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How to Exercise For Weight Loss

An Expert Explains How to Exercise For Long-Term Weight Loss, and It Makes So Much Sense

Wasit up image of a fit, young African American woman working out with hand weights in a fitness gym.

You know losing weight is a concentrated effort and a lifestyle change: you have to eat healthier and in a calorie deficit, exercise, get plenty of sleep, and reduce stress. But even if you do all of the above, you still may be confused as to what type of exercise you should be doing. Isn't cardio supposed to rev up calorie burn and torch fat? But wait — doesn't strength training also build lean muscle and burn calories at rest? Which one is best?

According to personal trainer and registered dietitian Jim White, ACSM, owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios, it's important to incorporate both cardio and strength training if you want to lose weight and keep it off for good. And while you probably knew this already, the way he explains it totally changed the way we thought about working out for long-term weight loss.

"The reason for needing both cardio and resistance training in your exercise routine is the way your body burns calories long-term," he told POPSUGAR. "Running is like a debit account (you would create a calorie deficit, but that deficit is a one-time transaction), whereas resistance training is like getting a payout from an investment account (the calories you burn during your exercise continue even after your workout ends)."

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So while cardio burns calories as you do it, resistance training (such as lifting weights, bodyweight moves, or using resistance bands) helps build lean muscle in your body, which will burn more calories at rest.

For weight loss, Jim recommends 300 minutes (five hours) of cardio a week. That doesn't have to be intense cycling classes or running laps; it can be as simple as walking more or shoveling snow — anything that gets your heart rate up. You should aim to strength train at least two days a week. Looking for a good place to start? Here are our best cardio workouts and some strength-training exercises to get you on track.

Image Source: Getty / Mireya Acierto
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