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Exercise to Lose Fat

Lose fat and look fit

To lose fat, you need to burn more calories than you take in. That means that you need to eat less or exercise more, or both!

We show you how to have a healthy diet to lose fat on our lose weight page.

Burn calories

There are three ways that our bodies burn off calories:

  1. Your Base Metabolism Rate (BMR) – this is the normal rate that your body breaks down and processes the food you eat, and will depend on a variety of factors, including your gender, age, height and weight
  2. Activity – how active you are throughout the day, which includes exercise and how much you move around as part of your job or lifestyle.
  3. Thermic effect of food – your body burns calories during the eating and digesting process. Protein and fibre burns the most calories, whereas fat burns the least and requires the most calories to digest. Complex carbohydrates (e.g. whole grains) also burn more calories than simple carbohydrates (e.g. sugar).

To boost your metabolism and burn off as many calories as you can, have an active lifestyle (move around throughout the day), exercise regularly and eat a high fibre and protein diet.

What exercise should you do to lose fat?

There are different types of exercise, which we describe below. We recommend doing all of these to lose fat. The amount of calories you burn will depend on time and effort. If you work our longer or harder you will burn more calories during and after exercise.

Aerobic exercise (also called cardiovascular or CV exercise)

Aerobic, or CV exercise, involves any activity that increases your heart rate, including walking, running, swimming and playing sport. Push yourself to increase your heart rate, fitness and burn more calories to lose fat. If you do low-mid intensity exercise, you still need to work hard and boost your heart rate to burn more calories.

High intensity exercise (sometimes called HIIT)

This is also a form of CV exercise, but involves high effort activity at 80+% of your maximum heart rate. High intensity exercise burns off more calories because you are working harder BUT the workouts are usually shorter. This means that a short high intensity workout may burn off as many calories as a longer low intensity workout.

High intensity workouts burn off more calories post-workout, however, this may not be a large amount – see here for a more discussion about EPOC (exercise post-exercise oxygen consumption). Nevertheless, high intensity exercise is popular as it takes less time and can make you feel pumped.

Should you do high intensity or low/mid intensity exercise? Both can help you burn calories and lose fat, so choose the one that works best for you or do a combination of both.

  • High intensity workouts are great if you don’t have a lot of time to exercise or enjoy short and high-effort workouts
  • High intensity workouts may also be good if you don’t usually push yourself hard enough, find aerobic exercise boring or are already exercising but are not losing fat. Try adding a high intensity workout after your normal exercise session to burn off extra calories
  • Low/mid intensity workouts may be best if you are not fit or find high intensity workouts too difficult. Build your fitness and strength with low intensity exercise first and then introduce some high intensity exercise.
  • Low/mid intensity workouts may be best if you have injuries, joint problems or take a long time to recover between workouts. High intensity workouts can put more stress on your body.

Strength training

Strength training (also known as weight training) will help you look lean, toned and burn calories. Building muscle will help you to burn calories and look toned in three ways:

  1. Strength training burns calories and muscle burns more calories. Therefore, strength training will help you burn calories during and after exercise
  2. You need to have muscle to look ‘toned’. The toned look comes from lean muscle, which is muscle without much fat.
  3. You can lower your body fat % by increasing muscle.

We recommend strength training for anyone that wants to lose fat, improve their body appearance and feel fit. Learn more about building muscle here.

Flexibility training

Flexibility training, involves stretching or movements that help your body to be more flexible and increase your range of movement. Common activities include stretching, yoga and Tai Chi. We recommend flexibility activities to everyone as they will help you in your daily life and exercise. It will help you to:

  • Relax your muscles and decrease stiffness or pain
  • Feel more relaxed and de-stress.
  • Exercise for longer as you will feel more energetic and less stiff or sore
  • Exercise more regularly as your muscles will recover quicker
  • Be stronger. You can perform strength training activities better and build more muscle as you will have a greater range of movement

Learn more about relaxing your muscles here

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Weight training to gain muscle

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