Best Exercises from Yoga to Cardio
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss, but most trainers agree that consistent exercise is vital. According to studies by the National Weight Control Registry, 90 percent of individuals that are successful at shedding the pounds and keeping them off are active for at least an hour each day.
Consider the Cortisol Factor
A study at the University of California, San Francisco, revealed that individuals with high cortisol levels also have a higher body mass index (BMI) and more belly fat than people with lower levels of this stress hormone. Cortisol significantly affects the body’s metabolism, and its release depends upon receptors in adipose tissue, especially around abdominal organs.
Aerobic exercise like running, walking or cycling helps to decrease excessive cortisol, which can promote weight loss. “Strength training and aerobic intervals are the best exercises to not only initiate, but maintain weight loss,” says Sue Markovitch, fitness trainer and owner of Clear Rock Fitness, in Westerville, Ohio. “This combination kicks the metabolism switch on, increasing the number of energy-producing mitochondria in our cells, and improves our ability to burn fuel. Intervals—where you push the energy expenditure high, recover and then repeat—catalyze the best results.”
A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition concluded that three hours of moderate walking per week catalyzed significant weight loss compared to those that didn’t include walking in their exercise routines. Sessions on the yoga mat can also be a great cortisol-reducer through lowering stress levels and promoting equilibrium.
Hit Optimal Results
Working out in the gym for two hours a day isn’t feasible for most people, but all-or-nothing workouts are not required to see results. Most trainers agree that high-density nutrition lays the groundwork. “Exercise works when your diet is on point,” says Cregory Boatwright, owner and trainer at Level Up Personal Training, in Washington, D.C. “Combined with good diet, I find jumping exercises, high-intensity interval training [HIIT] and cardio best for weight loss.”
Stephany Acosta, founder and trainer of Elevate Fitness, in Dallas, Texas, concurs. “Eating well accounts for 70 percent of weight-loss results. In addition to a good diet, I recommend a combination of weight training and cardio in the form or circuit training or HIIT training because both maximize your time by working out all your body parts simultaneously, while keeping your heart rate going with a little rest time in-between. This approach guarantees to help build muscle and burn fat at the same time.”
A challenging workout is best, but excessive exercise can easily backfire and kick off a stress response in the body, which means higher cortisol levels and increased risk of packing on the pounds. A gentler approach is also safer, especially for beginners.
“Step in gradually. You want the program to be challenging, but doable,” counsels Markovitch. “If you work with a trainer, tell them if something hurts or feels too challenging. If they don’t listen, you need to find another trainer.”
Employ common sense with any kind of workout. “Going from no to much activity can be a complete shock to the body. You will see more success in creating realistic goals and working your way up to liking the benefits that come from exercise if you start out small,” says Acosta. “Consistency is key. Even if you don’t have 30 minutes to go to the gym, work out for 20 minutes—or even 10.”
Elements of Success
Boatwright underscores the importance of setting short-term goals and having patience. “Gaining weight doesn’t happen in one day, so don’t expect it to come off in one day. It’s a journey, a lifestyle, and not an overnight fix.”
While losing weight can be challenging, especially those last 10 stubborn pounds, Markovitch drives home a valuable reminder, “Sometimes we need to change something about our lifestyle, not just add an exercise. First, we need to love ourselves where we are.”
Marlaina Donato is the author of several books on spirituality and alternative health. She is also an artist and composer. Connect at MarlainaDonato.com