When it comes to losing weight, not all exercises are the same -- certain workouts are more effective than others for burning fat. Unfortunately, many of those exercises are also high impact and can put extra pressure on the joints. If you want to lose weight but keep your joints safe, you'll have to look for activities that engage the whole body and as many muscle groups as possible.
Elliptical trainers can provide you with an excellent cardio and fat-burning workout without putting added pressure on your joints. This is because there's no bouncing or impact on the joints when you're using an elliptical -- something that makes the treadmill problematic because of the added pressure on the knees and ankles. According to Mayo Clinic, elliptical trainers put less stress on your back, knees and hips, but can still provide a good workout of an intensity similar to jogging.
The great thing about a circuit training workout is that you can modify it to fit your needs and limitations. Circuit training is basically a number of up to 10 exercises performed one right after the other, with little or no break between them. For example, exercise one could be five minutes on the elliptical trainer, followed by five minutes of abdominal exercises, followed by five minutes of lifting weights. After you've finished all exercises, you take a short break -- one or two minutes -- and then start the circuit again. Because you're challenging all muscles of the body by mixing cardio and resistance training, your heart rate stays up and you burn more fat during your workout. Since you can choose what exercises to integrate into the circuit, you can choose to focus on those that aren't hard on your joints. For example, using the stationary bike and the elliptical at the gym, or using a step if you're working out at home.
Swimming might seem like a fun, relaxing exercise, but it can actually burn a good number of calories -- and fat -- if you do it with the proper intensity. For example, a 155-pound person swimming either breaststroke or butterfly for an hour will burn more than 700 calories. That's more than you would burn running cross-country for the same amount of time. Speed is important in swimming. For example, doing an hour of freestyle fast laps can burn more than 700 calories, but swim slow laps and you'll be burning less than 500. Swimming is great for joints, as you're weightless in the water and there's no added pressure on them.
Weight training is a great addition to a weight-loss program for a number of reasons. First, it helps build muscle, which in turn helps rev up your metabolism. This means you will burn more calories the more muscle you have, even if you don't change your workout at all. To keep your joints safe, go easy on the lower-body workout. For example, squats using a weighted bar or dumbbells can be hard on the knees. Focus on chest and arm exercises that don't put a lot of pressure on your elbows, such as flat bench presses, lat pulldowns and biceps curls.
- Georgia State University: Upper Body Strength Training Exercises
- Weight Loss Resources: The Benefits of Weight Training
- Mayo Clinic: Elliptical Machines: Better than Treadmills?
- Nutristrategy: Calories Burned During Activities, Sports and Exercises Chart
- BBC: Circuit Training
- Idea Fit: Get Creative With Circuits
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.