The Top 10 Exercises for Weight Loss

best exercises for weight lossOK, we have written at length about the best exercises to help you to lose weight, but the article concluded that all exercise is beneficial and a workout is only as good as the person undertaking it.

While this is still true, we know that many of you really want some better guidance on what best exercises to do to get in shape. But, what is best, running or swimming to lose weight? Is weight loss through spinning better than circuit training, and can step aerobics beat martial arts? Here is our top ten exercises lose weight, ranked by calories burned per hour (an approximate figure for guidance only).

1. Running

Running woman in pinkRunning is an excellent way to get fit and lose weight. Its main benefits are that you only need a good pair of running shoes to get started. Assuming you live in a safe area, you can run from your home, so no need to join gyms or pay personal trainers. Progression is simple too, you just run further or faster, or both. Humans are well designed for running.

The downside of running is that it can be hard on the body for some people. There are two schools of thought on running. The first say that running is fantastic and does no harm; the other says that it wears the joints and leads to mobility problems later in life. The jury is out, and it is likely that some individuals are simply better built for running than others.

2. Spinning

spinningSpinning is the next best way to exercise for weight loss. Cycling is an excellent form of exercise. It works the large muscles of the legs too, helping to burn additional energy. Its low impact nature means you can go for longer and there is less risk of injury.

The downside is that you need a spinning bike, and these are very expensive. It is also best done in a class environment where you are encouraged to work harder – this is actually part of the appeal, the fitness instructor will motivate you to burn more.

3. Circuit training

Circuit Training WorkoutsCircuit training can take many forms and this is part of its appeal. A pure bodyweight circuit training workout can be done anywhere, indoors or outdoors, at home or in the gym. As the whole body is worked through a succession of exercises you can exercise more intensively; while your legs recover from squats you do your push-ups, then you move to core exercises, and back to legs.

There really is no downside to a circuit training workout other than it is not ideal for building lots of muscle.

4. Martial arts / boxing

boxing-workoutsMartial arts and boxing both provide excellent workouts. The best classes for fitness and weight loss tend to be styles that enter competitions as fighters need to be in excellent shape. So kickboxing, taekwondo, karate, judo and MMA are excellent choices. Most clubs should provide a good workout.

One of the biggest advantages of martial arts is that they really engage children and can put a person on a good course for long-term health and fitness. Many people start during their teens and carry on to become excellent martial artists and remain fit for years to come. Remember, few people use karate for weight loss – it’s done, along with other martial arts, primarily to practice self defence and then to get fit – weight loss is usually just a positive side effect.

5. Dance workouts

Couple ballroom dancingDance is great fun and provides a great workout. It is actually very similar to martial arts, and some dance school will set circuit training workouts to improve strength and core fitness.

Ballroom and Latin dance is making a comeback thanks to Strictly Come Dancing. Other dance workouts include Zumba, Salsa, Line Dancing, Street Dance, Flamenco, Jazzercise and the newest classes, FitSteps.

  • Calories burned: 300 to 500 per hour, depending on the style.
  • Check out the dancing pages.

6. Step aerobics class

step aerobicsStep aerobics classes can get you burning up to 550 Calories in an hour. Step aerobics burns more calories because you are constantly lifting your bodyweight up by about 12 inches (30 cm) and this requires a lot of energy.

Step aerobics seems to have lost popularity in recent years as gyms have introduced a new range of fitness classes. An alternative to step aerobics is to simply climb some stairs while listening to your favorite music – this should burn as many calories!

  • Calories burned: 550 per hour

7. Rowing

woman on a rowing machineRowing machines are so often overlooked today. They are present in just about every gym, but often ignored in favour of cross trainers and ab machines. When rowing you work the whole body, pushing with your legs and pulling with back, shoulders and arms.

You can work at a steady pace or sprint, so interval training is easy to achieve. For home gyms a rowing machine is relatively cheap and most can be folded away to take up less space than bikes, treadmills or cross trainers.

8. Swimming

Man Swimming in PoolSwimming is a low impact exercise that works the whole body. For men it is a great way to develop broad shoulders, for women it helps to tone arms and legs. Because it is low impact it results in few injuries amongst casual swimmers.

The downside of swimming is that you need a pool, assuming that there is no safe open water to use. However, most towns and cities have a public swimming pool.

  • Calories burned: 500 per hour

 9. Cross Trainer / Elliptical

Woman on an elliptical cross trainerA cross trainer provides a good workout. The intensity can be increased easily by either increasing speed or resistance. You can do long cardio sessions or interval training / hill workouts.

The only downside really is that they can become somewhat boring and the equipment is expensive buy and maintain. I gave mine away after it broke down for the third time.

  • Calories burned:  500 per hour

10. Jogging

Young woman jogging through the parkLike its big brother running, jogging is a good way to lose weight. Jogging is a lower intensity exercise. The key difference is that when jogging one foot is almost always in contact with the ground. You lift your body less and travel at a slower pace, and as a result burn much fewer calories in the process.

For those who are not fit enough to run, which is a lot of people, jogging is an effective way to lose fat. You still need to increase distance / time jogging. It is not a short-term fix; expect to spend three to six months jogging before you start shedding all the weight.

  • Calories burned: 500 per hour

Round up – Spinning or Running for Weight Loss?

Swimming, jogging and using a cross trainer all burn a similar amount of energy per hour. In some ways swimming is the best of the lower intensity workouts as it works the whole body.

All are really excellent ways to stay in shape and it does come down to personal preference. Running and spinning may well burn the most calories per hour, but one hour of martial arts or dancing passes much quicker than an hour or running or spinning. Also, you always use the same muscle groups if you stick to one exercise and this limits the overall fitness and health benefits.

Exercise that helps tone / build some muscle is always a good idea as this gives you a little insurance policy for times when you stop exercising. Spinning will of course help you develop large thighs – not something everybody wants though!

Whatever you chose to do, try to workout at least three times a week to stay in shape. Aim to get a minimum of 150 minutes exercise a week, which is five 30 minute sessions, or two 45 minute sessions and one 60 minute session. See How Much Exercise Is Needed to Get Fit and Lose Weight? for an explanation.

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