Gyms nowadays offer so many different classes that it can be mind-boggling. If you need help picking the best gym classes for weight loss, here's what you need to know.
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The best gym classes for weight loss combine cardio exercise with strength training. Zumba, spinning, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), kickboxing and barre are a few of the fat burn class options.
How Weight Loss Works
First, however, it's important to understand how weight gain and weight loss work. Despite what all the commercials and infomercials would have you believe, you can't target belly fat.
The Mayo Clinic explains that calories provide your body with the energy it needs to function. However, if you eat more calories than necessary and your body is unable to burn them, it stores them in your body as fat. This fat remains in your body until you either burn it through physical activity or reduce your calorie intake so that your body has to rely on its energy reserves.
So, where does the fat go? According to Harvard Health Publishing, that's up to your genes and your hormones. Everyone's bodies store fat differently and they also burn fat differently, from different places and at different rates.
It's a common misconception that by doing exercises that target the muscles in a certain part of your body, you can lose weight there. The American Council on Exercise notes that this theory is known as "spot reduction" and it is a popular myth, even among fitness circles.
Read more: The Truth About Targeted Weight Loss
You're probably wondering where that leaves you and what you should do next. Harvard Health Publishing says a combination of a healthy diet and regular exercise should help you lose weight and shed those extra inches.
Harvard Health Publishing recommends that you aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately-intense exercise every day, or 60 minutes if possible.
A study published in the January-February 2014 issue of the journal Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases evaluated different types of exercises and their effects on weight loss. The research found that a combination of cardio with strength training was the most effective, especially if you do high-intensity cardio.
NASA explains how both cardio and strength training contribute to weight loss. Cardio helps you burn calories and can even suppress your appetite. Strength training on the other hand doesn't burn as many calories per minute as cardio, but it does help you build muscle. Muscle is more metabolically active than fat, which means having more muscle will help increase your metabolic rate. The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories your body is able to burn in a day.
When it comes to your diet, Harvard Health Publishing advises paying attention to your portion sizes and opting for complex carbs (whole grains, fruits and vegetables) and lean protein, over highly-refined carbs. Take care to avoid sugary foods and drinks and refined grains like white bread and pasta.
Harvard Health Publishing also suggests replacing the saturated fats (whole milk, butter, cheese, cream and fatty cuts of meat) and trans fats (packaged foods) in your diet with healthy, unsaturated fats (avocados and olive, sunflower, corn and canola oils). The U.S. National Library of Medicine explains that all fats have saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, and they are classified depending on how much of each they contain. Trans fats are the unhealthy fats that you should avoid at all costs.
Best Gym Classes for Weight Loss
While picking the best workout classes to lose weight, you basically need to ensure that you're getting both cardio exercise and resistance training. Classes will vary according to the specific gym, but these are some of the more common ones:
- Spinning: The Wexner Medical Center explains that spinning is an indoor cycling activity that provides high-intensity cardio exercise and you have the option of adding resistance to help build your muscular endurance. A small study published in the April-June 2016 issue of the journal Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità found that spinning helped improve waist circumference, as well as other markers of metabolic syndrome, like blood pressure and cholesterol.
- HIIT: As the name suggests, these classes involve periods of high-intensity exercise, like sprinting for example, followed by periods of moderate-intensity exercise, like walking. The Wexner Medical Center says this workout helps you build muscle and burn calories. The classes are short, usually around 30 minutes, so they're a good option if you don't have a lot of time to work out.
- Zumba: If you prefer to do something more fun, Zumba is a dance workout that involves quite a bit of cardio as well as some strength training and endurance building elements, according to the Wexner Medical Center. This may be the workout for you if you don't really enjoy exercising, since Zumba classes feel more like a dance party than a workout.
- Kickboxing: Kickboxing is a cardio workout that also helps you improve your coordination and strength. With elements of martial arts and self-defense, it can also give your confidence a boost.
- Barre: Barre workouts replicate the feel of a ballet studio, where you use the bar for some of the exercises. These workouts focus on helping you build muscles and get a lean dancer's physique with the help of bodyweight exercises and light weights; however they also involve bursts of cardio. The Wexner Medical Center says barre workouts are safe, which makes them a good option for people with injuries or pregnant women.
Read more: The Best Gym Workout Schedule
- Mayo Clinic: “Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics”
- Harvard Health Publishing: “Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It”
- American Council on Exercise: “Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn”
- Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases: "The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance"
- Wexner Medical Center: “7 Trendy Workouts: Which Is Right for You?”
- Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità: “Efficacy and Safety of Spinning Exercise in Middle-Aged and Older Adults With Metabolic Syndrome: Randomized Control Trial”
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Dietary Fats Explained”
- NASA: “Strength Training Versus Cardio: Which Is More Effective for Weight Loss?”