Here’s something I’m asked loads (but the body part varies!): What is the best exercise to lose weight, especially from my stomach?
Well, losing fat is roughly 80% diet and 20% exercise. Lots of people exercise like mad but are still fat because they eat too much, conversely plenty of people are slim and do no exercise at all. So what’s going on here? Exercise is essential for good health, and yes if you do it right it significantly burns fat, and always increases energy burn and can enhance weight loss. The only thing is it’s very easy to put back more fuel than you used and sometimes people will use exercise to say they “deserve cake” or whatever their chosen reward food is. It’s surprising how little extra food you need for exercise, it’s more about the type and timing.So what about people who stay slim and do no exercise. How can that be? Easy! If you looked inside them you’d see that they have less muscle and that they store fat inside, often around the vital organs, even if you can’t see it it’s there. They are less healthy, full stop. If it’s fat loss and great health you want then healthy eating plus exercise is the way.
So is there a certain activity that burns more fat in less time?
Yes. Anything where you’re on your feet and ‘bounding’ or where your body is the sole power source and you’re moving while pushing against resistance, so that’s things like walking, running, aerobics, dynamic weights such as Kettlebells, skipping, trampolining, cross country skiing, hiking up hills and so on. Alternatively, any activity that you continue for a long time, such as a long hike. Less effective, but still fantastic in important ways, are swimming, cycling, pilates, weights, yoga or anything where a machine, the floor or something else (like water) are supporting you. These things still burn energy and increase muscle which in itself helps us burn more energy but the more ‘boundy’ stuff just burns it a bit faster.
So, what *is* the best exercise to lose weight?
It’s the one you do, the one you like, and the one you keep doing. Yes in an ideal world we’d mix up our activities and do a bit of everything, I always recommend focusing on cardio (walking, running, aerobics, cycling etc) with a bit of dedicated resistance work in the mix, but not everyone enjoys running, some don’t like weights, others love weights and hate walking. Whatever you do, just move more and move often. Your body doesn’t know whether it’s in a gym or going up and down the stairs.
What about targeting that fat on your stomach then?
Not possible. The body takes fat from the places it likes taking fat from best, and that varies from person to person. Some people would have to get skeletal up-top to reduce their thighs, some would have to walk around on twiglets before their stomach showed any sign of reduction. We’re given a body type and must adjust expectations accordingly.
So don’t think about spot-reducing or what is the best exercise to lose weight, just think about being as active as you can, and not eating too much. Your body will find its natural sweet spot.