Gaining weight is easy, but losing it is hard. One pound of fat is the equivalent of 3,500 calories, or the amount you would burn in five to six hours of running at 5 miles per hour. This means that working out to lose weight involves making a long-term commitment to a healthy diet and regular exercise as a lifestyle choice rather than a quick fix. Especially if you are obese or have any medical conditions, consult a health care provider before starting a hard workout program.
Doing the same workout every day may to lead to overtraining and injury rather than to successful long-term weight loss. An effective workout program for basic fitness should include a balance of at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardiovascular exercise and two strength-training sessions per week, according to the Mayo Clinic. To actually lose weight, increase the duration and intensity of your workouts, while being careful to avoid overtraining and injury.
Why Strength Training Matters
Strength training helps you lose weight by increasing your muscle mass. Since muscle is more metabolically active than fat, the more muscular you are, the more calories you burn even at rest. Just as important, muscle is firmer and more compact than fat, so as you build muscle, you'll drop clothing sizes even if your weight doesn't change dramatically. Stronger muscles also prevent injuries and allow you to increase workout intensity. The more you challenge your muscles, the stronger they become. As you work out, you break down muscle fibers, and then as you recover, your body repairs your muscles with stronger fibers. Do total-body strength training on two or three nonconsecutive days each week to allow for adequate recovery.
Start a strength-training day with a 15-minute moderate-intensity cardio warm-up. Next, perform 10 to 12 strength-training exercises, using all major muscle groups in both pushing and pulling directions. For upper body, do bench presses or pushups, seated or bent-over rows, lat pulldowns or pullups, and overhead presses. Core exercises should target abdominals, obliques and lower back. Lower-body exercises can include squats or leg presses, front and side lunges, and thigh abductor and adductor exercises. To maximize the benefits from your strength-training sessions, select weights you can lift no more than 12 times. A single set of eight to 12 reps at high intensity is more beneficial than doing more reps with low weights. Do additional cardio after lifting for greater weight loss.
A hard cardiovascular workout should make you breathe hard and sweat, but still should be at a pace you can sustain long enough to meet your calorie-burning goals. Increase the calories burned by incorporating high-intensity intervals into your cardio. For example, if you're biking or jogging, increase your speed so you sprint for a minute and then recover for a minute at a moderate pace rather than just maintaining a steady level of effort. To avoid training plateaus and injuries, vary your workouts. Don't just run or use an elliptical trainer every day. Try running, swimming, biking, Nordic skiing, rowing, hiking with poles and indoor training so you constantly challenge your body in different ways.
- ExRx.net: Fat Loss & Weight Training Myths
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise Intensity: Why It Matters, How It's Measured
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- ScienceDaily.com: High-Intensity Interval Training Is Time-Efficient and Effective, Study Suggests
- BodyBuilding.com: Build Muscle & Lose Fat Simultaneously?
- MayoClinic.com: Rev Up Your Workout with Interval Training
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- BodyBuilding.com: A Novice Trainer Trap: Overtraining: Causes, Symptoms and Solutions
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.