There has probably been a time in your fitness life when you've uttered the phrases: "I'm too busy" or "I'm too tired" or "I hate my workout clothes." There are tons of excuses to skip working out. We get it—you want to get the biggest bang for your workout buck, especially when you're dealing with a busy schedule. But when you do exercise, it will energize you and lift your mood. Remember what Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde? "Exercise gives you endorphins, and endorphins make you happy."
We all know exercise is a major component of getting healthy and losing some weight. Shelf after shelf of diet books make it seem complicated, but in theory, it's pretty simple. You have to eat less and move more. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight, and if you eat fewer calories and burn more calories through physical activity, you lose weight.
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So which exercises burn the most calories? We asked licensed exercise physiologist, registered dietitian, nutritionist, and former host of TLC's Honey, We're Killing the Kids, Felicia Stoler, DCN, MS, RDN, FACSM, FAND, who points to cardio as one key component of calorie-burning. "Do anything that's going to get your heart rate up a lot. Any kind of high-intensity interval training or high-intensity cardio workout is going to get your heart rate up," she explains.
Another important element in a calorie-burning exercise plan is strength and resistance training, according to Stoler. "It's not just about heart rate—doing resistance training is going to increase your calorie burn as well. If you increase muscle mass, you increase fat burning capability."
And if you're still have trouble getting off the couch and moving, Stoler advises her clients find an activity they love or something that's part of their everyday lifestyle to focus on as a start. "I don't want to dismiss activities of daily living that can be just as effective as exercise… Doing yard work and mowing the lawn, especially if you've got a big hill, are great," she says.
And for some workout ideas, here are some calorie-burning exercises:
An estimated 50 million Americans enjoy running, jogging, and trail running every year. Sore knees? Fast walking does the trick with less impact.
Weather permitting, taking a bike ride is a great way to have fun, burn calories, and get where you need to go. When bad weather hits, take it inside. Popular classes like SoulCycle kick your butt in the best possible way.
HIIT or high-intensity interval training is great if you're short on time. You'll do short spurts of intense exercise followed by some moments of recovery. During a HIIT workout, you'll raise your metabolic rate, burn a high number of calories, and increase your heart rate. Plus, depending on what your HIIT workout entails, you won't need a ton of equipment.
And besides exercise, another secret to calorie-burning according to Stoler? Sleep.
But this doesn't mean you should take a nap or watch Stranger Things instead of going for a fast walk—sleep is important to give you the energy to take on any exercise routine. "You burn more fat when you're sleeping than any other time. If you aren't getting a good night's sleep, your body does not have time to rest, recharge, repair and renew and burn the fat. You do burn fat at a greater rate when you're sleeping. … It's the ultimate steady state," Stoler says.
Nutrition is the other big piece of the weight loss puzzle. "The two go hand in hand, they work in partnership, it's part of many pillars of healthy living," she explains. Fad diets and counting calories aren't necessary. Instead, she offers a simple piece of overall nutritional advice: "Eat more plant-based foods. It's so easy. The one thing lacking in most diets are fruits, vegetables, and whole grains."
And if you need further proof that this advice can work, Stoler touts an overall healthy lifestyle as the reason people can't believe she's 52. "Diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, having love and positive relationships in your life—those are all the pillars of longevity; it's healthy living and healthy aging," she says.
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used in the place of advice of your physician or other medical professionals. You should always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider first with any health-related questions. See our full health disclaimer here.