What is the best exercise to lose weight?

When you are trying to lose some weight, the recommendation is to exercise in order to speed up weight loss. But which exercise is better? Which one is the best for weight loss? Is there a type of exercise that is better than another when trying to lose weight? Does it actually matter what type of exercise you do, as long as you are active? But if you are short on time, wouldn’t you want to do the type of exercise that is the best for weight loss (and not waste time on certain types of exercises)?

From what I learned in the past, I understand that HIIT workouts (High-Intensity Interval Training) are really good for weight loss as they tend to increase metabolism more than some other types of exercise. This type of workouts tend to be shorter and can burn lots of calories but they are very intense.

Cardio workouts, on the other hand, are also good for burning calories and creating a calorie deficit but you will need more time for them. However, is there really such a thing as “best exercise to lose weight” or should the approach be different and we should take into consideration a variety of exercises? I am not a fitness expert so I decided to get an opinion on this topic from personal trainers and fitness professionals. I have asked them the following question “What is the best exercise to lose weight” and here is what they say:

Exercise is wonderful for the body but focus on what you eat first

A qualified yoga instructor from Body Tonic Clinic explains:

It’s a bit of a misconception that we lose weight from exercise. True: exercise burns calories, but very slowly. If weight loss is the main ambition, it is all about what we consume that counts.
Even a few simple changes can make all the difference. Sugar-free alternatives to fizzy drinks are worse than their sugar-packed equivalents. The artificial sweeteners alter your gut flora and make you eat more than you would have just by drinking the sugary can. This can promote obesity and diabetes. (As reported in: Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial Sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014 Oct 9;514 (7521):181-86)

The main cause of weight gain has been identified as insulin, our fat-storage hormone. After decades of telling us to eat carbs, mounting research has overturned this information. Fat is no longer the enemy that we should avoid. A review of fifty-three studies found the higher the fat (the good fats, not trans fats) and the lower the carbs, the greater the weight loss. It’s not about the calories themselves, rather it is about how they affect your metabolism. Fats speed up metabolism and burn body fat. Carbs do the opposite and promote weight gain. (Source: Tobias DK, Chen M, Manson JE, Ludwig DS, Willett W, Hu FB. Effect of low-fat diet interventions versus other diet interventions on long-term weight change in adults: a systematic review and meta analysis. Lancet Diabetes Endocrinol. 2015 Dec;3(12):968-79)

So ditch the bran flakes and eat boiled eggs for breakfast instead. Another great thing to snack on is nuts. My favourite are pecan nuts. They are stuffed with antioxidants and are adept to burning fat, especially belly fat (Babio N, Toledo E, Estruch R, et al. PREDIMED Study Investigators. Mediterranean diets and metabolic syndrome status in the PREDIMED randomized trial. CMAJ. 2014 Nov 18;186(17):E649-E657.)

So my advice is: obviously exercise is wonderful for the body. Exercise regularly to keep the body reinvigorated and functioning properly, but if you want to lose weight – eat yourself slim! Switch to a high fat, low carb diet, and if you can’t give up the fizzy drinks, ditch the ‘diet’ ones at least.

Do both, cardio and weight work

When AXA PPP healthcare’s team of experienced physiologists were asked what they think it’s more beneficial for weight loss, cardio or weight work, they explained:

In short, do both! A combination of cardio and weight work is the most beneficial for weight loss as cardio-based exercises will help you burn calories during the session and weight work will increase the rate your body burns calories when you’re not exercising due to the muscle you gain.

Train with weights

A personal trainer Faye Pritchard from Faye’s Fitness PT said:

Personally, my favourite exercise for weight loss is training with weights. Clients with weight loss goals can worry about doing weights, fearing that it’ll make them put on weight or bulk up but it can be more effective to do weight training than any other type of exercise. What I usually recommend for clients with weight loss goals is three sessions per week, so weight training with some cardio like swimming or HIIT. Added to this, they must have calorie deficit- so taking in less calories than they are consuming. It’s not about them eating less though, sometimes quite the opposite. They need to be eating the right things and getting the right amount of weight and cardio.


Focus on strength and resistance exercises

A holistic therapist and a Power Plate master trainer, Vessy Zlatareva said:

Every aspect of physical training should be designed to make you stronger, leaner and healthier. For example, because cardio training moves the largest muscles, which is where the most unwanted weight tends to be, it’s a great way to burn the most calories.

However, probably the best recommendation I would have for those looking to lose weight would be strength and resistance exercises. Squats are a really great example of this. Not only do squats work some of the largest muscles in the body, but they also build these muscles. Stronger muscles burn a greater number of calories in the body, leading to greater weight loss. Combine these squats with exercise on a whole-body vibration machine and you really have a great, weight-busting exercise move.

Finally, recovery is often dismissed as part of a weight loss programme. The importance of relaxation/massage and deep breathing should not be underestimated, however. All three can promote healthy sleep, which not only allows the mind to rest but rejuvenates the body system, contributing to enhanced weight loss.

A hybrid of exercises

A personal trainer and instructor at F45 Stratford, Lee Colliver, encourages his followers to focus more on enjoying fitness and gaining an understanding of how to live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Lee believes that a hybrid of resistance/weight training, HIIT and bodyweight exercises will allow fitness to become enjoyable and sustainable.

F45 Training combines all three training types with its rich and diverse array of classes, with sessions specified towards resistance/weighted exercises as well as cardio/HIIT. This new style of training combining weighted and functional sessions is fast becoming a popular and efficient way of burning fat. If ‘losing weight’ is the main goal, it is essential that the body is in a calorie deficit, however, this is a broad term as weight is something that can be very misleading. Factors such as hormones, hydration, sleep and time of day can all be contributing factors into weight fluctuation.

So what is the best exercise to lose weight then?

If I summarise everything about what experts say about the best exercise for weight loss, here are the key points:

  • Don’t focus only on cardio, do both cardio and weight work
  • Focus on what you eat first, you can’t out-train a bad diet. Create a calorie deficit (take in fewer calories than you consume).
  • Do weight training 2-3 times a week
  • Squats are great for building big leg muscles which burn a greater number of calories in the body, leading to greater weight loss
  • Exercise on a whole-body vibration machine to speed up the reduction of abdominal fat
  • Focus on a combination of exercises that you enjoy: resistance/weight training, HIIT and bodyweight exercises