Exercises for weight loss; a detailed guide

Exercises for weight loss; a detailed guide
  • PublishedMay 4, 2020

One of the most asked questions, especially by people trying to lose weight is; “What are the exercises for weight loss?”. In this comprehensive guide, we are going to look at the low impact and high impact exercise for weight loss.

Nutritionists and dieticians agree that the best way to lose weight is regular body exercise and healthy eating. This means that calorie intake must be less than calorie expenditure.

In addition to promoting weight loss, exercise has been linked to many other benefits, including improved mood, stronger bones, and a reduced risk of many chronic diseases

In this article, the exercises for weight loss include; running, walking, swimming, dancing, yoga, jumping rope, weight lifting, cycling, boxing, and machine exercises.

So, how often should one exercise to lose weight?

It is not doubtable that the most effective way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you take in. That is to say a healthy diet and regular body exercise.

According to the healthline, the number of times one should exercise to lose weight depends on how quickly you want to see results. But for healthy weight loss (1 to 2 pounds per week) you have to commit to 4 to 5 days of exercise per week, according to center for disease control and prevention.

For beginners, you can start with 2 to 3 days a week and slowly upgrade to 5 days.

Exercises for weight loss

Below are some of the low impact and high impact exercises for weight loss

1. Dancing

Imagine having fun and losing weight at the same time. Dancing is one of the body movements that burn calories, increases your heartbeat, and eventually help weight loss. According to Harvard Medical School, a 155-pound person can burn close to 205 calories within 30 minutes of dancing.

Dancing works the leg muscles, glutes, hips, and the lower back.

2. Walking

This is one of the easiest and convenient exercises that can help weight loss. It does not require exercise equipment and puts no stress on your joints. For beginners, you can begin with 30 minutes for 3 days a week and increase gradually with time.

One way of enjoying the walks is by taking your dog with you(if you have one) during the walks. Choosing to take steps instead of the lift at your work is as good.

Walking targets most of the body’s muscles including the hamstring, glutes, quadriceps, abs, and more.

You can see a post we have written on how to lose weight by walking. In this article, you will also learn about other health benefits of walking and also get to know how much walking you will need to do.

3. Jogging or running

exercises for weight loss
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

This is another excellent one among the exercises for weight loss. With running, all you need is a pair of sneakers to hit the road.

It burns a lot of calories during and after workouts. To increase more intensity in your running, you may run uphill, incline on a treadmill. Running targets glutes and leg muscles.

We have written an excellent article on running sneakers. In this article, you will learn what to consider while you choose your best pair. It also has our best recommendations for sneakers you can choose from. You can see the full article here.  

4. Yoga

Yoga is a mind and body practice that was introduced 5000 years ago in ancient Indian philosophy. It combines meditation, physical postures, and breathing techniques. Although some people don’t look at it as a weight loss exercise, it burns a considerable amount of calories that aid weight loss.

In one study where 60 obese women were subjected to two 90-minute sessions of yoga per week for 12weeks, it was established that the obese women had a 3.8 cm reduction in the waist circumference more than the control group.

Our article on yoga poses for weight loss will show you exactly what to do in order to achieve results with yoga sessions. Please check it out here.

5. Swimming

This is one activity that gets the entire body doing work. During swimming, most of the muscles of the body are engaged, which makes it one sure way to exercise for weight loss.

Harvard Medical School estimates that a 70kg person burns approximately 233 calories per half an hour of swimming.

Swimming is a low impact exercise that targets your entire muscle groups without a ton of pounding on your joints.

6. Jumping rope

I am sure when we talk of the jumping rope; your mind goes back to the days of your P.E class when you first learned how to use the jump rope. With the jumping rope exercises for weight loss, all you need is a jump rope, a pair of sneakers, and an open ground.

The jump rope is cheap, portable, and can be used with other forms of exercises like running. This exercise raises your metabolism and can burn around 10 calories per minute which helps to shed off some pounds. 

Jumping rope exercises target the muscles in your lower body, including the quads, glutes, calves, and hamstrings. it also uses upper body muscles like shoulder, arms, and core.

7. Weight lifting

Weight lifting is one of the most effective exercises that help weight loss. It can be done in the gym or at home. Lifting weights increases your resting metabolic rate, meaning that the body can burn more calories even after working out. Also as you lift the weights, the body gains muscle mass with time. The more muscle mass you gain, the more calories you burn. 

According to Harvard medical school, a person with 185 pounds can burn around 133 calories every 30 minutes of weight lifting.

