The Best Exercises to Lose Weight

When I meet people and they find out that I am a personal trainer about half of them bring up somewhere in the conversation “So, what’s the best exercise to lose weight?”, and I know that this happens to just about every trainer out there!  It seemed to me only sensible that I share my thoughts about this with you.  But as we do here at Verve, lets hit the books first and see what studies we can find.

·       The American Sports Journal of Sports Medicine, 1987. 

When comparing swimming, cycling and walking as exercise for obese patients, cycling and walking resulted in greater weight loss.

·       American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1997.

Two groups assigned a 8 weeks resistance training program of upper and lower exercises versus a 8 week program of aerobic exercises of arm and leg cycling found similar weight loss but the resistance training group experienced more fat loss (ie they increased muscle).  However, the aerobic group had better increases in oxygen exchange.

·       Metabolism – Clinical and Experimental Journal, 2010. 

When comparing swimming and walking as an exercise program for sedentary over 50’s women, swimming resulted in increased weight loss over walking.

·       Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 2016.

Sprint interval training versus moderate intensity continuous cycling training with matched energy expenditure resulted in greater reduction in adiposity (fat) and increased in aerobic capacity (with matched estimated energy expenditure means that they used the same energy levels but it took the high intensity less time to achieve than moderate intensity).

·       Obesity Review, 2017.

Moderate intensity continuous training (MICT) and high intensity interval training (HIIT) produce the same body composition results when matched as energy expenditure. This same study found HIIT running was more effective than HIIT cycling for weight loss.

Oh dear.  Ever get the feeling that your head is spinning around with conflicting information?

In my opinion these studies and the other thousands on this relationship between exercise and weight loss topic miss two fundamentally important points;

1.     Exercise is not just about weight loss – it is so much more.

There are so many studies about the benefit of exercise to our health and it seems nearly every week there is a new one.  Exercise can:

  • reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • increase insulin sensitivity for diabetics
  • improve premenstrual syndrome symptoms
  • improve immune function
  • improve cognitive performance in early stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • improve cognitive function in general
  • improve life expectancy
  • decrease bone loss
  • decrease the risk of cardiac disease
  • decrease lower back pain
  • decrease incidence of cancer

THAT my friends is an impressive list isn’t it?   There is no drug or supplement that can claim this.  And, we are not talking about hours of exercise every day here.  For most of these studies it was between 30 – 45 minutes and between 3 and 5 times a week. I stopped exercising for weight loss a long time ago.  Now, I exercise for my mind.

2.     The studies don’t address long term adherence.

It doesn’t really matter what the greatest exercise is for weight loss if you don’t really like doing it.  You might be able to force yourself to do it for 6 or maybe 12 weeks but in the end you will discontinue.  The trick with exercise is to find something that you can see yourself being able to continue doing – something that you will be happy to have as a habit.  Gorgeous Emily, the founder of Verve, loves Yoga.  I’m not so keen.  I like lifting weights. Emily says the thought of walking into the weight room of a gym repulses her.  Even if there was a well-constructed study that came to the conclusion that yoga was the most superior exercise by far for weight loss I wouldn’t do it regularly.  I just don’t like it that much and that’s fine(Side note – I have started doing yoga once a week because I recognise that it is very beneficial for flexibility but I couldn’t manage any more than that!). The point is that Emily and I both engage in movement that we like to reap the health benefits outlined above that exercise has.

The wonderful thing about our society now is that no longer are we confined to just joining a traditional gym or running / walking in a park if we want to exercise.  There is a wave of fantastic smaller clubs, associations and online programs that offer just about every different type of exercise you can imagine.  And, if you have trouble finding something that you like then at least try to find a place where you like the people and it feels welcoming as you are more likely to go then.

So, back to the question that we started with – what is the best exercise for weight loss

Well the answer is - anything. Whatever you like to do that gets your body moving. Make sure that you focus on the health benefits of exercise over weight loss because, as we discussed, exercise can contribute to the betterment of your life in so many more ways than just your dress size.

At Verve we are putting together some programs that will focus on lifestyle changes and challenges like exercising regularly so stay tuned for those later in the year!

Gotta go – I’ve got a date with a bar bell and some weights at the gym.

By Wendy Burke.

Nutritionist, Naturopath, Personal Trainer

Ps. We are totally shifting gears in the next blog and we are going to chat about the 100 trillion microbiota that live on and in you……eewwwww…..