When it comes down to it, if you’re looking to shed pounds, you really only have two options: eat less and move more. And while there are plenty of diets out there that will help you cut calories and lose weight, they don’t always work because they aren’t sustainable long-term—and they often come with side effects like fatigue, bloating and cravings. That’s why so many people turn to exercise as their go-to tool for weight management.
In fact, research has shown that physical activity is just as effective for weight loss as dieting alone (1). And when combined with an energy-restrictive diet, exercise results in significantly better long-term weight control than dieting alone (2). But what kind of workout should you be doing?
Well… that depends on your goals! If you’re looking to build muscle mass and increase strength without losing body fat, then strength training should be your primary focus. However, if your goal is primarily fat loss (and not building muscle), then cardio workouts are likely the better option for you.
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Hour Workout For Weight Loss
Losing weight is easier said than done, and there isn’t a magic pill to take off pounds. Instead, you have to burn more calories than you take in. This involves a healthy diet, as well as a combination of cardio and strength training.
Ready to shed stubborn pounds? Here’s a look at some of the best cardio and strength-training exercises for weight loss, along with tips to be active throughout the day.
4 cardio exercises for weight loss
Cardiovascular workouts (or simply cardio) elevate your heart rate. These are some of the most effective forms of exercise for weight loss because the greater your heartbeat, the more fat you’ll burn, explains Multazim Shaikh, a fitness trainer and nutritionist with FamFits.
To lose weight or maintain weight loss, you’ll need up to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, according to the Mayo Clinic. This averages about 60 minutes, five days a week.
If you’re busy, split up your cardio into three smaller workouts a day. One example: Exercise 20 minutes in the morning before work, walk 20 minutes on your lunch break, and exercise for 20 minutes after dinner.
Great cardio workouts to help you lose weight include:
1. Low-intensity cardio
You don’t have to exercise at a high intensity to lose weight. If you’re a beginner or have physical limitations, low-intensity cardio can also help you burn calories and drop pounds.
These workouts include jogging, bicycling, power walking, swimming, and aerobics. Start slow and gradually up the intensity as you adjust to your new routine.
Aim for 60 minutes of low-intensity cardio five days a week. As you become more physically fit, carry hand weights while jogging, walking, or doing aerobics.
2. Jump rope
Jumping rope not only improves coordination and cognitive function, but the intensity of this workout elevates your heart rate, helping you burn about 1,300 calories per hour, explains Shaikh.
- Warm up with 8 to 10 jumps.
- Then jump continuously for 1 1/2 minutes.
- Rest for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat.
- Complete 3 sets.
You can switch up your routine, too. Jump one set on a single leg, one set with both legs, and one set while running in place.
Burpees combine squats, jumps, and pushups. It’s an effective workout because you’re burning fat from your overall body, and you’re training multiple muscle groups like your chest, legs, and core, says Shaikh.
- Do 10 reps in 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds.
- Repeat for 5 minutes.
4. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
This cardio workout has increased in popularity due to its ability to maximize calorie burn and fat loss. It involves intense bursts of exercise to elevate your heart rate, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
HIIT is great if you don’t have a lot of time. You’re able to exercise for a shorter length of time, yet complete a more intense and strenuous workout. As a result, you’ll continue to burn calories for hours after the workout, notes Shaikh.
Here’s an example of a HIIT routine:
- Complete butt kicks for 45 seconds, and rest for 15 seconds.
- Next, perform jumping lunges for 45 seconds, followed by 15 seconds of rest.
- Complete burpees for 45 seconds, and rest for 15 seconds.
- Repeat for 10 to 20 minutes.
- You can also incorporate other movements like mountain climbers and jump squats.
Or, you can try to complete a HIIT workout on a treadmill:
- Warm up for 5 minutes.
- Then sprint at a high-intensity speed for 1 minute.
- Walk for 30 seconds, and then sprint again at a high-intensity speed for 1 minute.
- Complete 8 to 10 sets.
5 strength-training exercises for weight loss
Even though strength training alone doesn’t have fast results, don’t ignore weight training or strength training when losing weight.
These training sessions can fire up your metabolism. And because they build lean muscle mass, you’ll burn more calories during exercise and at rest, according to Stephanie Blozy, an exercise science expert and the owner of Fleet Feet in West Hartford, Connecticut.
Great weight and strength-training exercises to help you lose weight include:
1. Kettlebell swings
This full-body, demanding workout will amp up your heart rate while increasing your arm and leg strength and helping you develop a strong core, explains Blozy.
- Complete a two-handed kettlebell swing for 20 seconds.
- Rest for 8 seconds.
- Repeat 8 sets.
Blozy recommends lifting faster to boost your heart rate even more and have a more cardio-intense workout.
Pushups are an excellent exercise for stabilizing the core, building upper body strength, and increasing muscle mass in your arms.
If you’re a beginner, start with 3 sets of 10 reps. Rest 60 to 90 seconds between each set. Gradually increase your number of reps as your strength improves.
“I love the options lunges provide because you can do them forward, backward, weighted, and unweighted,” says Blozy. “For the weighted version, hold a kettlebell or weight plate next to your chest, or make it even more challenging and lift the weight overhead.”
- Complete 1 set of 8 to 12 lunges per leg.
Blozy also recommends step-ups as another great exercise to strengthen the legs while stabilizing your core and lower back muscles. “Start with a small step height (6 to 12 inches) and then progress to a higher height, like 24 to 30 inches.”
