Any form of exercise which requires you to use your muscles will cause your body to burn fat and benefit from all the positive changes associated with exercise. There are, however, several guidelines you should follow to help you maximize becoming more fit and less fat:
Type of activity: This refers to the type of exercise you do. The best exercises for burning fat are those which can be done continuously and involve the most muscle groups (especially the large muscles of the hips and legs). Although some exercises are more efficient for burning fat than others, there is no one “best” exercise for burning fat; anyone who says there is, is probably trying to sell you something.
In the simplest terms, exercise simply means increased activity. For beginners, that may mean something as simple as mowing the lawn or vacuuming the house – they both burn calories. The key is movement! To burn fat, you have to use your muscles; and to use your muscles you have to move. In fact, the landmark Framingham Heart Study which monitored 5,000 people for 25 years found that the best results from exercise occurred when people just started moving. Just remember, any exercise is good for you. But, the more muscles you use and the more continuous you use them, the more fat you’ll burn.
Duration: This refers to how long you exercise. Twenty minutes is generally considered the minimum amount of time you need to exercise for adequate fat-burning benefit and to increase the growth of fat burning enzymes in your muscles. While it’s true that the longer you exercise, the more fat you’ll burn, keep in mind that exercise which uses more muscle takes less time to burn the same amount of fat as exercise which uses fewer muscles. Don’t worry about the distance you travel while exercising; the time you exercise is what’s important, not the distance.
Intensity: This refers to your level of exertion or “pace” during exercise. Although some people still believe that if an exercise doesn’t hurt, it isn’t doing them any good, the “no pain, no gain” theory doesn’t apply to fat-burning. Remember to think longer as opposed to harder when exercising to lose body fat.
The correct exercise intensity for burning fat is whatever is a moderate, comfortable pace for you. Although monitoring your heart rate (pulse) is a common method of checking to see if you’re at the right pace, a simpler method is the “talk test”. This involves exercising at a pace where you can carry on a limited conversation without gasping for air at every word. Another method is to simply ask yourself “Can I keep exercising at this intensity for at least 20 minutes?” If the answer is “no,” slow down to a point where you can continue the pace for at least 20 minutes.
Remember that as you become less fat and more fit, you will need to exercise at a faster pace to continue to reach the right intensity level (i.e. from walking to jogging). This is a result of your body getting “in shape”.For you to continue to progress, your exercise needs to progress also.
Frequency: This refers to how often you exercise. Shoot for a minimum of 3 times per week with no more than 2 days of rest between exercise sessions. If you want to exercise more frequently, by all means do it; but this depends on how fit you are. It may be just as effective for you to increase your intensity slightly or your duration on the days you do exercise rather than to add another day. Even the most highly trained athletes need a day off now and then.
These guidelines should always be used at a level that’s right for you. Ideally, you should try to vary the type of activity, duration, intensity, and frequency of your exercise to add some variety and prevent boredom. This will also help you work different muscles in different ways which will increase your overall progress and prevent your body from becoming accustomed to the same activity each time.