weight loss, while benefiting your health in several other positive ways.
“Combining exercise with a healthy diet is the perfect way to lose weight,” says Hughes, “rather than relying solely on calorie restriction. However, when engaging in strenuous exercise, you need to ensure that you eat enough calories to maintain your energy level.
“You also need to focus on the intensity of the exercise you’re doing, rather than the number of calories you’re burning. Also, set a consistent time to practice, as you’re more likely to stick to it if you do.
“Finally, by focusing on the exercises you enjoy, you’ll be less concerned about how many calories you’re actually burning during activity.”
This article is not intended to offer medical advice and readers should consult their doctor or health care professional before adopting any diet or treatment.