The Best Exercise to Lose Weight

The Best Exercise to Lose Weight

There are lots of exercises to help you lose weight. But which one is the very best for you?

All exercises are not created equal. When it comes to exercises to help you lose weight, some really stand out. But the very best exercise to lose weight is…

…are you paying attention …the very best exercise for weight loss is:

the one that you’ll actually do on a regular basis.

While that may sound silly or obvious, it’s an important point. Let’s take a quick look at the basics of losing weight, and then let’s jump into some recommendations to help you pick the best weight loss exercise that’s right for you.


How to Lose Weight: The Basics

How do you do that? The proven way to lose weight and keep it off is through a healthy diet and regular exercise. That gives you control of the calories you eat and the calories you burn. You should know that keeping a calorie deficit will not be easy. But the good news is that once you reach your target weight, you no longer need to keep a deficit – you just need to keep a balance. So you can eat more or exercise less and still keep the same weight. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

In the rest of this article, we focus on the exercise piece of the weight loss equation. That’s the part that helps you burn extra calories.

The Exercise That You’ll Actually Do

Exercise is a really important part of losing weight. Remember, every pound you lose requires a 3,500 calorie deficit. Those are a lot of calories and you are unlikely to meet your goals by dieting alone. So if you want to lose weight, it’s important that you add regular exercise to your day.

Naturally, some exercises are better than others. For example, if you make time for a 30-minute workout and you are choosing between jogging and walking, you’ll burn more calories jogging. But if you skip your workout, you won’t burn any extra calories at all. It’s much better to walk than to do nothing!

This sounds ridiculously obvious. But it’s really important that you find exercises that you’ll actually do. Don’t be intimidated by exercises that seem too difficult and don’t worry about starting with something too easy. The most important thing is that you start exercising now and that you keep it up. You can always change to a different exercise if you get bored or if it gets too easy. Just start now.

How to Pick a Good Weight Loss Exercise

Weight loss basics are pretty simple: you need to burn more calories than you eat. One pound of fat is roughly 3,500 calories. So for every pound you want to lose, you have to burn 3,500 more calories than you eat. We call that creating a calorie deficit.

So, the most important thing is to just pick something and get started. Now! But if you don’t already have an exercise in mind, how do you pick one?

Here are some things to consider when picking the right exercise for you:

Pick a good cardio exercise

Building muscle is an important part of a weight loss exercise routine, because muscles burn more calories than fat – even when you are sleeping. But you should start your focus on a solid cardio exercise. Cardio workouts will burn more calories than strength training. And as a bonus every cardio exercise will actually help to build and tone your muscles.

The best exercise to lose weight is the one you'll actually do!

The best exercise to lose weight is the one you’ll actually do!

Is it too hard or too easy?

Find a happy medium. You want to burn as many calories as possible, but you don’t want to dread your workout so much that you’ll make excuses to avoid it. And you want to be careful to avoid injuring yourself. So, if in doubt, go with the easier exercise. Either way, if you find you picked something too hard or too easy, adjust your workout accordingly or change to a different exercise.

Can you do it with a friend?

Regularly or even occasionally meeting a friend for a regularly scheduled workout can be a great motivator. Even if it’s your dog. If someone else is counting on you, you are more likely to exercise even if you don’t feel like it.

Can you start today?

Start with something you can do now, today. You may decide that you want get your workouts doing Stand Up Paddle Boarding. But if it’s the middle of winter or if you haven’t yet saved enough money to buy a board, then that won’t work. Start with something else now and add Stand Up Paddle (or whatever) to your workouts later.

Is it available every day?

For most people, it’s not realistic for you to workout every single day. And depending on your exercise, it’s not healthy to do it every single day. But you want to make sure that your exercise is available every time that you are available to do it.

For example, if you choose running or jogging as your primary exercise, can you do it every day? If you are running on a treadmill, then you are all set. But if you decide to run outdoors and you live in a climate with cold snowy winters or blistering hot summers, what will you do on days that the weather prevents you from running outside? If you can’t do your exercise year round, then think of a backup exercise that you can do during the days or seasons that your primary exercise won’t work.

Best Weight Loss Exercises and Their Calories Burned

You know the best exercise is the one that you will actually do. But now you need to pick one. Here are some of the best weight loss exercises and the estimated calories that they burn. We listed them in order from vigorous intensity down to moderate intensity. If you’re just getting started, try out a more moderate intensity exercise first and work your way up the list.

Note that the numbers below show approximate calories burned by an average person doing a 45 minute workout. The calories you burn are based on your weight, and the table shows calories burned for people of various weights from 125 -200 pounds.

Calories Burned and Intensity Level of Various Exercises(based on weight of person)
Exercise Activity
(45 Minute Workout)
Calories Burned
125 lbs
(57 kg)
140 lbs
(64 kg)
160 lbs
(73 kg)
180 lbs
(82 kg)
200 lbs
(91 kg)
Based on the “2011 Compendium of Physical Activities” published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. See References and Sources for more info.
Running Stadiums
(Running Up Stairs)
15 638 714 816 919 1361
Running 9 mph
(6.5 minutes/mile)
12.8 544 610 697 784 1161
Running 7 mph
(8.5 min/mile)
11 468 524 599 674 998
15 mph (fast, vigorous effort)
10 425 476 544 612 907
Stair Climber
(gym machine)
9 383 429 490 551 816
Mountain Biking 8.5 361 405 463 520 771
Spinning Bicycling Class 8.5 361 405 463 520 771
Tennis (singles) 8 340 381 435 490 726
Set Aerobics
(with 6 – 8 inch step)
7.5 319 357 408 459 680
Aerobics (high impact) 7.3 310 348 397 447 662
Stand Up Paddle Boarding 6 255 286 327 367 544
4 mph (13 min/mile)
6 255 286 327 367 544
Swimming Laps
(freestyle, crawl; light/moderate effort)
5.8 247 276 316 355 526
Elliptical Trainer
(moderate effort)
5 213 238 272 306 454
Aerobics (low impact) 5 213 238 272 306 454
Walking 3.5 mph
(brisk pace on level, firm surface)
4.3 183 205 234 263 390
Power Yoga 4 170 191 218 245 363

Remember, the most important thing is that you just get started. Today. Now. So pick an exercise — any exercise — and get going!

What do you think? What’s the best exercise for YOU to lose weight? Let us know in the comments below.

References & Sources: (show)(hide)

    • Ainsworth BE, et al.
    • “2011 Compendium of Physical Activities.”
    • Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
    • 43.8 (Aug 2011): 1575-8.
    • Exercise and Wellness Program. School of Nutrition and Health Promotion. Arizona State University, Phoenix.
    • United States. Department of Health and Human Services.
    • 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
    • Washington: GPO,
    • 2008.

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