The Single Best Exercise for Weight Loss


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  341 comments   :  843,292 Views

Often people will ask me to share the best exercises for weight loss. They want to know what kind of cardio activity is going to help them lose weight faster than anything else. Even if they don't enjoy it, they are willing to try whatever is going to help them reach their goals more quickly. My response is always the same. So are you ready to hear what the magic exercise is? What's going to help you lose weight keep it off long-term, and get fit?

The answer is simple: Find the activities you enjoy doing and stick with them. It's true that some activities burn more calories than others. You'll burn more in 45 minutes of running than you will in 45 minutes of walking. But if you hate to run, chances are that you're not going to be able to keep it up forever. Exercise becomes a chore, something you dread instead of something that brings enjoyment to your life. I always cringe when I see people post things like this on the SparkPeople Message Boards: "I hate running and have no interest in doing it. But I feel like I have to run if I'm going to lose weight, so can you give me some tips for how to enjoy it?" My response is usually to try it if you haven't before, but don't be afraid to do something else instead of it's just not working for you. I've tried swimming before. It was a great workout, very challenging, but not something I enjoyed at all. So I decided that swimming just wasn't for me and moved on to other activities instead.

We all have those days when we don't want to exercise. Although I love running, I don't jump out of bed every single morning, full of energy and ready to go. There are some days when I'd much rather stay in bed. But for the most part, I've found something I enjoy doing, so it's easier to stick with it. And to keep things interesting, I like to train for different races, incorporate different kinds of runs and different routes into my routine. That way my body is continually challenged and I don't get bored.

Putting personal preferences aside, if you look strictly at what exercises are considered "best", you'll get a wide variety of professional opinions. Exercise physiologists will give answers based on what exercises burn the most calories, which ones provide the most strength benefits, which ones increase power or flexibility. It just depends on your goals and your body. Every body responds differently to different exercises, and everyone has different opinions about what activities we should be doing.

Regardless of the activity, the fact that you are exercising at all is most important. You don't have to train for marathons and spend hours at the gym to be healthy. "A recent meta-analysis of studies about exercise and mortality showed that, in general, a sedentary person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause plummeted by nearly 20 percent if he or she began brisk walking (or the equivalent) for 30 minutes five times a week. If he or she tripled that amount, for instance, to 90 minutes of exercise four or five times a week, his or her risk of premature death dropped by only another 4 percent."

What do you think? Does your exercise routine reflect the activities you enjoy doing the most? Why or why not?

