Exercise: 4 Types, Which Is Right For You?

Last week I talked about food interventions for weight loss.  Now it’s time to talk about the other half of the plan.  Exercise!  What does it mean?

There are 4 types of exercise to choose from:  increasing everyday activity, cardio, resistance, and HIIT.  What do they mean and which is right for you?

Increased Everyday Activity:  Parking at the far end of the parking lot, taking stairs instead of escalators and elevators, carrying your child instead of putting him in a stroller, walking the dog.  Walk down the hall instead of sending an email to your coworker. These are all examples of increasing everyday activity.  Take the little opportunities to be a bit more active during your day.

Cardio:  This type of exercise is anything that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe harder and break a sweat, ideally for at least 30 minutes.  It is SUSTAINED activity, so basketball counts but baseball doesn’t.  Walking the dog generally doesn’t count either, unless you’re jogging and your dog doesn’t take potty breaks, LOL!  There are lots of fun ways to get your cardio, some of which aren’t immediately apparent.  Dancing (especially ballroom dancing) is fantastic exercise.  Tennis and racquetball, martial arts, Zumba…  Try something new, and have fun!

Resistance:  Most people think of weight lifting when we talk about resistance exercise and, of course, this IS one type.  However there are other types of resistance exercise.  You don’t need a big weight stack and lots of equipment to do very effective resistance exercise.  Calisthenics and bodyweight exercises are tremendously good exercises.  Here are some examples of good bodyweight exercises:  Greatist, NerdFitness, StrengthStack. I like NerdFitness because they are actually routines, not just lists of exercises.  The other two sites are great for those who want to make up their own routines (like a “leg day” routine, an “ab day” routine, etc.)  The benefit of resistance exercise is that it builds muscle.  Muscle is metabolically active tissue and burns calories whether you use it or not.  Building muscle helps weight loss by increasing your metabolism.

HIIT:  HIIT is High-Intensity Interval Training.  The goal is to do short (20-30 seconds) periods of intense exercise at maximal or near-maximal effort, followed by a short rest, then repeat.  The advantage of HIIT is you burn lots of calories in a short period of time and the body doesn’t get used to the exercise and get more efficient at it.  Remember you’re working as hard as you possibly can for a very short period of time.  But as you get more fit, “as hard as you possibly can” stays the same!  It’s self-adjusting exercise.  Neat, huh?  There’s evidence to suggest that overweight and sedentary people lose weight and get fit faster with HIIT than with cardio alone.  Want to see my favorite HIIT?  Check here.

So I can hear you asking “Dr. Jen, which one is the best?  Which one do YOU use?”  Well I believe they ALL are good and I use them all.  I’m a jogger and addicted to the “runner’s high” so I try to run twice a week.  I also use HIIT for quick workouts and hit the weights when I can.  I take the stairs and my staff will tell you I often do laps around the office.

If you’re looking to lose weight and not sure how to go about getting more active, don’t overthink it!  Just pick something that looks like fun and give it a try!

QUESTION:  What’s your favorite type of exercise?  Is there something new you’d like to try?


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  1. Pingback: 3 Reasons You're NOT Losing Weight - Jennifer Wurst, MD

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