Exercise for Weight Loss: 16 Frequently Asked Questions

exercise for weight loss

I work long hours. I’ve been putting off exercise, but I know I should do something. Do you have any suggestions?

Exercise anytime and anywhere! There is no excuse for not exercising.

Exercise can be as simple as some freestanding air squats in your office. Bodyweight exercises only takes a few minutes to do these squats and can be done a few times a day to stimulate blood flow and increase your heart rate.

You can also get on the floor and do pushups. It only take a few minutes, but over time will add to your upper body strength. Various yoga exercises, such as the standing poses can be performed almost anywhere and will also add to your leg strength, posture and balance.

No matter how busy your day may seem,  you can spare a few minutes throughout the day to do these exercises. If you believe that you don’t have this much time, you need to seriously reconsider your priorities.

Stretching is also something that can also be done almost anywhere, even while you are sitting at your desk. You can perform these simple exercises while in the office.

It can become a fun challenge to find different exercises that you can do throughout the day while at work. All these exercises will add to a healthier body and help to relieve some of the stress of work.

Get other workmates to join in and for fun challenge them to do more exercises or hold poses for longer than you.

Other quick suggestions:

1) Walk around your workplace at lunchtime and before you start work.
2) Take a few extra minutes to do some exercise before leaving for home at night.

There are many opportunities throughout the day where you can give your health a boost. Seize all the chances you can to improve your fitness and you will reap the rewards long after you retire.

During a 30 minute cardiovascular session, which will burn the most calories, treadmill or the exercise bike?

Whatever form of cardiovascular training you choose, the number of calories you burn during a particular session will be greatly influenced by the amount of effort you exert (Intensity).

On the machine, it may show that running on the treadmill for 30 minutes will burn more calories than recumbent biking- but that’s only true if the level of intensity you are working at is greater. Intensity is a greater factor of calorie burn that duration of type of activity.

You can run at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes and burn less calories than you would running 20 minutes at a greater intensity.

The greater the intensity, the greater the calorie burn by the end of the day.

Is morning cardio more beneficial for fat loss than later in the day?

Not really. The time of day in itself, that you perform your cardio does not change caloric expenditure. If on Monday you decided to do your cardio workout at 6 am and on Wednesday you decided to do your cardio at 6pm, you’re going to burn the same amount of calories.

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But, I hear you burn more fat when you do cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach?

Technically yes, you are burning a higher percentage of fat during the exercise. If you’re exercising on an empty stomach, insulin levels are low and body fat will be used as a greater percentage of fuel for the exercise.

However, doing cardio in this manner is like taking one step forward, two steps back. (And will undermine your efforts in the long term)

The main principle for fat loss: At the end of the day, week, month and year- total calories burnt are more important for fat loss than the source of the fuel (carbohydrate, fat or protein).

Doing your cardio on an empty stomach violates this principle in 2 ways:

Intensity of exercise will be compromised due to fasted state for numerous reasons.

Muscle depletion: Doing cardio on an empty stomach releases plenty of cortisol into the blood stream, as well as deprives the muscles of precious amino acids that are needed. It’s quite simple; the greater the amount of muscle fiber you have on your body, the more calories you’ll burn each day. By exercising on an empty stomach, you’re creating an environment in your body conducive to muscle loss.

Intensity of exercise: This is the number one factor affecting caloric burn from exercise, and subsequently increased fat loss over time. Hit it hard and quick, and get out! A high intensity, short duration workout is more effective for fat loss- and holding on to your precious fat burning furnace– muscle fiber.

The bottom line is the best time to do you cardio, or any exercise, is whenever you feel most energetic.

Do I need to join the gym or use machines to lose weight? I live in an area with plenty of outdoor activities such as mountain climbing and kayaking, but no access to the gym.

You can absolutely lose weight without joining a gym or using machines. Heck, in many ways the outdoors is even better than the gym! Fresh air, new challenges for your body, never ending variation can keep it fun.

At the end of the day, performing your chosen activity with a high level of intensity will affect positive change in the body. Whether you choose indoor or outdoor activity, it’s all good. It’s a great choice to have.

Of course there are benefits to each venue that the other may not have.

For instance, it’s easier to measure progress in the gym because the variables stay consistent- you know exactly how much weight you’re lifting, you know exactly how far you’re running or riding on the cardio machines. It’s easier to track how much work is actually being performed.

