Losing weight is easier said than done, and there are no shortcuts or prodigious formulas to easily take off extra pounds. Weight loss, in all circumstances, must be a progressive process that involves a combination of a healthy diet and exercise.
How does exercise help you lose weight? Which home exercises are the most helpful? This article takes a look at the evidence.
How Can Exercise Help You Lose Weight?
Studies show that inactivity is one of the major factors in weight gain and obesity (1, 2). Being physically active is important to reach your weight loss goals. Regular exercise can help increase your metabolic rate to burn more calories (3, 4). More studies have shown that putting together aerobic exercise and resistance training can boost fat loss and maintain muscle mass, which are both important to keep excess weight off (5, 6, 7).
How Much Exercise Is Needed for Weight Loss?
To lose weight, you need to create a calorie deficit. The number of calories you consume needs to be less than the number of calories you burn. How much weight you lose depends on the amount of exercise you’re willing to perform over the course of a week.
According to health experts, you should get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week to see substantial changes (8).
You should also perform strength-training activities that involve all major muscle groups at least two days each week.
If you want to lose one pound each week, you need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit, which means you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume in one week.
What Are the Best Exercises You Can Do At Home to Lose Weight?
While many types of exercise can be effective for weight loss, running is quite hard to beat, alongside a healthy diet. Evidence shows that runners were leaner and lighter than those who did the same amounts of any other type of workout.
There are several styles of running and each has its own unique purpose and benefits. Most of us know the base or normal runs. These are short to moderate length runs, approximately 10 kilometers, and are done at your own natural pace. Long runs are done at the same pace but over a longer distance of about 15 to 20 kilometers. This type of run is perfect for improving your endurance and overall fitness.
Whatever your preferred style is, you can pick up running to shed some weight!
It Burns the Most Number of Calories than Other Exercises
To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you eat, and running is one of the best ways to do it. As mentioned earlier, it can help you burn more calories as compared to other styles of exercise because it involves the use of many different muscles at their maximum power, especially during high-intensity interval training (9).
Another study showed that running on a treadmill or track can help you burn more calories than walking. There’s a difference of approximately 33-35 calories per mile. While this number may not seem significant at first, running more than 10 miles can give you a whopping 330-350 more calories burnt as compared to walking the same distance (10).
Experts from Harvard also found the same results. An average 70-kilogram man can burn more than 370 calories by running at a moderate pace of 10 kilometers per hour for 30 minutes. This may be equal to the usual count of calories burnt during vigorous swimming and martial arts. It is even more than what you can get from playing half-an-hour of basketball (11).
It Continues to Burn Calories Even After Training
While doing any type of exercise regularly can help you lose weight, not all can continue burning calories after training. Interval runs and hill repeats, which are considered high-intensity pieces of training as we have discussed earlier, can continue burning calories up to 48 hours after your run (12).
While this so-called “after-burn effect” has not yet been documented in running, it has been backed up by science through cycling, which is yet another high-intensity workouts and is easier to use for a controlled laboratory study. After cycling for 45 minutes at an intense pace, participants lost 519 calories during the activity and an additional 190 calories over the 14 hours following exercise (13).
It Makes You Eat Less by Suppressing Your Appetite
A lot of people would try to reduce their calorie intake by eating less or changing the types of food they eat. While this may work for some, others may just experience increased feelings of hunger and make losing weight a hard-to-fight battle.
Many studies have found that high-intensity running can combat this challenge by suppressing your appetite after an exercise. It is believed that running can help decrease the levels of ghrelin, a hunger hormone, and produce more peptide YY, a satiety hormone. One study found that running for an hour and performing strength training for 90 minutes can both reduce ghrelin levels compared to no activity. However, only running has increased PYY production (14). Another evidence showed that 60 minutes of running can lower ghrelin levels for 3 to 9 hours (15).
It Specifically Targets Belly Fat
Having excess belly fat can be dangerous for your health. Many studies have linked belly fat to a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions (16). The good news is that moderate to high aerobic exercises such as running can help reduce belly fat, regardless of diet.
High-intensity running yielded better results as compared to low-intensity running. Also, high-intensity interval training performed three times weekly had significantly lessened body fat and belly fat as compared to a steady pace workout.
Cycling is a popular exercise that improves your fitness and can help you lose weight. Although cycling is traditionally done outdoors, many gyms and fitness centers have stationary bikes that allow you to cycle while staying indoors.
