If you ask one hundred different trainers what is the "best" exercise to lose weight, you're likely to get 100 different answers. Although some exercise choices are more effective than others, Oregon-based fitness coach Ben Cohn reports that an individual's personal needs and tastes are more important than small differences in individual workouts.
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Cardiovascular exercises raise your heart rate for an extended period of time. Because of the continuous motion, this leads to a significantly greater calorie burn than most other activities. More calories burned means more weight lost. According to Cohn, the higher the calorie burn an exercise offers, the better it is for losing weight. Some top-burning cardio exercises include swimming, cross-country skiing and high-intensity group fitness.
Resistance exercises, such as weightlifting, build muscle by forcing your muscles to work harder when they contract. Unlike cardiovascular exercise, resistance exercises don't burn many calories. However, Harvard health writer Walter Willett reports that the more muscle a body has, the more calories it burns in all activities. In this way, resistance exercises can help with weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate throughout the day. According to Cohn, lifting weights in sets of high weight with low repetition builds muscle fastest, and is thus the best plan when exercising to lose weight.
Fitness writer Gerard Taylor recommends interval training as a way to get more out of any workout. Interval training consists of alternating between periods of mild to moderate effort and periods of high effort within the same workout. A running workout might consists of alternating between a jog and a sprint. A weight training workout would alternate between slow, steady repetitions and fast, focused effort. Regardless of what kind of exercise you choose for your weight loss, Taylor recommends making intervals a part of it.
Cohn advises that the particulars of any given exercise are less important than your ability to stick to that exercise over time. To ensure sustainability, Cohn recommends people find an exercise that is enjoyable, safe and easy to access. You should pick an exercise you'll want to do more often than you don't, one that doesn't stress your body or cause you injury, and one that doesn't require special equipment or space you won't always be able to reach. For these reasons, "You: The Owner's Manual" recommends walking and yoga. These are low-impact, enjoyable exercises you can do at any time.
Celebrity personal trainer Bill Phillips says that no matter what exercise you initially choose, you should change your routine every three or four months. According to Phillips, this keeps you energized and excited about your workouts. Cohn adds that this can help you avoid repetitive stress injuries by distributing the load over several parts of your body.