If you're overweight or obese, actively working to lower your body fat percentage is one of the best steps you can take toward improving not only your physical appearance, but also your physical health. Reducing your body fat percentage will make you less susceptible to dangerous diseases like diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancer, all while improving your mobility and energy levels. The solution is to change your eating habits for the better while engaging in a physical activity program that includes cardio and strength training.
Calculate your current body fat percentage using an online body fat calculator. You'll need to use a tape measurer to measure your waist at your narrowest point and at your navel, your hips at your widest point, your neck at your narrowest point and your height. You'll also need to enter your gender and weight. Refer to the table below the calculator to find a healthy body fat percentage for you. For example, if you're a woman between the ages of 20 and 40, you should aim for a body fat percentage between 19 percent and 26 percent.
Engage in cardiovascular exercise at least three to four times per week. As your fitness level improves, you can increase to five, six or even seven cardio sessions per week. Make sure each of your sessions lasts for at least 30 minutes, as elevating your heart rate and sustaining a higher heart rate during exercise is key to burning calories. Choose forms of cardio that you enjoy to keep motivation levels high, and vary your activities regularly to keep things interesting.
Use an online calorie burn calculator to determine how many calories you burn with each session of cardiovascular exercise. Enter your age, gender, weight, height and length of exercise session to see approximately how many calories you're burning given a variety of different activities. You should aim to burn about 3,500 calories per week through a combination of diet and exercise if you wish to lose one pound of body fat per week.
Engage in strength training at least two or three times weekly to build muscle tissue. Since muscle weighs more than fat by volume, making gains in muscle mass, strength and density may actually cause you to maintain the same weight or even gain weight when weighed on a scale. However, muscle also requires more calories than fat tissue, so the foods you eat will be used as muscle rather than stored as fat. Your body fat percentage will decline and you'll achieve a leaner, trimmer appearance as a result.
Calculate your body fat percentage every week or two to ensure it's steadily declining in pursuance of your target body fat percentage range.
- Don't bother trying to target a specific area of your body for weight loss, as this has been proven impossible by scientific studies. If you wish to improve the appearance of a specific body feature, work it with strength-training exercises.
- Visit your doctor for specific information about healthy and safe weight loss. Losing more than two pounds per week may be unhealthy.
Kevin Richards has been a writer and editor since 2009, specializing in fitness, health and nutrition, as well as technology, finance and legal issues. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan.