7 Best Exercises and Workouts for Weight Loss According to Research

Mira Research Team
Mira Research Team12 Jul 2023

The seven best workouts for weight loss, particularly for non-athletic individuals, include walking, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), swimming, cycling, aerobics, yoga, and weight lifting. Each workout varies in the amount of calories burned per hour and has specific instructions, dos, and don'ts. 

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How does exercising help you lose weight?

Understand the concept of calorie deficit

Weight loss is generally understood in the context of energy balance. According to a significant study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" entitled "Energy Balance and its Components: Implications for Body Weight Regulation", this energy balance principle dictates that if you consume more calories (or energy) than you burn, you will gain weight. Conversely, if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. This principle often relates to the concept of a "calorie deficit" in weight loss. A calorie deficit occurs when you consume fewer calories than your body needs to maintain its current weight.

Rule of thumb: burning 3500 calories = 1lb, or one hour of exercise 7 days per week. 

A commonly used estimate is that burning 3500 calories more than you consume results in approximately one pound of weight loss. This is based on the approximate amount of energy stored in a pound of body fat. To achieve 

However, this 3500-calorie rule is a rough estimate and actual weight loss can vary depending on a number of factors, including individual metabolic rate, muscle mass, age, sex, genetics, and daily activities. While you cannot change the inner working of your body, you can modify daily activity patterns as well as build more muscle to burn fat. 

Choosing the right type of exercise 

Picking the right type of exercise depends on two factors: what you want to achieve and how consistently can you do it. For example, if you are looking to be slimmer and not gain any muscle, frequent jogging might be a great fit. On the other hand, if you live in a city with no accessible walking trail, it might not be a great idea since you cannot do it as often. 

It is important to balance between your short-term goal and your long-term commitment. It is always better to choose the type of exercise that you can do every day over one that is short-lived. 

ExerciseAvg. Calorie Burn per Hour
Weight Lifting300-500

1. Walking for Weight Loss: An Approachable Exercise for Everyone

Embarking on a weight loss journey often requires lifestyle changes that include diet modification and regular exercise. For beginners and those with joint issues, walking is an effective and low-impact option (Mayo Clinic). Walking for an hour can burn roughly 300-400 calories depending on your pace and body weight.

A good starting point is incorporating a brisk walk of 10 minutes into your daily routine. As your fitness level improves, gradually increase the duration and pace of your walks.

Walking Dos and Don'ts

Ensure you maintain good posture and wear comfortable, well-fitted shoes during your walking exercises. Avoid overstraining yourself by walking too fast or too far at the beginning. The aim is to progress slowly and steadily to prevent any potential injuries.

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2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): A Time-Efficient Exercise

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a somewhat more advanced exercise renowned for its efficiency and effectiveness in weight loss. According to Healthline, you can burn approximately 400-600 calories per hour depending on the intensity of your workout.

With HIIT, you alternate between intense periods of exercise and less-intense recovery periods. This could be running as fast as you can for a minute and then walking for two minutes.

HIIT Dos and Don'ts

Always warm up before starting a HIIT session to lower the risk of injury. Avoid ignoring the proper form of exercises involved in your HIIT workout. Keeping correct form is crucial to prevent injuries.

3. Swimming for Weight Loss: A Full-Body Workout

Swimming is a great full-body workout that assists in weight loss while being easy on the joints. A study from Harvard Medical School indicates that an hour of swimming can burn approximately 500-700 calories, depending on your body weight and intensity.

Choose a swimming style that suits your capability and aim for at least 30 minutes per session. As your skill improves, try to gradually increase the duration of your workouts.

Swimming Dos and Don'ts

Utilize a variety of strokes through your swim workout to target different muscle groups. Remember, even though you’re in the water, your body can still dehydrate. Ensure you hydrate adequately before and after each swim session.

4. Cycling for Weight Loss: A Powerful Tool for a Healthier Lifestyle

Taking up cycling can be one of the most beneficial decisions for weight loss, as it enables you to burn approximately 400 to 600 calories per hour (Healthline, 2020). As a low-impact activity, cycling is also kinder on your joints compared to activities like running.

Starting cycling for weight loss doesn't have to be an intimidating process. Initially focus on shorter, manageable rides, gradually increasing the distance as your stamina improves. This approach not only prevents early burnout but also ensures a steady increase in calorie burn over time.

