There isn’t one workout or one kind of exercise that is best for weight loss. There are actually three: Cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and flexibility or stretching. To lose weight more effectively, incorporate all of these types of activity into a complete program. When you create a balanced workout schedule, you're likely to see faster results on the scale.
Aerobic Workouts to Lose Weight
Many workouts to lose weight are aerobic. Aerobic exercise can be called cardiovascular training, cardio, or simply aerobics. Cardiovascular exercise includes any rhythmic activity that makes your heart beat more quickly and causes your breathing rate to increase.1
Running is a cardiovascular activity. So is swimming, riding a bike, and brisk walking. Though weight-lifting makes your heart rate increase and causes you to breathe harder than normal, it is considered considered a muscle-strengthening, not cardiovascular, activity.
Aerobic activity is the core of most balanced workout routines when weight loss is the goal. Why? Because aerobics burns fat and calories.
Cardiovascular activity also improves the function of your heart and lungs. While this may not directly contribute to weight loss, it will help your body perform better throughout the day, which may help you remain more active even when you are not exercising.
For example, you may be more likely to take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to the store instead of driving. These non-exercise physical activities help you burn more calories all day long.
Strength Workouts to Lose Weight
Strength training is any exercise that builds healthy muscle tissue. Strong muscles help you move your body more efficiently. Some people refer to strength training as “lifting weights,” but there are simple bodyweight exercises that qualify as strength training even though they don't involve lifting a dumbbell or a weight plate on a machine.
Sometimes, people who are trying to lose weight will skip weight-lifting because the purpose of this type of activity is to add muscle to your frame. After all, why would you do weight building exercises to lose weight? But in the long run, adding muscle helps you lose fat.
Strength training also becomes particularly important as we age. For many reasons, metabolism slows as we get older. Many women find that after menopause, weight gain is almost inevitable and weight loss is impossible. But exercisers who continue to build and maintain muscle are less likely to suffer from a slow metabolism and excessive weight gain.
If you're ready to do strength exercises to lose weight, start by doing a simple weight training program at home. Or target your arms, legs, and abs with an easy strength training routine that takes just 15 to 20 minutes, three times per week.
Flexibility Exercises to Lose Weight
Flexibility training is stretching. An effective stretching program takes only a small amount of time and can be done in just about any space. Even so, flexibility training is often the most neglected part of a workout. This is particularly unfortunate because people who stretch enjoy specific benefits that may help them lose weight.
Stretching helps maintain a good range of motion in the joints and keeps muscles loose and healthy. All of this helps you move more efficiently during the day and experience less pain from tight muscles or muscle imbalances. A healthy body is likely to move more and burn more calories.
Plus, if you include meditation in your stretching program, it may help you to sleep better at night.4 Studies have shown that people who are well-rested are more likely to make better food choices than people who are tired.5
Combine Workouts to Lose Weight
Now that you know why each kind of training matters, be sure that you include each type of training into your complete weekly plan. It doesn’t require a huge time investment.
If you currently participate in some aerobic activity on most days of the week, add 15 to 30 minutes of strength training on two of those days and just 10 minutes of stretching at the end of each session. This small time investment may help you to enjoy big rewards when it’s time to step on the scale.