Don’t you just hate it when you’re trying to find the best workout to help you get in shape, and all the answers point to two annoying words: “It depends”?
Today, we try to answer one simple question — what’s the best workout to help you lose weight? And the answer… it depends.
Sorry guys, but there’s just no way around it.
There’s no such thing as a BEST workout program.
The question is, best for what? There are many factors that come into play when discussing what is the best workout for YOU. Some of these things are:
- What are your goals?
- What is your current level of fitness?
- What do you enjoy doing?
- How much time can you commit to exercising?
If you want to look like a magazine cover model, then choosing the right workout program is very important. However, if what you want is to lose a bit of weight, then exercise is actually not as important as getting your diet and nutrition in check.
Still, exercise is extremely important for your health, as well as how well your body functions, so it shouldn’t be overlooked.
When breaking down the different types of workouts, we can broadly categorize them into either cardio or strength training.
Cardio exercises are exercises that get your heart rate up and your sweat pouring. As its name suggests, cardiovascular exercises are great for your cardiovascular health.
Cardio exercises are also the most accessible and easiest to get into, which means that they’re perfect for beginners who are just starting out. Examples of cardio exercises are running, cycling, swimming, and even sports like football and tennis can be considered.
Strength, weight or resistance training is basically training aimed towards strengthening the muscles in our bodies. Strength training can be done by incorporating added weights like dumbbells, barbells and machines, or you can simply use your own bodyweight (such as pushups and pullups).
Once only popular with men, many women are catching on to the benefits of strength training for health as well as aesthetics.
Strength training can be a little intimidating to get started on as one might be clueless when entering the weight room for the first time. Coupled with awkward stares from the other gym-goers, many beginners will head straight for the treadmills without even getting near the weights. (Actually, no one’s really staring. It’s all in the head!)
One more point is that technique is a lot more important in strength training compared to cardio exercises. You can swim in an awkward doggy paddling style and still get a good cardio workout, but lifting weights in poor form can not only be ineffective, but potentially dangerous as well.
Which is better? Cardio vs Weights
The cardio vs weights debate is one that will never come to a conclusion. Any good workout plan should incorporate both of these elements. Cardio keeps your lungs and heart healthy, while weight training can help to preserve precious muscle mass that may be lost during the weight loss process.
When done at roughly the same intensity and for the same amount of time, generally a cardio session will burn more calories than a weightlifting session. However, strength training has been shown to help the body burn calories at a slightly elevated rate, even after the workout.
At the end of the day, weight loss is mainly about calories in vs calories out, and both cardio and strength training can help to increase how many calories you’re burning.
Furthermore, the heavier you are, the more energy it takes to move your body. So if you’re currently on the heavy side, moving your body at all (regardless of how) will burn more calories compared to someone with less body mass.
Best of Both Worlds?
If you find it hard to take an hour out of your day to exercise, know that workouts don’t have to be an hour long to be effective.
One of the most popular ways to keep a workout short but effective at the same time is to combine both elements of cardio and strength training into one workout. There are a few ways of doing this, and are usually referred to as interval training, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or metabolic conditioning.
These are usually done by performing bouts of intense exercises followed by a short period of rest, then repeat until a set time has elapsed. One such example is the 7-Minute Workout.
However, combining elements of both cardio and strength training doesn’t mean that you get the full benefits of both. These serve as a time-saver, covering more bases in less time. They are adequate if you want to increase your physical activity, but you can’t expect to get the same results working out 10 mins a day as compared to working out an hour a day.
Losing Weight Without Exercise
Another thing to take note of is something called NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). It’s basically calories you burn through normal life activities, like walking, fidgeting, washing the dishes and putting on your clothes.
When we look at two individuals, one naturally-skinny and the other naturally-heavy, it’s easy to point our fingers at their metabolism.
“Oh you’re so lucky you have a high metabolism. I have such a slow metabolism, I gain weight just by looking at a potato chip!”
The truth is that while genetics certainly play a role, your “natural” metabolism (resting metabolic rate) probably only differ slightly from the next person. If we observe closely enough though, we may be able to find a few reasons why “naturally-skinny” people are “naturally-skinny”.
For example, I have a friend who wouldn’t gain weight no matter what. He’s like a hyperactive kid, always fidgeting and can’t sit still. Those seemingly insignificant movements from fidgeting and all, actually add up to a considerable share of his daily calorie expenditure.
You don’t have to start fidgeting for no reason and become hyperactive, but the point is that calories burnt from small movements in daily activities add up , so get up and get moving!
“If you sit or lie down for 23 hours a day, and stand for only 1 (even if it’s spent working out), which demand do you think your body will more readily adapt to?” – Pawel Tsatsouline
So You Want to Look Fabulous?
In conclusion, if you’re trying to lose weight right now, start by working on your diet and nutrition.
Use exercise to supplement your weight loss progress; it doesn’t matter what exercises you’re doing at the moment, as long as you’re up and moving!
If you want to get in the best possible shape of your life, do a variety of exercises. Mix in strength training on top of your existing cardio routines or vice versa, and you’ll see impressive results in the mirror.