You know working out is crucial for weight loss and muscle toning, but planning a killer exercise routine can seem daunting. Never fear -- with a few basic guidelines, you can create an effective, convenient schedule. While working out is terrific for your waistline and your health, don't forget about diet. What you eat matters even more than exercise for fat loss, so ditch the junk food and fill up on low-calorie, high-nutrient goodies instead. Fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and low-fat protein sources rule for slimming down.
Cardio is the key for weight loss, blasting calories faster than any other form of exercise. Schedule an hour a day of aerobic activity, five days per week. For rapid calorie burn, take a run, swim laps or hop onto the elliptical or step machine at the gym. If you're a cardio newbie, start with a few minutes at a lower intensity -- walking at a casual pace is fine -- and throw in short intervals at an intensity that really makes you sweat.
Resistance Training Schedule
Resistance moves rev up your metabolism by building muscle tissue, which requires more calories to maintain than fat. Plus, all of that muscle toning shapes your body for a fit, defined appearance. Schedule resistance training three days per week -- you can fit it into your cardio days if you wish. Work all major muscle groups: back, chest, arms, abs, glutes and legs. Exercise choices include body-weight moves such as Supermans, crunches and pushups, as well as yoga, lifting weights and stretching the resistance band.
Time of Day
Biologically speaking, late afternoon is the best time to schedule your workout. Your muscles are warmest then, and you're most energized for optimal endurance. That said, the best routine is the one you follow, so pick a time that's convenient. Once you build a habit, your body adjusts to make you strongest at the time you usually train. Exercising too late, however, can rob you of sleep -- so if insomnia hits, move your routine down a couple of hours.
If you haven't left the couch in years or have a medical condition, check in with your doctor to get the exercise all-clear. Warm up before every workout with five to 10 minutes of light or moderate cardio. Also, avoid repeating the same exercises month after month -- this can lead to muscle overuse, so mix things up. Dress for the weather, and don't be stingy when it comes to athletic shoes. Pay attention to your body, and cease activity if you feel discomfort.
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- American College of Sports Medicine: Metabolism is Modifiable with the Right Lifestyle Changes
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- American Council on Exercise: The Best Time to Exercise
- Harvard Health Publications: 10 Tips for Exercising Safely
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.