Exercise comes in many different forms, all of them with unique effects on your physiology, health and physique. Given such a wide variety of options, how does someone choose the right exercises and exercise types to optimize weight loss?
While all exercise is going to involve some kind of resistance, here what we’re referring to is movements with enough resistance that they stimulate muscles to become larger and/or stronger. While these workouts might not immediately seem to impact weight loss, increases in muscle mass will raise your body’s basal metabolic rate, or calories that your body burns while inactive. Targeting increases in basal metabolic rate is arguably the most important consideration for weight loss, as basal metabolic rate is estimated to be responsible for 70% of all calories burned. In addition to increased muscle mass and basal metabolic rate, resistance training done properly also results in increased strength, bone density, and reduction in posture and poor movement based ailments.
HIIT, or High-Intensity Interval Training, refers to cardiovascular exercise where heart rate is highly elevated for a set interval before being allowed to recover for another set interval. These workouts are uniquely equipped to burn more calories than any other form of exercise in the same span of time, which may be one reason why it also seems to be the most effective exercise intervention in the treatment of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of correlating conditions including high cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, all of which are associated with obesity.
LISS cardio, or Low-Intensity Steady-State cardio, can be a vital piece of a weight-loss strategy. While this form of cardio doesn’t burn as many calories per session as HIIT, low intensity exercises are characterized as being easily accessible and measurable. For example, the average person burns 100 calories per mile walked, and walking can be done essentially anywhere anytime. 150 minutes a week of zone 2 cardio, where the heart rate is maintained at 70% of its maximum, is associated with a drastic decrease in all-cause mortality, and is recommended by the American Heart Association for that reason. However, some of these minutes can be replaced with time spent resistance training or partaking in HIIT workouts for similar effects.
So What’s the Solution for You?
For almost anyone, some mix of all of these will be included in a comprehensive weight-loss plan. These are also plans that will change with time given multiple considerations; poor posture and low cardiovascular capacity might mean starting with more resistance training before even including strenuous cardiovascular workouts, or a hectic work schedule might mean very frequent but short bouts of brisk walking.
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