The right workout routine will not only supercharge your weight-loss efforts, but also boost your confidence, combat stress and even help prevent illness. Over time, you'll likely see your blood pressure and heart rate drop as your energy rises. You'll also have a lower risk of diabetes and heart disease, and enjoy stronger muscles and bones. If you're a workout rookie or have any medical conditions, don't forget to visit your doctor before starting a new exercise plan.
Don't be ashamed if your fitness level is relatively low right now -- there's nowhere to go but up. As a beginner, start out with 30 minutes of moderate cardio, five days per week. This is the minimum recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Try speedwalking, swimming or cycling on a flat surface. Also, perform resistance training twice weekly for 20 minutes. Try body-weight exercises such as squats, lunges, V-ups, crunches, bent-knee pushups and isometric biceps curls, which only require a desk or other edged surface. Perform one set of 10 repetitions per exercise.
If you're in decent shape right now, energize your routine with cardio intervals 45 minutes a day, five days a week. Start with a brisk walk for three minutes, jog for two minutes, and repeat. You can also do this with swimming, cycling or other exercises as long as you alternate moderate and vigorous intensity. In addition to cardio, perform strength training every other day, working all muscle groups. Use light dumbbells for body-weight moves such as squats, lunges and curls. Perform two sets of 10 reps for each exercise.
If you're in the fitness big leagues, go for an hour a day of cardio, five days per week. Stick with high-intensity activities like jogging, heavy lap swimming and racquetball. Perform strength training every other day for 30 minutes a session, using enough weight that your muscles feel worn out after each 10-rep set. Perform three sets of each exercise.
When it comes to trimming down, exercise is only one piece of the puzzle. What you eat actually affects weight loss more than working out, although exercise is vital for maintenance. Figure out your daily calorie expenditure, and cut 500 calories from that number to lose a pound a week. Focus on making permanent changes to the types of foods you eat; ditch the soda and fries for sparkling water and fresh greens, for example. A diet of whole foods served fresh, steamed or baked will help those pounds come off.
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.