One of the greatest myths in weight loss is that you can target fatty areas on your body with specific fat-burning exercises. This is simply not true. However, you can lose weight and lower body fat overall, including belly fat.
Best Fat-burning Exercises
Studies indicate that your body burns through stored fat before relying on carbohydrates for energy. This is called the fat-burning zone. The best fat-burning exercises to access this zone are the ones that require low to moderate exertion, or around 40% of your maximum effort. Perform these regularly in combination with strength or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), and you’ll start burning excess fat in no time.
If you’re comfortable in the pool, swimming is one of the top fat burning exercises. It burns about the same amount as jogging, but without any of the impact – which is great for people who are overweight. The key to burning fat while swimming is to swim in intervals, with short breaks in between, to increase your heart rate.
The main downside to swimming is that you either need a private pool or access to a public pool, in addition to some basic equipment, like goggles and a swim cap.
If you enjoy cycling and live in a bike-friendly city, consider riding your bicycle to work. It’s a great way to stay active and lower your carbon footprint. However, if you’re aiming to burn more fat, an exercise bike allows you to hover in your fat-burning zone without worrying about traffic.
Spin classes at your local gym are an excellent way to get started; just make sure the class is geared toward beginners, and don’t push yourself too hard at first.
Walking and Power/Speed Walking
For beginners, walking is an excellent fat-burning exercise. You literally can get up right now and start exercising! It is one of the cheapest, easiest (if mobile) and most convenient forms of exercise. Invite a friend or family member and make it a healthy bonding experience. A bonus is that walking helps relax and clear your mind because it promotes blood circulation to the brain.
The downside to walking is that it doesn’t burn as many calories as some other activities on this list. If you’d like to challenge yourself, try power walking, which requires a quick gait, usually at a speed of around 4 mph. Or if you have access to a treadmill, you can put the incline at a 6% or higher to really get that heart rate up!
Jogging or Running
If you want to take it further than walking, jogging and running may be good options. However, they aren’t for everyone, especially those who struggle with knee pain. These are high-impact activities, and you should be cautious, beginning gradually. Make sure you’re using a good pair of running shoes and that you incorporate stretching before and after your jog to reduce your chance of injury. Once you’re comfortable, you’ll burn twice as many calories jogging or running as you would walking.
Yoga is yet another fat-burning exercise with numerous health benefits. Even a sequence of basic yoga poses can help you with flexibility, circulation, and even weight loss. As you continue to practice, you can challenge yourself with more intense sessions and styles, such as Vinyasa yoga.
Make sure you have a good mat and a yoga block if you’re a beginner. You can find free yoga classes and resources online or join a group class at your gym. One excellent (and free) 30-minute yoga class on YouTube is Yoga for Beginners, led by Cat Meffan.
Walking and Yoga: The Best Options for Beginners
For beginners, daily walks and regular yoga are good fat burning exercises because they are low-impact, don’t require expertise, and stimulate relaxation.
If you’re not accustomed to exercising, start with a few daily walks per week, but try to incorporate yoga as soon as you can. Aim for one hour of exercise, 3–4 times per week.
Though yoga and walking burn similar amounts of energy, yoga tends to burn more calories and build lean muscle mass. As your body creates lean muscle, your metabolism increases, and you start to shed fat more quickly. During both exercises, challenge yourself to increase your heart rate and enter the fat-burning zone we talked about earlier.
If you must choose one of these two exercises, consider yoga. Apart from being low-impact and relaxing, yoga improves flexibility and mobility, increases circulation, and can even help you recover from injury.
Nutrition: An Important Part of Fat Burning
To lose body fat, you must burn more calories than you consume. Though fat-burning exercises take care of the calories you burn, you should also be watching what you eat. As with most things in life, proper nutrition is based on quality, not quantity.
To start, it’s a good idea to understand your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (the calories needed for your body to carry out its daily functions) and how to calculate it.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around these concepts and calculated their values, you can develop a meal plan based on low-calorie meals. Make sure the meals you choose fit with your schedule and dietary preferences.
Developing a meal plan that works might require trial and error, depending on your workout routine. If you find that these low-calorie meals aren’t filling enough, replace them with more filling healthy foods. By optimizing your meal plan, you’re less likely to practice unhealthy eating behavior like binge eating or stress eating.
Another approach to weight loss combined with fat-burning exercises is to practice intermittent fasting—a simple approach that involves eating your last meal by 8:00 p.m. and waiting until 10:00 a.m. on the following day to enjoy your first meal.
Finally, there are specific diets, like the ketogenic diet, that exclude carbohydrates and force your body to rely on stored fat for energy. The keto diet isn’t for everyone, though, and should not be used as a long term dietary regimen.