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How to Build a Better Workout Program

How to Exercise Less, See Better Results

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Updated April 01, 2014

How to Build a Better Workout Program

Create a balanced program to get weight loss results

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What’s the best workout for weight loss? There isn’t one. The most effective workout is actually a combination of three different types of training: cardiovascular training, strength training and flexibility training. Each type of exercise has unique benefits for people who want to improve their level of fitness and lose weight. To get the best results from your workouts, make sure you include each form of training in your weekly plan. 

What Is Cardiovascular Training?

Cardiovascular training is often called "cardio" or aerobics. Cardio can be the kind of activity that you do in an aerobics class, but it also includes any kind of movement that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe deeply for an extended period of time. Running is cardiovascular activity, so is swimming, riding a bike and brisk walking. Weight lifting makes your heart rate increase and makes you breathe deeply but not for long enough to qualify as cardio.

Weight Loss Benefits of Cardiovascular Training

Aerobic activity is the core of most weight loss workout programs. When you participate in aerobic activity, you put your metabolism into hyper drive and rev up your calorie-burning engine to burn fat and calories.

Cardiovascular activity also improves the function of your heart and lungs. While this may not directly contribute to weight loss, it will help your body to perform better throughout the day which may help you to remain more active even when you are not exercising. For example, if your heart is healthy, you may be more likely to take the stairs instead of the elevator or walk to the grocery store instead of drive. These non-exercise physical activities help you to burn more calories all day long.

What is Strength Training?

Strength training is physical activity that builds healthy muscle tissue. Strong muscles help you to move your body more efficiently. Some people refer to strength training as “lifting weights” but there are many other activities such as TRX training and body weight exercises that effectively qualify as strength training even though they don't involve lifting a dumbbell or a weight plate on a machine.

Sometimes, people who are trying to lose weight will skip weight lifting because the purpose of this type of activity is essentially to add weight to your frame. But in the long run, adding muscle helps you to lose fat.

Weight Loss Benefits of Strength Training

When you build muscle, you increase the amount of lean tissue on your body. A body with more lean muscle mass burns more calories even when it is at rest. For this reason, experts recommend that we include strength training as part of a weight loss workout program. You don’t have to be bulky and muscular, but a toned tight frame is more likely to have an efficient metabolism. A body with more muscle also has a better shape than a body that has more fat.

Strength training also becomes particularly important as we age. For many reasons, our metabolism slows as we get older. Many women find that after menopause, weight gain is almost inevitable and weight loss is impossible. But exercisers who continue to build and maintain muscle are less likely to suffer from a slow metabolism and excessive weight gain.

What Is Flexibility Training?

Flexibility training is stretching. An effective stretching program takes only a small amount of time and can be done in just about any space. Even so, flexibility training is often the most neglected part of a workout. This is particularly unfortunate because people who stretch enjoy specific benefits that help them lose weight.

Weight Loss Benefits of Flexibility Training

Stretching helps us to maintain good range of motion in our joints and helps our muscles to remain loose and healthy. All of this helps us to move more efficiently during the day and experience less pain from tight muscles or from muscle imbalances. A healthy body is likely to move more and burn more calories.

But the greatest benefit enjoyed by dieters who stretch is that it relieves stress. People who struggle with weight loss often cite emotional eating as a key reason that they cheat on their diets. If dieters can find a healthier way to relieve stress then they may be able to use it as a preventative solution to eliminate binge eating or cheating when their emotions get the best of them.

And lastly, stretching that includes quiet meditation may also help us to sleep better at night. Why does that matter? Studies have shown that people who are well rested are more likely to make better food choices than people who are tired.

Combine Cardio, Strength and Flexibility for Best Results

Now that you know why each type of training matters, be sure that you make each mode of exercise a priority on your workout schedule. It doesn’t require a huge time investment. If you currently participate in some aerobic activity on most days of the week, add 15-30 minutes of strength training on two of those days and just 10 minutes of stretching at the end of each session. This small time investment may help you to enjoy big rewards when it’s time to step on the scale.

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