So, you’re trying to lose weight and hit the gym more often. But how do you even know where to start?
The great news is, you don’t have to dedicate your entire life to the gym. Yay! To optimize your weight loss goals, you’ll want to focus on a mix of steady-state (think jogging or biking) and high-intensity exercises (like boot camp classes and sprints). After all, variety is the spice of life, no?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate exercise per week, or 1.25 to 2.5 hours of high-intensity exercise, spread out across your week.
How you choose to exercise depends on your preference and your specific goals. What’s really important is that you find a workout you can maintain. Stick with any of these awesome exercises, and you’ll be sure to meet your goals.
Indoor cycling classes are not only super fun (who doesn’t love a pop playlist?!), but they’re incredibly effective for weight loss.
Those 45 minutes to an hour of high-intensity exercise can produce what’s known as the “afterburn” effect, or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. This means your body continues to burn calories for hours after the workout is over.
You can also take things outdoors with a road bike. Whether you do sprints for that high-intensity impact or opt for a more leisurely distance ride, you can create a workout that fits your needs and time constraints.
Try it: Pedal at all-out effort for 20 to 60 seconds (staying seated is fine, be nice to your joints!) and follow with 30 to 60 seconds of low-impact pedaling for recovery. Repeat these intervals for 10 to 20 minutes. Not into making up your own intervals? Sign up for an interval-based group cycling class.
Going for a run — especially a short and fast one — can have a similar effect on your metabolism. Running has also been shown to help reduce visceral fat, known as belly fat.
Your calorie burn will differ depending on how fast and far you run. You can reap health benefits just by walking, too, but the decreased energy expenditure won’t lead to quite as much of a weight loss boost.
Try it: Cardio is key for weight loss, but everyone’s perceived exertion is different when it comes to running and jogging. Keep an eye on your heart rate and focus on elevating it for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
Professionally known as high-intensity interval training, one of the best ways to kick-start your metabolism is by doing circuit training that consists of short bursts of super intense exercise, like jumping jacks, switch kicks, or burpees (we know they’re awful, but they work!).
The best part of HIIT training? You can knock it out in just 20 or 30 minutes and then go about your day.
Try it: Another great thing about HIIT workouts is that they’re totally customizable. To get started, try this 15-minute option.
Dealer’s choice on using an actual boat or a machine, since the gist is essentially the same. Rowing is one of the most efficient ways to target muscles all over your body. Just make sure you get your form right, then design interval workouts for yourself to help elevate your heart rate.
Try it: Get set up on a rowing machine where you can track your stats. Try to hit 200 to 250 meters in 60 seconds. Rest for at least 30 seconds, then repeat and try to beat your previous distance. Keep going for 10 to 15 minutes.
When you think of high-intensity workouts, you might not think immediately of strength training.
This method can further your goals by building muscle, which actually burns calories even at rest. This helps your body burn fat more effectively in your day-to-day life. Plus, it can make you more powerful in cardio workouts.
There’s nothing more refreshing than doing laps in the pool, especially on a hot summer day. Swimming is a powerhouse workout for so many reasons.
It’s low impact for your joints, so if you’ve got pesky knee issues or are recovering from injury, this should be your go-to! It also uses your entire body. Enroll in a local swim class to refresh your memory on strokes and breathing techniques.
Try it: Swim* 8 laps at moderate intensity or swim 2 laps at moderate intensity and 1 lap at vigorous intensity and repeat for 20 to 30 minutes.
* You’ll need a traditional swimming pool with lanes for swimming laps.
Dance it out, baby! Cardio dance classes like Zumba are popular for a reason: They can get you seriously sweating without actually feeling like a formal workout.
While Zumba is a great option for steady-state cardio (consistent cardio over a period of time that gets you in the fat-burning zone), you can also amp it up with high-intensity dance classes that involve a lot of jumping, squatting, and booty-shaking.
Try it: Turn on your favorite playlist and shake it at moderate to high intensity for 15 to 20 minutes (go wild!). Need more structure? Try this at-home workout from The Fitness Marshall.
Kickboxing can help you get your anger out while also improving your cardiovascular function. A 2014 study found that kickboxing three times per week for one hour yielded “significant improvement” in terms of aerobic fitness, upper body strength, and agility after 5 weeks.
Try it: Sign up for a class where you can let loose on a punching bag or try this at-home option.
You don’t have to hit the gym to develop a solid workout routine. Rely on your own body weight to do exercises like planks, lunges, jump squats, and mountain climbers. You can use online bodyweight HIIT workouts, which you can do from the comfort of your living room.
Try it: Mix and match using any of these exercises.
Tabata training is a specific type of interval workout that pushes you to do an exercise for 20 seconds, then rest for 10, then repeat this process for several minutes.
If you prefer to base your workouts on time rather than repetitions, this might be an option you’d enjoy. Like other HIIT workouts, you can knock it out in under 30 minutes.
Try it: For another amazing at-home option, grab a timer and try any of these exercises.
You’ll want to do more than just a quick 5-minute jump rope routine, though — build it into a well-rounded workout, using the jump rope in between other bodyweight exercises.
Try it: Depending on how your joints feel, try to sustain jumping rope for 15 to 20 minutes to build aerobic fitness and burn calories.
Yoga doesn’t burn as many calories as more intense forms of exercise, but it does build strength, especially in the core and upper body. It can also reduce stress and improve your mood, which can have a powerful effect on your overall health choices.
If you’d like to be more mindful about your health, this practice could help calm your brain and make you more aware of your body.
Try it: Yoga doesn’t need to be practiced in blistering heat to be effective. You’ll burn calories in any vinyasa class where you’re challenging your body to hold poses and move. You can also start with this at-home video.
If you’ve ever trudged up a steep hill while trying to hold a conversation, you know how it can leave you breathless.
You can incorporate more hills into your daily life by walking, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or hiking on the weekends. These little lifestyle shifts can go a long way toward your health goals.
If you want to turn it into a full workout, try a couple of hill sprints in the park or run some stairs.
Try it: Go on a moderately difficult 1- to 2-mile hike. For a high-intensity option, run stairs for 45 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this method for 10 minutes.
No matter how much effort you put in at the gym, your plan should include a total health approach.
The most effective way to reach your goals involves a combination of nutrition, physical activity, sleep, hydration, and mental well-being. Focusing on one thing may yield moderate results, but your best bet is to tackle your health from multiple angles.
It may also be helpful for you to consult a professional, such as a certified personal trainer or registered dietitian. They can help you come up with a target weight and personalized strategies to get there.
You’ll also be more likely to stick to a workout plan if it’s something you truly enjoy. Maximizing calorie burn is a minor concern compared to maintaining a regular routine. Consistency, not intensity, is what changes your body over time.
Find a workout that makes you feel strong and healthy — and then make it into a non-negotiable part of your day. You’ll start to notice progress before you know it.