Cycling: Dos and Don'ts

Just like any physical activity, cycling also comes with some do's and don'ts. Ensure your own safety by wearing a helmet and strictly adhering to traffic rules when cycling outdoors. Paying attention to your posture while riding is crucial; avoid hunching your back and maintain a relaxed, upright position to prevent muscle straining or injuries.

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5. Aerobics: A Dynamic Route to Weight Loss

With aerobics, you can look forward to an approximate burn of 400 to 600 calories per hour (Mayo Clinic, 2020). The energetic nature of aerobic exercises makes it a fun yet effective approach for weight loss.

The beauty of aerobics lies in its accessibility – there's no need for fancy equipment or gym memberships. You can follow an online class from the comfort of your home, or join a local group that hosts aerobic classes, fostering a sense of camaraderie and motivation.

Aerobics: Dos and Don'ts

Before you dive into your aerobics session, take the time to warm up. This prepares your body for the vigorous movement to come and helps prevent injury. Never ignore any pain or discomfort during your workout; if you feel any strain, stop the activity immediately.

6. Yoga for Weight Loss: Uniting Body, Mind, and Metabolism

Yoga is an excellent tool for weight loss, enabling you to burn approximately 200 to 600 calories per hour, depending on the intensity of your practice (Healthline, 2019).

When starting yoga, begin with basic poses, gradually moving to more complex ones as your flexibility improves. Consistency and patience are key components of a successful yoga practice for weight loss.

Yoga: Dos and Don'ts

One central aspect of yoga is conscious breathwork; focus on your breathing during each pose. Honor your body's limitations and avoid forcing yourself into poses that cause pain, preventing potential injury and promoting a healthier relationship with your body.

7. Weight Lifting for Weight Loss: Building Muscle and Burning Fat

Weight lifting can redefine the weight loss journey by helping you burn approximately 300 to 500 calories per hour (Healthline, 2020), simultaneously building lean muscle mass that enhances your metabolism and fat-burning capacity.

When introducing weight lifting into your routines, start with lighter weights and grow from there as your strength increases. This progressive approach supports muscle growth and steers clear of unnecessary injury.

Weightlifting: Dos and Don'ts

Prime importance should be given to maintaining correct form during weightlifting sessions to prevent injuries. Rushing through repetitions isn't recommended; control and precision in each movement helps engage the targeted muscle groups efficiently.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1: How often should I workout for weight loss?
The frequency of workouts for weight loss depends on a variety of factors including your current fitness level and specific weight loss goals. However, as a general guideline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, coupled with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.

Q2: Can I combine these workouts for better results?
Absolutely, combining workouts can provide a more comprehensive approach to fitness. For instance, cycling and weightlifting target different areas of fitness - cardiovascular endurance and muscle strength, respectively. Similarly, combining aerobic activity with yoga can offer both cardio and flexibility benefits. Ensure to balance your routine and allow your body adequate time to recover between workouts.

Q3: What should I eat to complement my workout routine?
A well-rounded diet that is rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can complement your workout routine for weight loss. Adequate hydration is equally important. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests consuming an additional 12 ounces of water for every 30 minutes of exercise.

Q4: What's the best workout for weightloss if I am busy? 
If you're pressed for time, High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) might be an ideal choice. These workouts involve short bursts of high-intensity exercises followed by brief periods of rest, typically ranging from 15-30 minutes, making them a time-efficient option. A study from the Journal of Obesity indicates that HIIT workouts can be effective for fat loss. 

Q5: What's the easiest one to start if I am unmotivated?
If you're struggling with motivation, starting with a low-intensity practice like yoga might be beneficial. Yoga promotes mindfulness and helps improve flexibility and strength at a beginner-friendly pace. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually incorporate more intense activities into your routine. Remember, any physical activity is better than none, and building a regular habit is the key to long-term success.


Mira Research Team

The Mira Research team conducts original data and medical research on the most applicable topics of today and translates them into easy-to-understand articles to educate the public. Each of our articles is carefully reviewed and curated with interviews and opinions from medical experts, public health officials, and experienced administrators. The team has educational backgrounds from New York University, the University of Virginia, more.