How to Lose Weight Safely and Permanently: 10 Best Exercises for Weight Loss

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There’s no getting around the fact that in order to lose weight safely and permanently, you need to eat healthy food and get plenty of exercise.

Exercising burns calories and builds muscle, which is essential for increasing your metabolism so that you can burn even more calories and lose more weight.

So dust off those workout clothes and pick one of these nine best exercises for weight loss to get started today on your path to a slimmer, healthier you.

1. Walking
Walking is an ideal exercise for weight loss: It doesn’t require any equipment, other than a decent pair of walking shoes, and you don’t need a gym membership to do it.

It’s a low-impact exercise, which means it won’t blow out your knees or cause other stress injuries that can leave you on the sidelines for weeks or even months.

For those with certain health issues, including obesity and heart disease, walking is an effective, low-intensity weight-loss activity that can lead to better overall health, as well as better mental wellbeing.

Depending on how much you weigh, walking at a pace of four miles per hour will burn between 5 and 8 calories every minute, or between 225 and 360 calories for a 45-minute walk.

At this pace, walking 45 minutes a day most days, you can lose up to a pound a week without changing any other habits.

So put on your walking shoes, turn on your iPod and go for a brisk stroll through the neighborhood. If you live close to where you work or shop, make walking your primary mode of transportation most days, and watch the pounds melt away. When the weather is bad, take to the local track or indoor mall, or hop on the treadmill.

2. Kettlebell

Kettlebells are cast iron balls fitted with a single handle. Unlike traditional handheld weights, the weight of the kettlebell isn’t evenly distributed, which means that your body has to work to stabilize you and counterbalance the weight of the ball.

Kettlebells provide for a hard-core workout that not only burns up to 400 calories in a mere 20 minutes, but also strengthens your core, improves balance and posture and targets all of the major muscle groups, as well as the stabilizing muscles.

Because kettlebell exercises involve the whole body, a kettlebell workout will rev up your metabolism to help your body burn fat faster, and it’ll get your heart pumping so that you get an aerobic workout as well. In fact, 20-minute kettlebell workout is similar to a six-mile run in terms of cardiovascular benefits and calories burned.

However, working successfully with kettlebells requires proper form to avoid injury and get the most benefit out of your workout. If you’re new to kettlebells, taking a class at your local gym will provide you with initial instruction about proper form and the safety guidelines you should follow when exercising with these heavy weights.

3. Swimming
Vigorous swimming can burn anywhere from 400 to 700 calories an hour. All types of swimming are effective for helping you shed pounds, from a front crawl to a breast stroke or even the dog paddle.

Swimming is a highly effective exercise for weight loss and toning. It’s one of the lowest-impact exercises out there, and it strengthens, tones and conditions your whole body.

It’s particularly ideal for women in their last trimester of pregnancy and individuals who battle with arthritis, obesity, and musculoskeletal conditions.

It’s also great for those who suffer from exercise-induced asthma, because the warm, moist air around the water helps keep the airways clear.

Many athletes use the pool as a cross-training tool, as well as to stay fit while rehabilitating an injury. When you’re neck-deep in water, your body is only bearing ten percent of its weight, and yet the water provides 12 times the resistance of air, making it ideal for strengthening and toning your muscles.

Swimming engages all of the major muscle groups, from your abdominals and back muscles to your arms, legs, hips and glutes. It effectively compliments other exercises, like running and walking, or it can be your sole form of fitness.

Don’t know how to swim? Not a problem. If you can propel yourself through the water from one end of the pool to the other, you can swim well enough to lose weight doing it.

4. Cycling
Bicycling is another low-impact, high-rewards activity for losing weight.

Cycling can burn anywhere from 372 to over 1,100 calories per hour, depending on your weight, your speed and the terrain you’re biking across.

Unlike running, cycling is easy on the joints, and even the most out-of-shape beginner can hop on a bicycle and ride several miles without feeling like they’ve just been through the wringer.

Outdoor cycling is best, because the varied terrain enables you to get a well-rounded workout that includes strengthening your lower body and getting a good cardiovascular workout.

If you live within biking distance of your job, cycling to work can stimulate endorphins and boost your metabolism for the day, as well as save you money on gas. If outdoor cycling is difficult or dangerous in your area, consider spinning.

Offered at most gyms, this group cycling activity is one of the lowest-impact classes offered, and yet it’s one of the most effective for burning calories and revving up your metabolism.

Even seasoned runners or bikers will likely find themselves challenged by the spinning instructor. An hour-long spinning class covers about 20 miles and challenges participants to reach speeds that they may find impossible when riding an actual bike.

5. Elliptical Trainer
The elliptical trainer at home or at the gym enables you to get a low-impact, full body workout.

Easier on the joints than a treadmill, the elliptical trainer also has movable handles that enable you to get a good upper-body workout in addition to working your lower body.

Elliptical machines let you choose the intensity level, and by raising and lowering the ramp and going backwards, you can target different muscle groups in your legs, both front and back.

The average person using an elliptical trainer can burn about 600 calories per hour. The elliptical trainer mimics the action of running while eliminating impact, saving knees and other joints from wear. For those who suffer from arthritis, musculoskeletal conditions and obesity, the elliptical trainer is a great way to exercise without risking impact injuries.

When you’re using the elliptical trainer, hold on to the movable handles rather than the static ones to increase the number of calories you burn and to help tone your arms.

Don’t rely on the calorie counters on elliptical machines to give you an accurate readout of calories burned. Instead, maximize your workout by striving to keep your heart rate at 85 percent and upping the resistance when it feels too easy.