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  • 341
    Great info. Thanks - 1/3/2018   9:27:05 AM
    Great info! - 12/14/2017   6:16:31 PM
  • 339
    I was surprised at the modest increase of 4% when time soent walking increased. Still 4% is nothing to sneeze at when added to the other. After considering this info, I still hold that daily ex is ideal, especially if you enjoy it. - 12/8/2017   10:25:23 PM
  • 338
    I like to mix it up. I need to start concentrating more on my strength training. But walking and yoga along with dance are doing it for me right now. - 11/12/2017   4:17:05 PM
    Thanks for sharing - 11/12/2017   12:21:28 AM
  • 336
    It's always good to have fun! - 4/24/2017   7:36:01 AM
  • 335
    Really enjoying what you do is key in anything in life. - 4/7/2017   4:21:23 AM
  • 334
    You will still have to mix it up so that your body does not get used to doing the same thing over and over. - 3/15/2017   3:50:09 AM
  • 333
    This is why I joined a sports team (roller derby). No matter how varying the routines, exercising just for the sake of exercising is boring to me--I can't stick with it! But working out as part of practice, doing what I can to gain strength to be better at my sport, THAT I can stick to! - 2/23/2017   10:36:00 AM
    My choir director has us rehearse while sitting on exercise balls. Great for building abs and no pain. It's fun so I bought one for home. Try it! - 3/30/2016   8:52:28 PM
  • 331
    Love this article and something that I mentioned in my blog regarding food - you have to try things out and stick with what works for you - later modifying to achieve optimal results. Great article! - 3/30/2016   4:28:03 PM
  • 330
    Thank you for this article. There are so many wonderful exercise that with my limitations are horrible for me. It's nice to know that the things I enjoy doing and am able to do are good enough, as long as I stay as active as I can!! - 3/30/2016   10:25:10 AM
  • 329
    I love walking and can go for hours in pretty much all types of weather. I don't mind snow but heavy rain is definitely a quencher. I went for a walk during our last heavy snowfall and had several people stop to ask if I needed a ride or had far to go. They looked at me as if I had rocks for brains when I said I was out because I wanted to be! Slogging through 6 inches of snow is an excellent workout and it definitely burnt through some calories! - 3/30/2016   10:06:08 AM
  • 328
    I've always enjoyed walking and walking continues to be a daily exercise. At the gym I do a fast walk on the treadmill and with hip hop music, it is FUN! - 3/30/2016   7:39:44 AM
  • 327
    I Love swimming I swim Laps an actual 2.1 mile and 3.1 mile .... - 3/30/2016   7:03:01 AM
  • 326
    I Love swimming I swim Laps an actual 2.1 mile and 3.1 mile .... - 3/30/2016   7:03:00 AM
  • 325
    I love to walk, and I enjoy using me stationary bike -- I really do use it, and not as a clothes rack. I hate -- really hate -- extreme exertion, and I never keep up any high-exertion exercise long enough for it to do me any good. I sort of wish I could run, but I can't. I can walk, and I actually do that. - 3/30/2016   2:50:00 AM
  • 324
    For me, it's put on the heart pumping tunes and get going! Even housework can be a workout if you walk in place while doing dishes, switch arms while vacuuming, and see how you work the other side, squat instead of bend over (we should do this all the time, anyway) when you pick things up off the floor. (and hold the squat for a count of 5-10 ! Now that's "cleaning up"! - 1/17/2016   6:52:16 AM
    Gearing up for 1/1. I know, so cliche! Reading these comments has inspired me to try Zumba - many seem to enjoy it. Went running in my youth, but the knees won't allow it anymore. Walking works for me, but not so much in winter. Good luck to everyone in 2016! - 12/26/2015   7:17:04 PM
    Mixing it up is the answer for me. I'll stop doing anything if I get bored with it. So I alternate days when I run, go to the gym, or just walk the dog. - 12/10/2015   6:42:45 AM
    I don't like formal exercise. But...I love to dance. I slip on my sneakers, crank up the music, turn on a fan, and basically jog in place without lifting my feet off the ground. I twist my hips from side to side to the music, feet apart about 1 foot wide, and move in a jogging motion, arms bent. Move fast to the music and enjoy getting your heart rate up and getting "exercise"! - 11/7/2015   10:40:07 AM
    You know when I read about people not liking to run , I just wish that someone would realize that there are many people , including myself , because of an accident and my daughter , because of an illness and many , many more people who can not run, no matter how much we would like to. - 10/6/2015   2:02:30 AM
    I used to hate running/brisk walking, found it boring. I enjoy it a lot more on the treadmill (mixing up speeds and inclines) when I watch Youtube videos instead of listening to music. I'm doing Couch to 5K now to train for my first 5K. I'm super excited and psyched to try 5Ks, not to compete with others but just to know I crossed the finish line and completed a goal. I couldn't care less even if I come in last! And no, I won't watch Youtube while running an official 5K. ;) - 10/4/2015   9:31:47 PM
    In my younger days I was addicted to exercise, after doing no exercise for 30 years I'm enjoying a whole different workout. My favorites are ab strengthening, but I also do stretches and other muscle building exercises. I'm definitely not a runner, but I have incorporated it into my walk and it works for me. - 9/6/2015   2:06:36 PM
  • 317
    I love to walk!!!!! I get really irritable when I can't do it. Not a stroll, mind you, but a nice brisk walk. If I could walk all day I would! :) - 9/5/2015   8:59:12 AM
    Yes, my exercise routine reflects the activities I enjoy the most. I do follow the advice given in the article. I do love exercising. I love how strong my body is & how strong I feel when I'm done. - 8/24/2015   1:03:19 PM
    The daily workouts I do, usually with youtube-guidance, feel like a duty to me. Same with walking, let alone running. It never feels like fun. The only exercise I look forward to is my modern dance class and my tai chi class. If I had the money to take those classes every day, I would never do any other workout anymore. - 8/6/2015   2:54:06 AM
  • 314
    It took me a while to find an exercise I enjoyed that felt like "fun" more than "exercise". That was tennis. I LOVE playing tennis and workout like the Tasmanian Devil when I play. I would suggest people keep trying social games that allow them to move around and count it as the exercise they need. Maybe we ALL need to be more creative in finding SOCIAL outlets (that's what make exercise fun for ME) that incorporate movement. (OK, I'm thinking of a few ways to do this right now....) - 7/5/2015   6:22:10 PM

    SUPERB.... we can also go with these top rated Reviews that gives you amazing ideas to lose weight: - 6/24/2015   2:22:42 AM
  • 312
    Love to walk 7 times a week! - 6/22/2015   7:36:24 AM
    I am running daily, short run.. I go the gym everyday doing spinning class and other class they offer.. I do zumba on sunday..Im still Im gaining weight.. I dont understand it.. I dont drink pop or eat junk food.. pls help me anyone who can explain this to me..I do over 10,000 steps a day.. - 6/14/2015   12:14:28 AM
  • 310
    I don't like too many exercises but I will go out on a nice day for a run/walk. I will go to a Zumba class. I will do an HIIT class. I will do the water classes at the pool. So--I find enough things to do to count as "exercise"! - 4/5/2015   3:37:39 PM
  • 309
    I hate exercise as much as anyone else but I hate being fat more than anything else! ~ Vivian S. Bedoya - 3/7/2015   12:12:58 PM
  • LOSER1113
    I've never been a person who likes to exercise, and I have always had an excuse for not being more active: it takes too much time to stop by the gym, it's already dark by the time I get home, etc.

