With gyms reopening all over the world, and a big chunk of the population having packed a bunch of pounds around their waist, it’s easy to understand why weight loss is becoming more and more popular by the hour. Now that most countries are softening the restrictions on their citizens, people are looking for the ultimate workout routine to lose weight effectively.
Before diving into the technicalities of which types of exercise you should choose, it’s best to keep in mind that the best way to lose fat is to mix intense activity, like gym training, running, or sports, with a decent amount of mild, daily movements, like walking, yoga, or climbing stairs.
Relying on exercise only without keeping an active lifestyle won’t be nearly as effective as combining 4-5 intense exercise sessions with complementary daily movement.
Here are the exercises you should include in your workout routine to lose weight.
Step 1: Daily Walks
Aim for 10,000 steps per day.
If you’re able to be out and about, aim to get 10,000 steps per day. Walking serves as a great way to clear your head, manage stress, and keep fat gain to a minimum.
This may not sound like a big deal, but getting around 10,000 steps per day may burn as many as 500 calories. Taken over the week, that’s 3500 calories, or the same number of calories in a pound of fat.
Walk in the morning. Walk while doing meetings on the phone. Walk after meals. Walk while you listen to podcasts. Walking time doesn’t need to be dead time.
Bonus: Use Nasal Breathing
When you go for your walks, press your tongue against the roof of your mouth and breathe through your nose. Nasal breathing has a ton of benefits, including better oxygen extraction (which can lead to more energy), maintaining a balanced pH in your body through improved carbon dioxide breakdown, and decreased nerve activity in the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system arouses the body through the fight or flight response. When this is chronically high due to periods of high stress, cortisol increases, which can suppress your immune system, increase fat gain, and decrease muscle gain. Long story short: nasal breathing reduces stress and improves your health.
Never underestimate the importance of being on your feet most of the day in achieving your weight loss goals, and once your daily steps have become a habit, you can dive into the next essential piece of quick weight loss: burning more calories with HIIT.
Step 2: HIIT Training
The best types of exercise to burn calories are intense cardio activities like:
- Skipping rope (667-990 calories/hour)
- Running interval sprints (639-946 calories/hour)
- Kickboxing (582-864 calories/hour)
- Cycling intervals (568-841 calories/hour)
What do all these activities have in common? They all fit into the HIIT (high-intensity interval training) category. If you’re looking for the most time-effective strategy to lose weight with exercise, you should surely implement some HIIT components.
What Is HIIT Training?
HIIT workouts generally combine short bursts of intense exercise with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. At fitness studios and online, these workouts often mix aerobic and resistance training. Sports like boxing and football have some HIIT components because they require an intensity that cannot be sustained longer than a minute or so, followed by periods of rest two to three times the duration of the sprint.
The HIIT principle can be adapted in exercises of all sorts, like running (running sprints), cycling (uphill bursts), rowing, swimming, and so on, but also to standard gym training or bodyweight training (just think of a set of burpees).
Knowing this, it’s pretty clear that HIIT should be one of the main components of any weight-loss program, combined with your mandatory daily steps. However, we’re missing another piece of the puzzle to create the ultimate workout routine to lose weight effectively: progressive overload weight training
Step 3: Progressive Overload
This principle involves continually increasing the demands on the musculoskeletal system to continually make gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance. Simply put, in order to get bigger and stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to. Most often, that means increasing the resistance, but as you’ll find below, there are other methods to increase the overload.
Conversely, if the demands on the target muscle groups are not at least maintained or are actually decreased, your muscles will atrophy, losing size and strength.
Progressive overload is a very simple but crucial concept, laying the foundation upon which successful resistance training is built.
The progressive-overload principle doesn’t apply just to lifting weights to increase muscle growth and strength; it can also be applied to cardiovascular-fitness programs, creating physiological changes that affect aerobic metabolism and the cardiorespiratory system.
Let’s take a set of press-ups as an example:
If on your first week of a new workout you complete four sets of 10 press-ups, you could apply the principle of progressive overload the following week by making the sets of press-ups more intense in the following ways:
- Increase the number of reps (if you did 4 sets of 10 the previous week, you could do 4 sets of 11 repetitions the following week).
- Increase the number of sets (doing 5 sets of 10 repetitions instead of four).
