Losing weight is easier said than done, and there isn’t a magic pill to take off pounds. Instead, you have to burn more calories than you take in. This involves a healthy diet, as well as a combination of cardio and strength training.
Cardiovascular workouts (or simply cardio) elevate your heart rate. These are some of the most effective forms of exercise for weight loss because the greater your heartbeat, the more fat you’ll burn, explains Multazim Shaikh, a fitness trainer and nutritionist with FamFits.
To lose weight or maintain weight loss, you’ll need up to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, according to the Mayo Clinic. This averages about 60 minutes, five days a week.
If you’re busy, split up your cardio into three smaller workouts a day. One example: Exercise 20 minutes in the morning before work, walk 20 minutes on your lunch break, and exercise for 20 minutes after dinner.
Great cardio workouts to help you lose weight include:
1. Low-intensity cardio
You don’t have to exercise at a high intensity to lose weight. If you’re a beginner or have physical limitations, low-intensity cardio can also help you burn calories and drop pounds.
Aim for 60 minutes of low-intensity cardio five days a week. As you become more physically fit, carry hand weights while jogging, walking, or doing aerobics.
2. Jump rope
Jumping rope not only improves coordination and cognitive function, but the intensity of this workout elevates your heart rate, helping you burn about 1,300 calories per hour, explains Shaikh.
- Warm up with 8 to 10 jumps.
- Then jump continuously for 1 1/2 minutes.
- Rest for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat.
- Complete 3 sets.
You can switch up your routine, too. Jump one set on a single leg, one set with both legs, and one set while running in place.
Burpees combine squats, jumps, and pushups. It’s an effective workout because you’re burning fat from your overall body, and you’re training multiple muscle groups like your chest, legs, and core, says Shaikh.
- Do 10 reps in 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat for 5 minutes.
4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
This cardio workout has increased in popularity due to its ability to maximize calorie burn and fat loss. It involves intense bursts of exercise to elevate your heart rate, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
HIIT is great if you don’t have a lot of time. You’re able to exercise for a shorter length of time, yet complete a more intense and strenuous workout. As a result, you’ll continue to burn calories for hours after the workout, notes Shaikh.
Here’s an example of a HIIT routine:
- Complete butt kicks for 45 seconds, and rest for 15 seconds.
- Next, perform jumping lunges for 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
- Complete burpees for 45 seconds, and rest for 15 seconds.
- Repeat for 10 to 20 minutes.
- You can also incorporate other movements like mountain climbers and jump squats.
Or, you can try to complete a HIIT workout on a treadmill:
- Warm up for 5 minutes.
- Then sprint at a high-intensity speed for 1 minute.
- Walk for 30 seconds, and then sprint again at a high-intensity speed for 1 minute.
- Complete 8 to 10 sets.
Even though strength training alone doesn’t have fast results, don’t ignore weight training or strength training when losing weight.
These training sessions can fire up your metabolism. And because they build lean muscle mass, you’ll burn more calories during exercise and at rest, according to Stephanie Blozy, an exercise science expert and the owner of Fleet Feet in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Great weight and strength-training exercises to help you lose weight include:
1. Kettlebell swings
This full-body, demanding workout will amp up your heart rate while increasing your arm and leg strength and helping you develop a strong core, explains Blozy.
- Complete a two-handed kettlebell swing for 20 seconds.
- Rest for 8 seconds.
- Repeat 8 sets.
Blozy recommends lifting faster to boost your heart rate even more and have a more cardio-intense workout.
Pushups are an excellent exercise for stabilizing the core, building upper body strength, and increasing muscle mass in your arms.
If you’re a beginner, start with 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between each set. Gradually increase your number of reps as your strength improves.
“I love the options lunges provide because you can do them forward, backward, weighted, and unweighted,” says Blozy. “For the weighted version, hold a kettlebell or weight plate next to your chest, or make it even more challenging and lift the weight overhead.”
- Complete 1 set of 8 to 12 lunges per leg.
Blozy also recommends step-ups as another great exercise to strengthen the legs while stabilizing your core and lower back muscles. “Start with a small step height (6 to 12 inches) and then progress to a higher height, like 24 to 30 inches.”
- Complete 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps per side.
Want to make it challenging? Add weight by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell next to your chest or hold one in each hand, Blozy says. “Not only will your quads burn, but your heartrate will accelerate and sweat will pour.”
Blozy also suggests deadlifts as an exercise to build muscles in both the lower and upper body, while reducing fat. She encourages lightening the load to 50 to 70 percent of your max, and increasing the reps so it’ll feel more like cardio than weight training.
- Complete 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Along with a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet, look for other ways to be active every day.
Remember, the more you move, the more calories you’ll burn. This can maximize your weight loss efforts and help you reach your goal sooner.
- Pace the room during commercial breaks, between show episodes, or while talking on the phone.
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
- Park your car in the back of parking lots.
- Get a fitness tracker. Some trackers send alerts when you’ve been sedentary for too long. These alerts remind you to move.
- Schedule walking meetings with your coworkers.
- Fidget in your seat, such as tapping your hand, rocking your leg, or engaging your abdominal muscles as you sit. According to
one study, people with obesity who fidget might expend an additional 350 calories per day.
- Get off the bus or subway a stop earlier, and walk the rest of the way to your destination.
- Put on headphones while cooking or completing other household chores. This will encourage you to move or dance.
- Walk the dog as a family.
Starting and sticking with an exercise routine is probably the hardest part. But a few tricks can make it easier to stay active.
Stay fueled with foods
For example, eat a light snack before exercise to keep your energy up. Nothing too heavy, though. Great pre-workout snacks include:
- dried fruit
- trail mix
- energy bar
- peanut butter crackers
Also, get plenty of sleep the night before exercising. It’s harder to work out when you’re sluggish or exhausted. You should also get a workout/accountability buddy. This is someone who motivates you to reach your fitness goals.
Make it fun when you can
Lastly, choose workouts you find enjoyable. If you hate run-of-the-mill aerobic classes, take a dance class instead. Staying active is easier when you’re having fun.