One of the most common questions I receive is “what’s the best exercise for fat loss”. I constantly stress the importance of understanding if you want to lose fat, there isn’t a miracle exercise that will transform your body alone. Fat loss and overall health come with a combination of factors including proper diet, supplementation, and stress management, in conjunction with efficient exercise. That being said, some exercises are substantially more effective than others. Both high impact (rigorous running/jumping where both feet are off the ground) and low impact exercise (exercise with less direct force on the body) have benefits. The key is finding a workout you enjoy, which can help you achieve your goals in a realistic way.
A usual misconception is, high impact exercise is significantly better for fat loss or in order to lose fat, you have to be putting in long, intense, vigorous hours of high impact cardio; this is not true. High impact exercise is great if you’re already an athlete or like keeping your exercises fast paced and full of variety. High-intensity exercise has phenomenal benefits such as revving up your cardiovascular system, increasing your lung capacity, helping with agility and improving bone density. The other main benefit of high-intensity training is how quickly you can elevate your heart rate.
Just as high impact exercises can be beneficial for your body, they also have a flip side of some potential negatives. Increased likelihood of sports-related injuries to your joints/muscles and a greater risk of overtraining is more likely with high impact training and can lead to a longer recovery period and inflammation. High-intensity interval training is great for initially raising your heart rate, but most people continue their high-intensity workout, with a consistently high heart rate, decreasing the bodies ability to burn fat. Our bodies are constantly changing and adapting to their surroundings. If we spend the majority of our workout with a substantially elevated heart rate, our body adapts, meaning you’re not going to be burning as much fat as you would, if you were training in intervals. When you train in intervals, switching between a moderate heart rate and a short burst of an elevated heart rate, our brains are surprised by the switch and allow for more fat burning, instead of becoming complacent at a high heart rate.
Low impact exercise can increase your overall cardiovascular health, endurance, strength, and fat loss, without placing unnecessary stress on your joints. People of all different age groups and fitness levels can benefit from low impact exercise, not just the experienced athlete. In a low impact situation, you are usually more aware of how your body is responding in the moment of the exercise. When your body is using a more demanding percentage of its physical capacity, we can enter “fight or flight mode”, become unaware of overusing our bodies, or push a little too far past our limits. People usually think of low impact exercises as the “easier” or more boring exercises, and that isn’t correct. A lot of workouts, surprisingly, fall into the low impact category such as, yoga, rowing, cycling, pilates, weight lifting, and even some dance cardio. During low impact exercises, you still run the risk of your body adapting and switching out of fat burning mode and into preservation mode, if you keep your heart rate elevated consistently.
If you’re wondering if you’ve wasted countless hours at SoulCycle, CrossFit, or HIIT, the answer is no. HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, uses intervals to keep your body out of preservation mode. Adding the variety of HIIT decreases like the likelihood of becoming complacent in your workout. Soul Cycle, although strenuous, utilizes low impact motions. Depending on the day, CrossFit can incorporate low impact, high impact, and interval training. Our bodies need exercise. Finding a workout you enjoy allows us to more easily incorporate exercise into our daily routine. Although more popular workout classes aren’t necessarily the most effective, if you enjoy the workout, that in itself is an accomplishment.
I’m a big advocate for never adding unnecessary stressors, so I always suggest a workout regimen that incorporates low impact exercises. Finding a sustainable workout and still maintaining variety allows the body to continually move forward in the direction of our goals.
If you’re wondering what the most effective workouts for fat burning are, the answer is low impact cardio in intervals and low impact strength training. The most effective strength training combines both concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) exercises. When strength training, most exercisers focus on the concentric motion (the actual lifting of a weight), but neglect the eccentric motion (releasing the contraction) which is just as important. My favorite tool for strength training is the ARX. The ARX machine provides ever-changing adaptive resistance, based on your strength level, and utilizes your full range of motion. Working out with the ARX ensures you receive the most efficient results for overall wellness and weight loss.
A typical workout regimen, recommended by me, suggests low impact interval training cardio, such as the elliptical, for 30 minutes a day. In order to receive the afterburn effects, or continued calorie burning throughout the day, the high-intensity intervals are best kept at about 30 seconds and no more than 1 minute. The lower intensity intervals should be adjusted in segments of 2-4 minutes, based on your current fitness level. By using low impact cardio, we reduce the risk of injury and inflammation. Training in intervals keeps the body in the most effective fat burning mode. I suggest low impact strength training, of all the major muscle groups, every other day. While adding low impact strength training exercises into our plan, we are able to assist our bodies in achieving a leaner body mass. A leaner body, or having more healthy muscle mass as opposed to unhealthy body fat, means an increase in your metabolic rate and continued fat burning, even after your workout is done.
This article was written by nutritional and lifestyle expert, Dr. Charles Passler. Dr. Passler’s mission is to help as many people as possible to feel healthier and be the best versions of themselves. For over 20 years, he has catered to a diverse roster of clientele providing customized meal and supplement plans to get each person to their unique place of peak health and wellness.
In conjunction with this mission, he developed the Pure Change Program, a 7 or 21-day detox program and nutritional guide that effectively removes harmful toxins and supercharges your health and performance.
For more information about Dr. Passler and his practice or to book an appointment find him here.