It is estimated that a 155-pound individual burns around 260 calories per 30 minutes of cycling on a stationary bike at a moderate pace, or 298 calories per 30 minutes on a bicycle at a moderate pace of 19–22.4 kilometers per hour (11).
Cycling is great for people of all fitness levels, from beginners to athletes. Plus, it’s a non-weight-bearing and low-impact exercise, so it won’t place much stress on your joints.
3. Interval Training
High-Intensity Interval Training includes short bursts of intense workout alternated with low-intensity recovery periods. Surprisingly, many people agree that it is the most time-efficient way to exercise (17, 18). Normally, a single session will range from 10 to 30 minutes.
Despite how short the routine is, it can give you the same health benefits as when you double moderate-intensity exercises. Activities may vary but among the favorites are sprinting, jumping rope, and biking. The specific amount of time you exercise and recover will also differ based on the activity you choose and how intensely you are performing.
For instance, you may use a stationary bike to cycle as fast as you can against high resistance for 30 seconds, followed by several minutes of slow and easy cycling with low resistance. This is one round of repetition. You need to complete 4-6 repetitions in one session.
Regardless of how you want to do it, HIIT should always involve short periods of vigorous exercise that will increase your heart rate.
It Helps You Burn More Calories Within A Short Period of Time
You can burn more calories easily using HIIT. Experts found 25-30% more calories were burnt within 30 minutes using HIIT as compared to other types of exercise like biking, running, and weight training (19).
In this particular study, one HIIT repetition only included 20 seconds of rigorous training, followed by 40 seconds of rest. This is just 1/3 of the other groups’ exercise time. Although each exercise session was half an hour long in this study, it is common for HIIT exercises to be much shorter than traditional workout sessions. This is because HIIT allows you to burn approximately the same amount of calories while spending less time exercising.
It Increases Your Metabolism For Hours After Exercise
HIIT exercises help you burn calories even after you are done with your routine. HIIT can boost your metabolism for hours after a workout. In fact, just two minutes of sprinting can help increase your metabolism over 24 hours as much as 30 minutes of running (20). HIIT can also direct your body towards burning fat instead of carbs for energy.
It Makes You Lose More Fat
Studies were consistent in showing that HIIT can help you lose fat. People who are doing HIIT exercises 3 times weekly for 20 minutes per session have lost an average of 2 kilograms of body fat in 12 weeks, even without dietary changes (21). Perhaps more important was the 17% reduction in visceral fat, which surrounds internal organs.
HIIT can be very effective in reducing body fat, despite your busy schedule.
It Helps You Gain Muscle
Aside from helping you with fat loss, HIIT exercises have shown to increase mass in the primary muscles being used during sessions in some people (22).
While weight lifting remains to be the gold standard to increase muscle mass, HIIT exercises can support a small amount of muscle growth too!
4. Weight Lifting
Weight lifting is a type of strength training that employs the use of weights for resistance. As it gives stress to your muscles, it allows them to adapt and get stronger, similar to how aerobic exercises are strengthening your heart. This can be performed using free weights like dumbbells and barbells, or with the help of weight machines.
While it is true that cardiovascular exercises help you burn more calories per session, lifting weights allows your body to burn more calories long-term.
Weight training can help you build more muscles as compared to cardio exercises. Muscles are more effective at burning calories as compared to other tissues in the body, including fat. Building muscle is also the key to increasing your resting metabolism, the number of calories you burn at rest.
One study showed that weight training can give men a 9% increase in their resting metabolisms if they do 24 weeks of weight training. Women benefitted too, but the increase is smaller, only amounting to approximately 4% (23). This sounds fairly good, right?
Aside from helping you build muscles and increase your metabolism gradually, weight training also has other significant calorie-burning effects. Evidence suggests that you burn more calories in the succeeding hours following a weight training session, compared to cardio exercises. In fact, resting metabolism can stay elevated for up to 38 hours after weight training (24). All of these proved that the calorie-burning effects of weights are not only limited to when you are exercising. You can still burn calories for hours or even days after.
The practice of yoga comes with many benefits, both for physical, mental, and spiritual health, which allow you to create a better version of yourself. Many use yoga as a tool for weight loss.
It Helps Burn Calories
While yoga is far different from other aerobic exercises, a review of studies found that yoga can help with weight loss by burning calories. There are several active, intense forms of yoga that can help prevent weight gain. Vinyasa, Ashtanga, and power yoga are excellent examples. Power yoga and Vinyasa are offered at hot yoga studios and keep you moving constantly.