Outdoors, it is still possible to track progress, it’s just a bit more difficult for certain activities. Also, in the outdoors, it may be tough to find a good amount of resistance to hit certain muscles.

The outdoors has an advantage in the endurance type activities. Maybe you’ll choose to kayak on Monday, do uphill sprints on Wednesday and do some bodyweight exercises like pull ups on a tree branch on Saturday. Whatever you chose to do, push yourself to get the most out of it.

I’ve been trying to lose weight for a long time now with not much success. A friend of mine suggested I start walking/ running while wearing a rubber suit and it’ll help me burn calories faster.

I’m sure your friend had the best of intentions, but they’re offering up some awful advice.

The rubber suits you see some misguided people wearing while working out do nothing more than make you sweat more. There’s no fat loss benefits from wearing the rubber suit.

Wearing a rubber suit will not only make you look silly, but could actually have some very real consequences. Performing intense exercise in a rubber suit can cause dehydration, dizziness, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, and has been linked to a number of deaths (mainly due to dehydration and complications arising from dehydration). If you’re not convinced, Google “rubber suit death”.

What exercises can I do to get rid of that fat on my inner thighs?

There are no exercises you can do to directly “burn” fat off your inner thighs, but there are certainly exercises you can do to strengthen the muscles in that area. Combined with the proper diet (which will help reduce the fat from the inner thigh), they will make your legs look phenomenal.

I’m sure if you ask around at the gym you’ll get the standard response of “do the adductor machine.” This is the machine that you sit in and place the inner part of your legs against a pad. You then squeeze the legs toward each other.

This movement was also the basis for Suzanne Somers’ ThighMaster that was popular in the 80’s.

Many people buy into this exercise as being the be- all, end- all of thigh exercises, because you “feel” it working.

“I feel the burn”.

The burn is often mistaken for fat being burned locally (burned directly from the inner thigh). This is referred to as spot reduction.

What you really “feel” is lactic acid being built up in that area.

There’s simply no viable way of specific spot reduction outside of liposuction. I imagine that if liposuction were in the cards for you, you wouldn’t be reading this, so I’ll give you the healthier alternative to help you reduce the fat from your inner thighs.

Exercises that more effectively target the legs and inner thigh area:

The basic (best) strength training exercises that work the inner thighs effectively;
Squats
Deadlift
Leg Curl
Leg press

Bodyweight exercises that work the inner thighs effectively (Video);

Beginner:
Variations of the Bodyweight Squat

Advanced:
Jump Squat/ Jump Lunge Variation

The formula for reducing the fat on your inner thighs (and everywhere) would be as follows:

1) Create a caloric deficit by consuming less calories than you’re burning each day. This forces the body to use the fat that is stored in your body, including your inner thighs, to be burnt as fuel for exercise and every day life.

2) Eat a favorable macronutrient ratio (protein/ carbs/ fat) that will hormonally support fat release into the blood stream for use as fuel.

3) Perform an intense strength training program that will cause a spike in EPOC, and further add muscle fiber, so that metabolism is raised permanently.

4) Perform intense cardio training that will tap into the fat stores and accelerate caloric burn.

For the last few months I’ve been doing the treadmill for a half hour and crunches right after that, 3 days a week.  But, my stomach still isn’t flat. What should I do?

If you’re not seeing results, there’s likely 2 scenarios going on (or a mixture of the 2).

1) You may still have some ways to go in getting your body fat % down. This is the biggest factor in having a flat stomach. If you still have a thick layer of fat covering the abs, they will not be visible.

2) You’re already sufficiently low in body fat, but your abdominal muscles are simply not strong enough to reflect a toned appearance. The abdominal wall is comprised of muscle- just as your chest and biceps.

Genetics also play a role in how flat your stomach will get, in addition to the training effect.

Being that you can’t change your genetics, your best bet is to build a solid set of abdominal muscles through strength training your core.

As far as getting the body fat down, you mention you do treadmill as your main activity. It’s time to step your game up to some high intensity fat burning tricks. This will give you far bigger bang for the time and effort you put in.

Also, you didn’t mention a strength training program. If you’re on one now, continue to hammer away and look for ways to increase the intensity so that you consistently progress- which in turn will raise your metabolism further.

Is swimming a good exercise to get leaner?

This question gets asked a lot, and my answer is I would not use swimming as your sole exercise to get lean. It can be a decent add- on to a solid strength training and high intensity cardio program.