You can learn more about the benefits of lifting weights here. In this article, you will also learn what happens to your body when you start lifting weights. You will also learn about newbie gains and how to maximise them. See the full article.

8. Boxing exercises for weight loss

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

This is a high impact cardio exercise that offers a significant calorie burn. Boxing burns more calories than most cardiovascular exercises.

Throwing punches engages muscles in your legs, hips, glutes, core, back, shoulders, chest, arms, and oblique developing your strength and power.

 9. Cycling

Apart from using your bike for transport in the quarantine, cycling can help to burn more calories because of the nature of the activity. 

Cycling targets your thighs, lower leg muscles your core, and the waist. The spot tones your muscles and the toner your body gets, the more calories you burn for weight loss.

10. Machine exercises for weight loss

An exercise machine is any machine used for physical exercise. They can be used from either home or the gym. These vary from manual to computerized electronic machines. According to Wikipedia, most exercise machines have ergometers to measure the work exerted while exercising.

Exercise machines simulate real-life movements like working and running, targeting most body muscles hence burning a considerable number of calories for weight loss.

Related article:

Our article about the fat burning home workouts for women has a lot more examples especially on how you can burn fat while at home. 

What are the best low impact exercises for weight loss?

Low-impact exercises refer to movements or workouts that do not exert great force on the joints. Other trainers consider low impact exercises to be motions that keep at least one foot on the ground during the exercises. The low impact exercises include;

  • Walking
  • Swimming
  • Strength training like lunges, squats, box jumps and more
  • Water aerobics
  • Yoga
  • Some gym exercises like treadmill and Stairmaster

How do exercises work for weight loss?

To lose weight, you have to burn more calories than you consume. Exercises help you to achieve this goal by burning off the extra calories that you consume.

Secondly, exercise helps you to gain muscle mass. This muscle mass helps you to burn more calories at rest. When all this is coupled with a proper diet, the metabolism increases hence burning off the excess fats faster. One pound of muscle, for example, occupies 20% less space than a pound of fat.

Last but not least, exercises help to be mindful of our dietary habits, meaning that we can easily make healthier food choices which are nutritious but yet low in calories.

What food should I eat when exercising for weight loss? 


You cannot depend on exercises alone for weight loss. A well-balanced diet is as important. One has to eat before and after exercise.

Eating before working out

Eating before working out makes you full, reduces hunger, and gives your body the energy you need for the exercise.

To maximize results, try to get a meal containing carbohydrates 2-3 hours before you exercise. This is because carbohydrates contain glucose which is the main source of energy for your exercises.

You must eliminate proteins, snacks, and fats as you get nearer to your exercise time. This is because the body takes 4-6 hours to digest fats and close to 3 hours to break down the proteins.

Examples of foods rich in carbs to eat before exercise include;
  • Bananas
  • Cereals
  • Oatmeal
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Yams
  • Fruits and smoothies

Food after exercise

This meal is very important because it gives you the energy to recover from the workout and to replace the lost glycogen during the workout. Glycogen is a form of glucose that is stored in the liver and the muscles. You, therefore, need to eat and drink to replace the lost sugars.

According to the national center for biotechnology information, one should consume 0.14–0.23 grams of protein, per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) and 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg)  after a workout to give the body the lost sugars and the proteins that will help in muscle building. 

The foods to eat after workout include;
  • Water to help you replace the electrolytes
  • Lean beef
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fish 
  • Yogurt 
  • Bananas

Why do you not lose weight yet you exercise daily?

Losing and maintaining a healthy weight is not always easy. When calorie intake is either equal or more than calorie expenditure, weight loss can be impossible. This may be caused by the following factors.

1. Not keeping track of your eating

If you are trying to lose weight, make sure you are entirely in control of what you are eating. This will help you to know your daily calorie intake, and in case adjustments are needed, they can be followed precisely.

2. Not eating enough proteins

Having a heavy breakfast full of proteins, for example, makes you feel less hungry and have fewer cravings throughout the day. With high proteins, you can easily build muscle mass meaning that you can burn calories at rest. 

3. Eating too many calories

Most people who fail to lose weight are eating too many calories. You should, therefore, try to weigh your food and track your calories if you’re not losing weight. 

4. Not having enough sleep

Research shows that adults and children with poor sleep have a 55% and 89% greater risk of becoming obese respectively. Sleep deprivation leads to a change in the hormones that are responsible for hunger and appetite. Sleep deprivation is likely to increase craving leading to overeating.

