Identifying the best exercise to lose weight might not be as hard as you think. Daily activity of any kind turbocharges the benefits you get from your healthy eating plan. Exercise speeds up your metabolism and helps you burn more calories.1 And while you’re shedding extra pounds, you also are toning up your body so you will look as good as you feel.
According to Mayo Clinic, “Weight loss through diet without physical activity, especially in older people, can increase frailty because of age-related losses in bone density and muscle mass. Adding aerobic and resistance training to a weight-loss program helps counter the loss of bone and muscle.”2 That’s one of the reasons the experts at Nutrisystem recommend getting in at least 30 minutes of activity every day. You can break that up into 10- or 15-minute segments if that suits you better.
While just about any activity that you enjoy will work to help with weight loss, the best exercise to lose weight usually offers some burst of activity over time—although the precise type of activity you choose will vary.
Try one or several of the following exercises to take your weight loss progress to the next level.
1. Riding a Bike
Ideal for: Having fun with your family as you exercise together.
Pedaling a bicycle helps your heart get stronger and firms up the muscles in your legs, belly and backside. Biking is an ideal exercise for weight loss because it offers a challenging workout while accommodating a wide range of physical needs. Cycling is a low-impact activity, so it’s easy on your knees and back, which is important if you’re just starting to exercise.
In a half-hour of steady bike riding, a 155-pound person burns about 360 calories, nearly twice the amount of a fast walk.3 You melt away even more calories and get more strength in your muscles when you pedal up hills. The best exercise to lose weight is customizable.
2. Elliptical Trainer
Ideal for: Getting in a workout while catching up on your favorite show.
An elliptical trainer is a stationary exercise machine used for stair climbing, walking or running. Elliptical machines are found in most gyms alongside the treadmills.
Like cycling, using an elliptical trainer is less stressful on your lower body and joints than running or other high-impact exercises.4 Yet because elliptical training still burns about 324 calories in a half hour, it’s a great exercise to drop pounds and get healthy.3
3. Swimming Laps
Ideal for: Working out your whole body all at once.
Your arms, shoulders, back, hips and legs all get toned when you swim laps, while your heart and lungs grow stronger from the exercise. Moving through water adds resistance to your motion, increasing the challenge without putting extra pressure on your joints.5
Swimming steadily for a half hour can burn up to 360 calories.3 The extra muscle mass you will build over time makes this one of the best exercises to lose weight.
4. Strength Training
Ideal for: Giving yourself that toned, fit look.
Muscle burns more calories than fat, even when you’re at rest. Building your muscles through strength training is especially important as you get older because aging leads to loss of muscle mass, which can slow your metabolism.6
You can pick from a variety of ways to increase your strength, such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands or simple calisthenics. Because of how much you can customize this for yourself—or even for some daily variety—strength training is another example of the best exercise to lose weight.
5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Ideal for: Fitting powerful exercise into a busy schedule.
One of the most popular exercise trends in recent years is HIIT, or high-intensity interval training. It’s a technique in which you give all-out effort through a series of short, intense bursts of activity, such as running or push-ups, followed by brief, active, recovery periods.7
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), “HIIT also increases caloric burn after an exercise bout through a process known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC. Essentially, the body must consume more oxygen, which increases the amount of calories that are being burned, to return to its pre-exercising state after an intense bout of exercise.”8
6. Skipping Rope
Ideal for: Exercising anywhere you happen to be.
Another quick and easy to way to work out is with a jump rope. It tones up your legs while burning 300 to 400 calories in 30 minutes.3 We also think jumping rope is one of the best workouts for weight loss because it’s a very low-cost exercise—all you need is a rope. Ask a couple friends to join you and take a trip down memory lane through all the rhymes you used to recite as you jumped rope as a kid.
7. Mix and Match
Ultimately, the best exercise to lose weight is any activity you actually like to do, because that enjoyment means you will keep up with it. One way to prevent getting tired and bored of exercising is to spice up your routine with variety.
You don’t even have to stick to just one or two kinds of activity. If you’ve been walking every day, try a few basic calisthenics like jumping jacks and squats. Ride a bike or go dancing on the weekends. Swim some laps while the kids play in the pool. Remember, every little bit of activity takes you another step forward on the journey to your weight loss goals.
*Always speak with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.