Before I give you the answer to that question, let’s take a look at how exercise in general helps us to lose weight. In a 24 hour period you have calories that you take in by eating and/or drinking them. You also have calories that you burn. When we compare the calories you took in to the calories you burned we see that you either:
Took in the same calories as you burned (in this case your weight remains the same)
Took in MORE calories than you burned (in this case you gained weight)
Burned MORE calories than you took in (in this case you lost weight)
Looking at this equation you can see the importance of burning calories at a high level.
Next let’s look at what goes into the total number of calories you burn per day.
Here’s the breakdown
60% of the calories you burn come from your RMR (resting metabolic rate)
32% from your activity
8% from the thermic effect of food
So does exercise effect any of these?? Of course!
The thermic effect of food is the temporary increase in metabolism after you eat. Exercise won’t effect this.
But what about RMR? RMR is the number of calories your body needs to function if it was at rest. Lots of factors go into your individual RMR. For example, your age and your sex.
The good news is that the more muscle you have, the higher the RMR.
And how much muscle you have can definitely be influenced by your exercise habits.
The last factor is your activity level. This means how many calories do you burn for the activity that you do. This includes anything from standing up while washing dishes, walking the dog, or going on a 5 mile run. The higher this number is, the better.
It’s clear from this that the perfect exercise to lose weight needs to create a high calorie burn but also build muscle. The more muscle you have, the more efficient calorie burning machine you are.
So let’s go back to Angela and think about her frustration with walking. Walking falls short because it does not build muscle and the calorie burn is low compared to many other activities like jogging, biking, taking a kickboxing class or a Zumba class. Walking is absolutely better than nothing! I’m not saying that walking is bad per se. I’m just saying that if you are walking consistently and not seeing any change on the scale I am not surprised.
What happens when you walk pretty much the same rate and the same distance all the time is that your body adjusts and gets conditioned to this work load. Eventually, it doesn’t even have to work hard to complete it.
Don’t expect to see great changes in your body if walking is your only exercise.
So what is the best exercise for weight loss? Studies show that high intensity interval training or HIIT is the best for building muscle and creating a lasting calorie burn. Some call it the afterburn. Afterburn is when you continue to burn calories even AFTER you have stopped the exercise. Some studies show that after certain HIIT workouts the body continues to burn calories at an elevated rate for 24 hours! That’s something everyone wants, huh?
What is HIIT?
HIIT is defined as a short, quick burst of work followed by an even shorter rest. And the exercise is repeated 4 or 8 times before moving on to the next exercise. Here’s an example:
20 seconds of jumping jacks
10 second rest
Repeat 8 times
20 seconds of squat jumps
10 second rest
Repeat 8 times
And so on…
That 20 seconds is fast and furious, not moderately paced. The goal is to reach 80-85% of your maximum heart rate in that 20 seconds. In the rest time, heart rate shouldn’t go below 60% maximum heart rate or you’ll lose some of the benefit.
For some great FREE HIIT workouts I recommend these two on YouTube:
If you don’t like these two recommendations, there are lots of other options on YouTube. Just search for “HIIT beginner workouts.”
If you are a beginner, I would take it slow. Make sure you have doctor clearance. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. Many people are not used to heavy breathing or a muscle that burns. They think this is a sign that they need to stop. But think about your heart beating 80-85% of its MAXIMUM heart rate. That’s high intensity!!
When I work out with clients in the gym I tell them that if they don’t want to slap me in the face at least once during our workout then I have not done my job. While it’s a joke, the meaning is clear. You need to challenge your body without hurting yourself to really see the maximum benefits.
Expect it to take time to figure out what 80% of maximum heart rate feels like for you. If you have a heart rate monitor you can watch that and you’ll know. Otherwise, you have to guess.
Beginners that start HIIT may only do a 5 or 10 minute workout. Everyone has 5 minutes, right? Once you build some endurance you can stretch it to 15 or 20 minutes.
Lastly, you wouldn’t want to do HIIT workouts every day. I recommend 2-3 days/week and that leaves 1-3 days for activities you enjoy like taking a yoga class, going for a walk, or weight lifting.
Challenge your body and try a HIIT workout today. Let me know how it goes!
Yours in Health,
If you want to see the full YouTube video, click here.
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