- Decrease the amount of rest in between the sets (if you were resting 60″ in between sets on the first week, rest 50″ the following week).
- Increase the load. On a set of press-ups, that could mean adding a 2.5kg plate above your back or increasing the effect of gravity by lifting one leg in the air or placing both feet on the couch so that your body is declined towards the floor.
As you can see, progressive overload means to progressively increase the effort you put on a particular exercise. But why is this so important for weight loss?
The Afterburn Effect
The afterburn effect, also known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), refers basically to the increased quantity of calories burned after exercise.
Physical activity increases muscles’ demand for oxygen (VO2), which oxidizes carbohydrates and fats, producing the energy required for movement. The demand of the human body for oxygen increases proportionately with the intensity of your workout.
During intense exercise, your body needs more oxygen than breathing can provide. This gap between the demand for oxygen in the muscles and the actual amount of oxygen delivered is called the “oxygen debt.” In order to “pay off” the oxygen debt, restore balance, and “cool off,” the human body usually needs a few hours. In that time, it consumes more than 10 liters of extra oxygen, thus burning more calories post-workout.
To take advantage of this fascinating ability of the body and enjoy the reward of extra calories burned, you should make sure you train the right way by constantly applying some sort of progressive overload.
Studies have shown that one of the main factors influencing the accelerated burning of calories after the workout is the intensity of the activity. With an increase in the exercise intensity (progressive overload and, of course, HIIT), the magnitude and duration of EPOC increases. Low-intensity physical effort has shown the smallest effect on post-exercise calorie burning. The effect of combustion after the completion of intensive training can take up to 10 hours.
In simple words: each workout you perform should get more intense each time you perform it again, and it should include some sort of maximum intensity in short bursts (HIIT) to really maximize calorie consumption and, therefore, weight loss.
Step 4: Putting It All Together
Here is an “ideal structure” you can use to create the ultimate workout routine to lose weight, allowing you to choose the form of exercise that you enjoy the most. Always remember that the best exercise for you is the one you will actually do. Therefore, choosing a training style or sport that you truly enjoy is as important as getting your daily steps.
Now that I made that clear, let’s get to the meat!
Let’s take a 4-week protocol as an example.
- 7 days of 10-12,000 daily steps, possibly catching the morning sunlight to adjust your circadian rhythms and reduce stress
- 3 exercise sessions of 40 minutes: 30 minutes of regular training and 10 minutes of HIIT cardio
- 7 days of 12-15,000 daily steps
- 4 exercise sessions of 45 minutes: 35 minutes of regular training and 10 minutes of HIIT cardio
- 7 days of 12-15,000 daily steps (30 minutes walking at a higher pace, almost to a mild sweaty point)
- 4 exercise sessions of 50 minutes: 35 minutes of regular training and 15 minutes of HIIT cardio
- 7 days of 12-15,000 daily steps (40′ minutes walking at a higher pace, almost to a mild sweaty point)
- 4 exercise sessions of 60 minutes: 45 minutes of regular training and 15 minutes of HIIT cardio
Now, let’s take gym training as an example and apply this structure. The daily steps stay the same as above, and the training goes something like this:
- Monday: 30 minutes leg training and 10 minutes treadmill HIIT sprints
- Wednesday: 30 minutes upper body training and 10 minutes of assault bike HIIT sprints
- Friday: 30 minutes of full body training and 10 minutes of HIIT burpees
- Monday: 35 minutes leg training and 10 minutes treadmill HIIT sprints
- Tuesday: 35 minutes upper body training and 10 minutes of assault bike HIIT sprints
- Thursday and Saturday: 35 minutes of full body training and 10 minutes of HIIT burpees
Week 3 and 4 are like week 2, but with longer workouts.
NOTE: In the case of weight training, splitting your training sessions in lower-body, upper-body and full-body will give you the best results because the more muscles you use during a given workout, the more calories you consume. In case you decide to practice a sport like boxing, running, or cycling that use the same set of muscles all the time, you should consider alternating low-intensity days with high-intensity days to give your muscles a break and allow them to fully recover.
No workout program is “ideal” for every individual, but the above-mentioned structure seems to work best for most people looking for a workout routine to lose weight and improve their general fitness. Whatever exercise you decide to practice regularly should also be combined with an appropriate diet to create a calorie deficit.
More Tips on Losing Weight
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.