Changing your dietary habits is the most important action you can take for losing weight and keeping it off. However, exercise shouldn’t be ignored as it can make weight-loss results more pronounced.
Typically, when individuals lose weight, up to a quarter of that lost weight comes from lost lean body mass that includes muscle mass (1). By adding exercise into a weight loss plan, these individuals can minimize the muscle loss and lose higher amounts of fat than those who lose the same amount of weight without exercise.
Exercise also might help with keeping off the weight once it’s lost. As much of an hour of exercise per day is associated with successful weight loss, maintenance or avoiding weight regain (2).
Add High-Intensity Interval Training
One type of exercise that may have especially pronounced benefits is high-intensity interval training. Try adding sprint intervals into your next jog by including 60-second bursts at an all-out pace followed by three minutes of recovery at a comfortable pace.
By adding high-intensity intervals to your exercise routine, you can stimulate your metabolism for up to 24-hours, post-exercise. These brief, all-out bursts of activity rev up your calorie burn and keep it elevated long after your workout ends.
Lift Weights or Use Resistance Bands
Resistance training exercises can help build muscle and burn fat. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, so your overall calorie burn will be higher throughout the day and the drop in metabolism that comes with most weight loss will be prevented. You’ll also look leaner if you have more muscle and less fat.
Start with two or three sets of 10-12 repetitions of bicep curls, overhead presses, squats, and lunges using light weights until your body has adapted and you become comfortable. Then increase the weight and number of repetitions as you get stronger.
Don’t Forget the Cardio
While most cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, cycling, etc.) will not build muscle, it will help you to burn calories and lose fat mass. Cardio itself burns calories and those trying to lose weight and who include cardio into their plan lose more weight compared to those who don’t include exercise (3).
In addition, studies have demonstrated that those who perform cardio are more likely to lose visceral fat (4, 5). Visceral fat is the dangerous kind of “belly fat” that exists internally and can increase risk of chronic disease states (4,5).
Reduce Your Chance of Weight Regain
Most people who lose weight regain it all back and then some within three to five years, but regular exercise makes it more likely that you’ll maintain your ideal weight.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, those with a goal of preventing weight regain should complete 150-250 minutes per week of moderate physical activity – such as brisk walking, mowing the lawn, and swimming (6). The overall calorie burn should be between 1200-2000 calories per week, which is considered enough to prevent weight gain greater than 3 percent.
Incorporating exercise into your lifestyle will not only contribute to benefits in your overall health, but will aid in your weight loss journey as well. However, it’s always suggested that you check with your doctor before starting any type of exercise regimen.
Heymsfield SB, Gonzalez MCC, Shen W, Redman L, and Thomas D. Weight loss composition is one-fourth fat-free mass: a critical review and critique of this widely cited rule. Obes Rev. 2014 Apr; 15(4): 310-21. doi: 1111/obr.12143.
Santos I, Vierira PN, Silva MN, Sardinha LB, and Teixeira PJ. Weight control behaviors of highly successful weight loss maintainers: the Portuguese Weight Control Registry. J Behav Med. 2017 Apr; 40(2): 366-71. doi: 1007/s10865-016-9786-y.
Wu T, Gao X, Chen M, and Van Dam RM. Long-term effectiveness of diet-plus-exercise interventions vs. diet-only interventions for weight loss: a meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2009 May; 10(3): 313-323. doi: 1111/j.1467-789X.2008.00547.x.
Keating SE, Hackett, DA, Parker HM, O’Connor HT, Gerofi JA, Sainsbury A, Baker MK, Chuter VH, Caterson ID, George J, and Johnson NA. Effect of aerobic exercise training dose on liver fat and visceral adiposity. J Hepatol. 2015 Jul; 63(1): 174-82. doi: 1016/j.jhep.2015.02.022.
Ohkawara K, Tanaka S, Miyachi M, Ishikawa-Takata K, and Tabata I. A dose-response relation between aerobic exercise and visceral fat reduction: systematic review of clinical trials. Int J Obes. 2007 Dec 1: 31(12): 1786.
Donnelly JE, Blair SN, Jakicic JM, Manore MM, Rankin JW, and Smith BK. American College of Sports Medicine Position Stand. Appropriate physical activity intervention strategies for weight loss and prevention of weight regain for adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Feb; 41(2): 459-71. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181949333.