    So this year I chose not to make a resolution, but a solution... to ALL my sorry excuses. I decided to purchase a stationary under-the-desk bike on E-bay for 25 bucks + shipping and handling. While I am working (and as I type this comment) I am pedaling. I've burned 503 calories so far today. I literally have zero excuses for not using it. And since it is fun to track how many calories I have burned, it makes me more aware of the calories I am consuming as well. - 1/13/2015   2:40:10 PM
  • 307
    I started biking to work daily. It upped my exercise and since it took an hour by bus or bike, it did not add to my day! If the weather turns bad or if I have had a long hard day I can throw my bike on the bus or train and hitch a ride home. Most days I find that riding helps start my day and helps to relax me in the evening. I gave up the gym after a few months of biking since it made no sense anymore. Even if you can only bike partway to work, it still is more than if you didn't at all! - 12/11/2014   2:25:07 PM
    Maybe you have tried this... we got a fold-up treadmill (sturdier than I expected) and I actually slide it in front of the TV for one of my shows. I don't mind moving so much when it's "attached" to something I want to do! - 11/24/2014   4:55:30 PM
  • 305
    I'm with KATHEB. I hate exercise. It seems that it is something else I have to struggle with to fit into my schedule and it almost seems fake to me. IF you're not exercising or at the gym working out then you have to go and do that. People didn't always need gyms and exercise programs. I would rather read, or watch tv, especially after working and being on my feet all day. - 10/23/2014   4:49:29 PM
    This is the kind of advice I hate. I have yet to find any exercise I "enjoy" enough to do regularly or for any sustained amount of time. (And the advice that bugs me most is that old chestnut "just get out and walk." Boring!) I'd much rather read a book. But what might be helpful is a list of less-common options, ones that make you say "I hadn't thought of that!" or "I didn't know that had a real exercise benefit!" - 10/23/2014   4:15:07 PM
  • 303
    It took me a while to find something I truly enjoyed. Now I do Zumba, Bodycombat, U-Jam(cardio) and Bodypump (weights) and manage to enjoy excercising 6 days out of the week. - 10/21/2014   12:15:40 PM
  • 302
    Jessica Smith Youtube Channel has a variety of content. I get bored and flaky over time if I am doing the same thing like Zumba, cycling, etc. Everyday I can do something different. - 9/29/2014   1:16:21 AM
  • 301
    ! - 8/20/2014   1:07:01 PM
  • 300
    I am a runner hater. I admit it. I try and try to like it but I just don't. Why does that bother me?? I love my spinning class and I love my body combat class and go to those regularly! - 7/20/2014   10:36:18 AM
  • 299
    I agree wholeheartedly! I know people who swear by going to the gym but that doesn't work for me. Going to the gym is a chore for me and bothersome...all that dressing and undressing! Home workouts are best for me. I like getting out of bed, putting on my exercise clothes and jumping on the Wii or popping in a DVD or playing one of the Sparkpeople online videos. I do this 5 days a week easy! - 6/26/2014   10:29:36 AM
    Love to dance!! Go line dancing 3xs a week at the senior center. Thursday night is ballroom dance class with my husband, Down 37 lbs, and counting!!!! - 5/22/2014   11:40:46 AM
  • 297
    I Absolutely love cardio...pretty much in any form...but I do get bored easily...switching it up is super favs are running near water (live near a dam/reservoir with massive hills, stairs and rough terrain. ..walk if I get tired and blast my ipod while doing it...I also LOVE LOVE and most fun way to lose music,people,dancing and best ever...weight loss! - 5/15/2014   8:22:51 AM
  • 296
    I love walking in the early morning. I hate running and maybe thats why every time I try to run I fail. I also love dancing so I dance like no one is watching in my living room.
    - 5/15/2014   2:01:19 AM
  • 135LB-WOMAN
    That's why I dance. LOVE IT! - 3/31/2014   10:50:28 PM
  • 294
    Thank you for sharing this! It really helped me feel better about my dislike of certain exercises. - 3/31/2014   7:45:23 PM
  • 293
    I agree with this 200%. People ask me all the time how to start the weight loss journey and I always tell them start with doing an activity every day that you enjoy, or at the very least something that at the end of it you are glad you did it. I wasn't head-over-heels in love with running when I started, but I always felt on top of the world when I run was done, so that feeling kept me going. Now I love running more than any other activity and do it every day. I tried biking and did not get that same feeling, so I did not continue with it. Similar story to your swimming. Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it. - 2/25/2014   8:54:05 AM
  • 292
    Same thing has happened to me and not just with this article,You are spot on Jen - find ONE thing (at least in the beginning) that you enjoy and stick to it. There is NO point in torturing one;s self and in the long run you will stop doing it if its too much of a chore. Trust me I have been there.
    - 1/31/2014   9:55:44 PM

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