5. Drinking too much alcohol

Alcoholic drinks like beer, wine, and sugary beverages are very high in calories. It is therefore very hard to lose weight when you still consume such drinks even though you are exercising.

6. Having medical conditions

If you hit the gym regularly, eat well, and watch your portions but still fail to lose weight, check out for an underlying health problem.  Health problems that may hinder weight loss include; ovary syndrome which is characterized by irregular periods, excess hair, and acne. It affects blood sugar levels and testosterone in the blood. Cardiovascular disease also causes high cholesterol levels.

7. Having high and unrealistic goals

It should be noted that weight loss needs a lot of patience, commitment, and consistency. Some people expect to have quick results and also set their goals too high. This ends up disappointing so many people making them give up.

8. Maybe you have reached a plateau

With weight loss, a point can be reached whereby any additional exercise and healthy eating do not yield any weight loss results. It is therefore good to take a break at such instances, increase your calorie intake a bit with plenty of sleep.

9. Not drinking enough water

Water boosts metabolism, cleanse the body, and helps to suppress appetite. Drinking water also helps with water retention. Therefore, however much you exercise minus sufficient hydration, weight loss may be impossible.

10. Not eating mindfully

Mindful eating is one of the best weight loss techniques. It involves slow eating without distraction, enjoying each bite while listening to the brain signals to know whether you have taken in enough. Mindful eating also helps you pick on healthy food choices.

 Let’s look at spot reduction

What is spot reduction?

Image by Bruno /Germany from Pixabay

Spot reduction refers to the targeting of certain body areas or parts to reduce the fat in those specific areas. By exercising the muscles in those particular areas, muscles tone up, and fats are reduced. A common example is exercising the abs to lose belly fat or reduce the waistline.

Is it spot reduction a good way to lose weight?  

Todd Miller, a professor of nutrition and exercise sciences at George Washington University, was quoted by the Washington Post saying that; spot reduction is not possible and is not an effective way to lose weight. The body burns calories for energy from all the entire fat stores from the body not just from one spot.

This means that working for example the abs will burn some stomach fat but not more than it would help you burn or lose weight from the rest of your body parts.

Therefore when the body burns fat stores, it does not burn fat stores near the muscles being worked out but rather fat from the entire body is burned.

What is the best time to exercise?

According to Hackney, a professor at the University of North Carolina Chapel in the department of exercise and sport science, the best time to exercise is early morning on an empty stomach. 

He explains that in the morning, people naturally have elevated levels of cortisol and growth hormone both of which are involved in metabolism. This means you can draw more energy from your fat reserves in the morning compared to other times of the day.

Apart from weight loss, what are other benefits of exercising?

1. Strong muscles and bones

Physical exercises like weight lifting combined with protein intake stimulate muscle building and maintenance. High impact exercises like running also promote high bone density compared to low impact workouts.

2. Increase energy levels

Exercise boosts energy for healthy people plus those with different medical conditions. According to a study where 36 individual who reported persistent fatigue were treated to a six-week exercise routine, the fatigue feeling was reduced

3. Reduced risk to chronic diseases

Regular exercise has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, reduces the risk to cancer, heart diseases as well as improving body composition.

4. Help skin health

The skin can be affected by the amount of oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress takes place when the body cannot repair the damage caused by free radicals to cells. With regular exercise, the body can produce natural antioxidants that protect the skin cells from damage.

5. Brain health and memory

Exercises increase the heart rate which promotes the flow of the blood to the brain which boosts its proper function. An exercise also stimulates the production of hormones that stimulate the growth of brain cells.

6. Exercises can reduce pain

Regular exercise can ease pain by improving muscle tone, strength, and flexibility. Exercise also helps to release endorphins which are the natural painkillers in the body

7. Improved sex drive

With regular body exercise, the heart rate is increased this improves the flow of blood to all parts of the body which increases sexual drive. Physical activity also strengthens the muscles, increase flexibility and endurance and this, in turn, increases sexual performance

8. Exercises make you happier

Body activity improves your mood and decreases feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress. The best proof of this is for you to apply it in your own life. You will become the proof!

Bottom line

While there are so many exercises that can help weight loss, commitment, patience, and consistency are very important.

Always have a pre-exercise meal full of carbohydrates 2 to 3 hours before starting the exercise to provide the body with energy need for the exercise.

Post-exercise meals are also important because it gives you the energy to recover from the workout and to replace the lost glycogen during the workout. These are more of proteins and some carbohydrates.


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