Which Exercise is Best for Healthy Weights?

by Marsha Hudnall MS, RDN, CD

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Best exercise for weight loss and health | Is aerobics best for weight loss?Anyone who has been to Green Mountain knows LynnAnn’s answer to that question: 

It’s the one you will do!

Typical answers, however, pinpoint aerobic activities such as jogging, swimming or cycling because they burn the most calories.  At work there is the old thinking that if you burn more calories than you eat, you’ll lose weight.

Today, we know it’s much more complicated than that.  And focusing on calories doesn’t motivate most of us long term.  So we recommend focusing on what you can do consistently.  What likely produces the best results is having fun…because that means you’ll keep doing it.

A combination of aerobic and strength exercise benefits our health and supports healthy weights, though.  So we thought we’d briefly review them as you experiment with the type of activities that feel good to you and keep you coming back for more.

How Aerobic Exercise Helps Promote a Healthy Weight

Aerobic or cardiovascular activity is any activity that uses the large muscles of the body in movements that are continuous and rhythmical. After aerobic activity, your metabolism is elevated for anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours depending on the intensity of your workout.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), an individual should participate in this type of activity for at least 30 minutes per day, 5 times per week at a moderate intensity. If you want to get the same benefit in less time, ACSM says to increase the intensity to vigorous, and 20 minutes a day, 3 times a week will do it.

For maximum health benefits, work out in your Target Heart Rate (THR) zone, which is between 60 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate (calculate your target heart rate here).

Here are some of the favorite aerobic activities mentioned by the women who come to Green Mountain:

  • Walking
  • Biking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Swimming or water exercises
  • Dancing
  • Chair Dancing
  • Ice Skating
  • Kayaking
  • Kickboxing
  • Rollerblading
  • Rowing
  • Running/Jogging
  • Cross country skiing

How Strength Training Helps Promote Healthy Weight Management

With strength or resistance training, however, you build lean muscle mass, which permanently increases your metabolism.

ACSM recommends between 8 and 10 strength training exercises of 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise at least twice per week.

How Having Fun Helps Produce Healthy Weights

Exercise tips for healthy weight management underscore the combination of cardiovascular training with regular strength training to get optimal results. But back to our original theme — if you don’t enjoy it, it’s not likely you’ll continue doing it. How many of us have worked hard to lose weight, spending time doing something we really don’t enjoy?  And then regain the weight shortly after we finally give up trying to force ourselves to do things we really don’t like to do.   A true healthy lifestyle includes pleasure.  Pleasure is great medicine and one reason is that it’s a key player in producing lasting results.

Increase the fun factor in your exercise routine by having family join in, taking it outdoors to enjoy the scenery, good music, joining classes to make it more of a social event and changing up your routine (also important to avoid fitness plateaus). And remember, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it! Find something else.

Finally, we can’t let this discussion go by without some mention of the fact that a focus on weight loss as a goal in itself can be counterproductive. Even if we’re trying to better manage PCOS or type 2 diabetes or just our health in general, and everyone is telling us to lose weight to do it, focusing on getting healthy and living healthfully, holds much greater promise for achieving our goals.