Here’s why.

Your goal is to get lean. Assuming you’re avoiding diet mistakes (the biggest factor in getting lean) and dialed in, that leaves exercise.

The exercises that will give you the biggest bang for your buck; the ones that will increase your metabolic rate a great deal are the strength training exercises. The reason is that not only do you burn a great number of calories during the workout itself, but the metabolic changes that occur because of the workout (increased cell turnover, muscular recovery, hormonal spikes, etc) have your body burning calories for long after the workout.

To top that off, the added muscle fiber after the recovery phase of strength training boosts your metabolism for long into the future.

Swimming, by itself is not able to provide anywhere near the same metabolic benefits. You will burn a decent number of calories during the activity itself, but it does little in terms of EPOC, or building muscle fiber to keep the metabolism raised.

Swimming is a fun, relaxing activity for many people. If you enjoy it, go for it- in addition to the big dogs, not instead of them.

What exercises can I do to turn the fat on my legs to muscle?

None. There’s a common misconception that doing certain exercises can turn fat into muscle. Fat does not turn into muscle, period. Nor does muscle turn into fat. It’s physiologically impossible. It’s like expecting to turn a pumpkin into a horse and carriage.

Muscle has a different composition than fat does. To keep it simple, muscle and body fat are separate entities.

Go ahead and flex your right arm- as kids we used to say “make a muscle”. If you feel your flexed arm, you’ll notice that close to the surface, right under the skin, it feels a little soft (depending on how much body fat you have, you’ll be more or less soft). This is basically your skin and a layer of body fat. Under that layer (as you stay flexed), you’ll notice it’s solid. This is muscle.

If you’d like, you can try this on your stomach (abdominal muscles), your legs, or wherever.

Now, to improve the appearance of your legs, name of the game here is not to turn one layer into the other. The goal is to burn the fatty layer that is above the muscle, and to slightly increase the muscle fiber underneath.

This is where proper diet and exercise come into play.

I work a lot. Usually more than 90 hours per week. Much of that time is spent sitting at my desk. In the later part of the day I find I get sluggish and need to rest my head on my desk for a while to recharge. Is there anything I can do to boost my energy during the day?

These days it’s quite common to see people working these kinds of hours. Especially here in NYC. Obviously with this rigorous schedule, getting to the gym is going to be difficult.

If you have a gym reasonably close that you can get to once or twice weekly, I’d suggest you go with Eugene’s strength training program.

If it is absolutely impossible to get to the gym, try the basic bodyweight exercises.

The next aspect to look at is your diet. Go with a higher protein, moderate fat, moderate carbohydrate diet where the majority of carbs are fibrous vegetables.

The balance should be berries; blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries. This way of eating will prevent the drowsiness that accompanies the serotonin rush brought on by blood sugar spikes and crashes.

It will also provide satiety and stabilize energy levels.

The last factor I’d suggest is deep breathing and stretch. These often overlooked activities can be done right in the office, and without the need for equipment or space.

Every half hour that I’m seated at my desk working on writing projects I make sure I take a series of deep breaths. Full breaths that expand your stomach and chest fully. (Not to the point of pain).

I’ll usually take about 10 breaths and hold them for about 10 or 15 seconds. Then, I fully expel the air from my lungs.

Also, every few hours I’ll do a light, full body stretch, and shake out my body. In this case you’re not trying to increase flexibility so much as you want to break up the adhesions that creep in when sitting for a while. These are great for reducing stress and relieving tension.

Cardio, Weights or Classes?

Assuming your goal is to shed body fat fast and effectively, strength training should be the backbone of your program. Here’s where you get the biggest bang for your buck. Strength training is the most effective way to drive your metabolism up. Strength training at a high intensity will not only give you caloric burn during the workout, but will increase EPOC (post exercise calorie burn) by a substantial amount.

When you strength train, you’re stimulating a lot of changeover in the body. You’re of course burning calories by performing the work during exercise, but you’re also breaking down muscle tissue. The metabolic increase (caloric burn increase) is huge after the workout due the repair of the broken down tissue, and several other hormonal factors.

Cardio should be the cherry on top.

Once you’re meeting your strength training priority, you can move on to cardio. Studies have shown that high intensity cardio done in short bursts is more effective at burning a higher total amount of calories than long slow cardio.