6. Running
If you’re one of the many people who love to run, you’re in luck.

Running burns about 600 calories per hour, helps build strong bones and connective tissue and gets your heart pumping at a healthy rate to help prevent heart disease, stroke and certain cancers.

The only equipment running requires is a good pair of shoes to protect your joints and, if it helps you keep the pace and maintain motivation, an iPod with your favorite tunes.

Interval training can bump up the calories you burn on your daily run. Also called speed work, interval training involves short spurts, usually between 30 seconds and two minutes, of running at top speed.

Intervals burn a large number of calories in a short amount of time, improve your resting metabolism to help you burn more calories during the day, and increase your muscle mass.

Experts now recommend that you don’t stretch before you run. Instead, warm up by marching in place, bringing your knees up high, or walking for five minutes before beginning your run.

Because running is a high-impact exercise that can damage your joints, it’s always best to have a professional fit you with the right running shoes, based on your gait.

7. Tennis
A good game of tennis can burn up to 600 calories in an hour.

If you’re the type who prefers to exercise with a partner, tennis is an ideal way to get active. It’s also perfect for those who don’t particularly like to exercise, but who love a good competition.

You don’t have to be a great tennis player to lose weight doing it. After all, running after the balls is still a form of exercise.

The nature of tennis makes it a great whole-body workout, and playing it can help you improve your flexibility, balance and posture, as well as let off some steam to reduce stress.

Throughout the game, especially every time you hit the ball, your arm, abdominal and leg muscles are engaged, building strength and burning calories. But that’s not all that’s engaged. Your brain gets a good workout every time you play tennis, from thinking quickly and creatively to planning ahead.

Games like tennis boost the brain’s function to improve memory and the ability to learn new things. It also helps increase your peak bone mass; in fact, the National Institute of Health lists tennis as one of the activities that promotes bone health.

8. High intensity interval training
This is one of the most effective weight loss exercise options available.

You only need to engage in this form of exercise for about 20 minutes, three times a week, to get incredible benefits that include burning a large number of calories and ramping up your metabolism in the wake of the afterburn.

High intensity interval workouts can be done with many forms of exercise, and consist of short but intense bursts of activity followed by a lower-intensity period or a period of complete rest.

Those who are new to exercising shouldn’t perform interval training until they’ve been exercising regularly for a couple of months.

A standard interval workout for biking, swimming, running, lifting weights or even walking is 20 minutes long, but burns far more calories than 20 minutes of steady exercise.

Start out by warming up for five minutes. For the sixth minute, push yourself as hard and fast as you can. The seventh minute is all about catching your breath. Repeat the fast/slow cycle (minus the warm up) five times, and cool down for three minutes.

High intensity interval training, or HIIT, offers amazing benefits. Not only will you progress much faster to your desired fitness level, you will also improve your aerobic capacity. In fact, after only two weeks of HIIT, your aerobic capacity will be stronger than if you had completed eight weeks of steady-state endurance exercise, such as running.

9. CrossFit
CrossFit, like high intensity training, is only suitable for individuals who have been exercising on a somewhat regular basis for a couple of months.

Originally designed to train first responders and Special Forces, CrossFit is a workout regimen that involves weight lifting, endurance exercises, plyometrics, strength and speed training and kettlebell exercise routines, among other activities.

One thing you won’t lose with CrossFit is interest. Unlike other routines that involve doing one exercise for a specified amount of time, CrossFit incorporates many activities into one intense, fat-burning workout.

It’s designed to target all of the major components of physical fitness, including endurance, flexibility, speed, power and cardiorespiratory fitness.

No two days are alike when you’re doing CrossFit. An example of a CrossFit routine is five repetitions of 20 pull-ups, 30 push-ups, 40 sit-ups and 50 squats, all performed one after the other, with a three-minute rest between repetitions.

While definitely not for the faint-of-heart, CrossFit routines are highly effective at burning calories and fat, improving physical stamina and endurance, and increasing metabolism.

To get the most benefit out of CrossFit, you should perform a different routine at least three days a week, but ideally five days a week. The good news is that the routines are short, lasting only 15 to 20 minutes when done properly.

10. Cross Country Skiing
If you enjoy nature, like the cold and love a good snow, cross country skiing might just become your favorite exercise.

Cross country skiing is a tough workout that works every major muscle group in your body as you glide along, providing both pushing and pulling movements for your muscles. It’s great for improving balance and coordination.

Cross country skiing is a combination of resistance training and cardio activity that’ll burn between 500 and 650 calories per hour, depending on how much you weight and the intensity of the workout.

While you’re skiing, your muscles are working hard. However, since they’re all working together and you’re getting moments of rest on the glide, the lack of muscle exhaustion enables you to sustain the activity for long periods of time. Likewise, your heart rate will be elevated throughout the workout, but won’t be so high that you have to stop to rest.

Make sure you have the right gear for safety and comfort during your workout. You don’t need to spend a bundle, but you’ll need warm clothes that are designed to insulate and breathe. Make sure your ski boots are comfortable and warm.

The right form is critical when cross country skiing. Beginners should start slowly, propelling forward with long, slow strokes until rhythm and form become natural. The moves should feel coordinated and be executed with smooth, fluid motions.

Once you’ve got the form and rhythm down, let the skis take you on a tour of the winter wonderland around you. Allow your mind to wander while your body does the work so that you’re relaxed and renewed by the end of the workout.