Restorative yoga is not that physical, but it can still help in weight loss. In fact, it has helped overweight women to lose weight, including belly fat (25). These results are promising especially for those whose weight may make extremely physical exercises difficult.
It Decreases Stress
Yoga is very popular for its ability to reduce stress and encourage relaxation. In fact, several studies have proved that it can decrease the secretion of cortisol, which is also known as the primary stress hormone (26). Yoga was also found to be effective in lowering levels of stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression among emotionally distressed women. The same results were noted on a 10-weeks study involving more than 130 people. Yoga helped improve their mental health and quality of life (27). When used along with meditation, yoga can be a powerful tool to keep stress in check.
It Develops Mindfulness and Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
Yoga’s mental and spiritual aspects can help one develop his or her mindfulness. This can increase your awareness. It can help you make better choices about food and daily lifestyle. People who practiced yoga developed mindful eating and were able to avoid unhealthy foods. Another study also found that mindfulness training has short-term benefits regarding binge eating and exercise participation (28).
Mindful eating has helped people develop healthy eating habits. It helped increase weight loss, control blood sugar, and treat disordered eating behaviors. One study included yoga in an outpatient eating disorder treatment program. As observed in more than 50 patients, yoga reduced both the symptoms and preoccupation with food (29).
Since you will be advised not to do yoga when you are feeling full, you may notice that you make healthy food choices before your session. After yoga, you’ll be more likely to ask for fresh, unprocessed foods. Chewing each bite slowly and thoroughly can also lead to less consumption.
The amount of weight you’ll lose from yoga would also depend on several other factors like sleep, lifestyle, and eating habits. You still have to be mindful of the importance of taking a diet rich in whole, fresh foods.
Do yoga as often as you can, but doing active and intense poses 3-5 times weekly for at least an hour is highly recommended. On the other days, do restorative yoga to feel relaxed. If you are a beginner, start slowly and be patient in building up your practice. This increases your strength and flexibility to prevent injuries. If you cannot attend a full class, do it at home 5-6 times weekly for at least 20 minutes.
You can do yoga with other activities like walking, swimming, or cycling for added cardiovascular benefits. Weigh yourself at the same time daily and not right after every session, especially if you are doing hot yoga. This is to avoid false reading caused by water weight loss.
Swimming is also a form of cardio exercise. But unlike walking or running, moving through the water creates extra resistance, forcing you to use more muscles.
Swimming can tone your upper body, lower body, and core all at the same time. It gives you a full-body workout and more overall muscle definition versus other cardio routines. By building muscles, you are also burning more calories. It can also help you burn belly fat! Evidence showed that women who swam 3 times weekly lost more fat around their waists and hips compared to those who walked 3 times weekly (30).
What’s more is that water-based exercises are low-impact, so they are easier on your lower extremities. Swimming can give you cardio and muscle building without the heavy wear and tear on your body that you can get from land-based activities such as running and weight lifting.
It does not take very long to reap the fat-burning benefits of swimming. With swimming, a 150-pound person can burn approximately 400 calories, on average, during an hour-long swim at a moderate pace. This can increase to 700 calories if vigorously done. However, these numbers don’t hold true for everybody. The number of calories you burn during swimming will also depend on your weight, duration of exercise, stroke used, and swim efficiency.
You will burn more calories if you swim faster and cover more distance. The fastest swim stroke is freestyle, which can torch around 404 calories within 30 minutes. But, that doesn’t mean you must opt for the freestyle every time you get into the pool.
Again, the number of calories you burn will also depend on duration and frequency. If you prefer the breaststroke, which can help you burn approximately 367 calories within 30 minutes, you just have to swim a little longer.
Compare these numbers to just 100 calories for 30 minutes of brisk walking or 300 calories for 30 minutes of running at 6 miles per hour. You’ll notice how effective swimming is in burning calories compared to other exercises. Mix up your strokes to work different muscles and keep things interesting!
Lastly, swimming is a safe exercise for everyone, including pregnant women and people with disabilities, arthritis, and injury. This too is enjoyable for kids and teens and is affordable compared to other routines!
Many exercises can be performed at home to help you lose weight.
Some great choices for burning calories include running, cycling, interval training, yoga, swimming, and weight training.
It’s most important to choose an exercise that you enjoy doing. This makes it more likely that you’ll stick to it long term and see results.
(7) https:/ /www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10487375