This style of cardio activity is also more time efficient.

Classes are the third option in the order of priority. Aside from a tough group cycle, I’m not a big fan of classes because they are generally not time/ effort efficient. *Unless you can’t get yourself to workout without a group setting. In this case, any exercise is better than no exercise. I’ll save that dilemma for another article*

Order of effectiveness for your question

1) Strength Training
2) High Intensity cardio
3) Classes

What is your take on stress reduction?

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to start a fitness-training program.

Many diseases and illnesses are the direct result of stress, and exercise helps to counter the negative effects that stress has on our mind and body.

Even a light workout or a walk in the park can be beneficial for stress reduction. By increasing the intensity of the exercise our body begins to release endorphins, which makes us feel happier and this counters the effects of stress.

As our levels of fitness increase we are able to handle more stress both in body and mind, as being physically fit also leads to a more positive outlook on life and less problems are likely to influence this outlook.

We become more alert as we get fitter and tasks that might have been difficult become easier to achieve. This ability to perform more in a day with less effort has a dramatic effect on our stress levels.

In addition to this, when we exercise outdoors we get the benefits of fresh air, which is something that many people don’t get enough of in the air conditioned environments that we have become accustomed to.

The more we exercise the less we are inclined to suffer from the negative effects of stress and this reduction in stress allows us to exercise more easily as our energy levels rise. It becomes an ever increasing positive circle of less stress and more fitness.

People often get into a ‘rut’ where they feel they don’t have the time to exercise as they have too much to do, when in fact if they took the time to exercise they would have more energy and better health that would allow them to do more in the course of the day.

They would find they could be more productive and do so in a more relax.

I have a tough time getting myself through cardio sessions, what can I do to make it easier?

Pop on some music. High Intensity cardio is our preferred method of cardio here at MCNewsletters, being that it’s the most efficient and effective for form of cardio for fat loss. The key in this type of exercise is to push yourself to the limit. Anyone who has done high intensity cardio properly knows how brutal it is.

To push yourself to the limit, you’ve got to push through the barriers of pain and fatigue. You know those gremlins that pop up during your cardio workout; the burning in your legs, the burning of your lungs, that feeling of “no more!”.

Well, that’s where iTunes comes in. (Actually it’s the music itself that is the “active ingredient”. Your mode of delivery of music is irrelevant).

Here are some things I’ve noticed in my own workouts, which clients have reported as well.

1) Pumping up your favorite tunes during the toughest part of the workout seems to increase your pain threshold. Basically, “getting into the music” carries you through the intense part of the workout, making the pain and fatigue less noticeable.

2) Listening to the right music also seems to allow you to work at greater intensity (without sensing pain and fatigue) for longer periods of time- “making time disappear”.

For High Intensity cardio, music can be better than any supplement on the market!

If you can improve on those two factors- increasing pain threshold to work at higher levels, and increasing the length of time you can sustain these higher levels, you’ll be unstoppable.

What kind of music is best?

The type of music depends on your own personal taste. Whatever music gets a rise out of you, something that makes you want to kick some ass tends to work best. Most people prefer something fast and rhythmic, which gets you in the zone.

Should I also use headphones while weight training?

I personally don’t like using headphones while weight training. While weight training properly, sets are relatively short. You’re not really building up appreciable amounts of metabolic byproducts which cause pain or fatigue. I prefer to concentrate on the proper execution of each rep, and the feeling.

Is the “Calories Burned” Function on Cardio Machines Accurate?

The data that comes out of the machine is a rough estimate.

The more information you enter (accurate information such as height, weight, age) the better the estimate will become. This still doesn’t mean it’s even close to accurate though.

There are too many key variables that the machine wont be able to take into account such as your current conditioning and overall level of fitness, lean body weight, body fat %, biochemical and hormonal stats, etc…

Even things like stride length (how long your legs are) factor in. Not to mention the efficiency of the nervous system in the movement which I’ve written about here.

Efficiency of the nervous system is a great thing for performance in sports and when working on specific skills because you expend less energy. It’s not so great when trying to lose weight because… you expend less energy (burning calories).

If you’re serious about keeping track of your calories burned, there are devices that you can wear during the day to gather the data.

They tend give a more accurate estimate of calories burned because of new technology that allows sensors to pick up on things like skin temperature and physical exertion. These products still far from perfect but better than nothing.

-Mike

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