- Complete 5 sets of 5 to 10 reps per side.
Want to make it challenging? Add weight by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell next to your chest or hold one in each hand, Blozy says. “Not only will your quads burn, but your heartrate will accelerate and sweat will pour.”
Blozy also suggests deadlifts as an exercise to build muscles in both the lower and upper body, while reducing fat. She encourages lightening the load to 50 to 70 percent of your max, and increasing the reps so it’ll feel more like cardio than weight training.
- Complete 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Simple ways to be active every day
Along with a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet, look for other ways to be active every day.
Remember, the more you move, the more calories you’ll burn. This can maximize your weight loss efforts and help you reach your goal sooner.
- Pace the room during commercial breaks, between show episodes, or while talking on the phone.
- Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
- Park your car in the back of parking lots.
- Get a fitness tracker. Some trackers send alerts when you’ve been sedentary for too long. These alerts remind you to move.
- Schedule walking meetings with your coworkers.
- Fidget in your seat, such as tapping your hand, rocking your leg, or engaging your abdominal muscles as you sit. According to one study, people with obesity who fidget might expend an additional 350 calories per day.
- Get off the bus or subway a stop earlier, and walk the rest of the way to your destination.
- Put on headphones while cooking or completing other household chores. This will encourage you to move or dance.
- Walk the dog as a family.
How to stick with an active routine?
Starting and sticking with an exercise routine is probably the hardest part. But a few tricks can make it easier to stay active.
Stay fueled with foods
For example, eat a light snack before exercise to keep your energy up. Nothing too heavy, though. Great pre-workout snacks include:
- dried fruit
- trail mix
- energy bar
- peanut butter crackers
Also, get plenty of sleep the night before exercising. It’s harder to work out when you’re sluggish or exhausted. You should also get a workout/accountability buddy. This is someone who motivates you to reach your fitness goals.
Make it fun when you can
Lastly, choose workouts you find enjoyable. If you hate run-of-the-mill aerobic classes, take a dance class instead. Staying active is easier when you’re having fun.
1 Hour Workout Routine At Home
First, complete the warm-up sequence. Then move to the circuit exercises.
For the circuit portions, complete each exercise continuously for 50 seconds, then take no more than 10 seconds to switch to the next exercise. If done continuously, this will be a very challenging one-hour workout that will also give you some cardio burn as well.
After you have done each exercise once, you will have completed one round. Complete a total of three rounds, with 60 seconds rest between each round.
Repeat this light cardio warm-up twice before beginning the main circuit. A thorough warm-up is important for this one-hour workout.
1. March in place for 60 seconds
2. Run in place for 60 seconds
• 20 seconds high knees (quickly tucking your knees as close to your chest as possible)
• 20 seconds with legs wide (slightly wider than shoulder distance apart)
• 20 seconds butt kicks (as if you are trying to kick your butt with your heels)
3. Side jacks for 30 seconds
Start standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Step quickly to the right and do a partial squat. As you squat, raise your arms above your head. Return to the start position and repeat with the left leg. Repeat for the time duration.
4. Lunge with alternate arm raises for 30 seconds
As you lunge forward with the right leg, raise your left arm. If you cannot keep your balance with your arm raised, then simply do alternate lunges.
The One-Hour Workout Circuit (50 seconds per exercise)
How to: Begin in a standing position on the left leg. Slowly lower yourself as far as you can. Push back up to return to the start position. Switch legs halfway.
Box incline pushup
How to: These can be done with your knees on the ground if you cannot do them with your legs at full extension. It is more important to have perfect form than it is to have your legs extended. Put your hands on a box and the feet on the ground. Slowly lower the chest until it is even with the hands. Push back up to return to start position.
How to: The title might say basic, but when these are done correctly, they will pump up your abs! Keep your back flat and try to prevent it arching as much as possible.
How to: Begin with feet shoulder-width apart and hands on your waist. Step the left foot backwards until the knee makes contact with the ground. Return to the start position by pushing off your left foot and returning to the start position. Switch legs halfway.
How to: Lie flat on your stomach, with your arms stretched over your head and your palms facing down. Lift your left arm and your right leg, hold briefly. Switch sides. Repeat.
How to: Begin in a sitting position with the hands facing forward on the box and feet on the ground. Slowly lower your body until the arms are at 90 degrees and then return to start.
How to: Lying on the ground with knees bent, take one leg and cross it over the other. Keep shoulders on the ground as you raise your hips up to the ceiling and slowly lower down. Switch legs halfway.
How to: Start by lying face down, with your forearms on the ground, palms facing flat on the ground. Come up on to your toes and forearms. Make sure your back stays flat with no arch or pike. Keep your abdominals tight. Hold the whole time.
Squat thrusts (aka “burpees”)
How to: Begin with feet shoulder-width apart in a standing position. Descend into a squat position and kick the legs back and bring your hands forward to create a pushup position. Once the legs come into contact with the ground, pull them back under the body and return to the standing position. To increase the difficulty, you can add a hop when you come up to standing position, and/or a pushup when you are in the high plank position.
How to: Lie on your back as if you are going to do a basic crunch. Raise your legs so they are at a 90-degree angle, with your shins parallel to the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your head, not pulling on your neck. Extend your left leg straight and bring your right knee into your chest while bringing your left elbow over to your knee. (They likely will not touch, and that’s not necessarily the goal.) Think about twisting to bring your chest to the knee, rather than your arm to avoid pulling on your neck. Alternate sides continuously for the whole segment.