Common question of calorie-burning

A workout is only as good as its exerciser for it is the consistency of your motivational level that really matters, enlightens Anjali Sareen.

A question that I often get fervently asked, “Which workout or cardio machine will make me burn the most calories, maximizing my weight-loss?”

Good question. The short and simple answer: “The workout that you will do consistently.”
Having said that, let’s take a more detailed look at this question which actually comes with a list of associated issues.

Consistency

This really is the key starting point. To lose weight, regardless of the workout you do, it has to be done regularly. Today most of us are in a constant state of flux; wanting to have our lives filled with a range of activities beyond work and home. Unfortunately this can leave us perpetually short on time and, as we all know, the first thing knocked off the day’s to-do list tends to be our workout. Well, keep in mind we eat and drink daily, thereby consuming those calories regularly (sometimes far too regularly). So, if you do not have the time to exercise, regularly and consistently, then don’t expect to lose those extra kilos or inches.

Enjoyability

Really there is no one right answer to this. The best, most effective workout would be the one that you enjoy doing. Because that would keep you motivated and consistent. In turn, it would help you burn those calories (regularly) and therefore see results. Notice the simple logic of this? However, each time a new workout starts doing the rounds (and there seem to be a lot of them) we want to switch to that. For we are worried that we may be missing out on something. Having an exercise program based on variety is not the problem. Constantly trying out each new ‘popular’ workout in a start-stop-start again pattern of exercising is not the path to healthy and successful weight-loss.

Interval training

These are workouts that alternate high intensity intervals with lower intensity rest intervals. Interval training is a great way to increase intensity and burn more calories and that too within the same time that you would typically do your cardio workout for. So, in that sense they can be very time-efficient.

In fact there are a number of high intensity interval workouts that are currently being popularized and advocated. Here, I would like to add a word of caution. These workouts are very attractive in terms of being effective for increasing fitness, burning fat and requiring shorter workout time.

However, the very intensity of these workouts require a fair amount of fitness and strength to begin with, thus making them less than ideal for persons whose bodies would not be able to cope with this intensity. After all you start a fitness program to lose weight. An injury would only slow you down towards attaining your goals!

Time factor

There are a number of concerns regarding time. What is the best time to workout? How much time to workout for? 

The best time to workout is the time that you can regularly slot into your day. The length of your workout will depend on factors such as your fitness levels and the amount of time that you can schedule for exercise. If you are unable to safely do high intensity workouts that are for a shorter duration it does not make sense to insist on attempting those.

You will be better off building your fitness and strength (while burning calories) with mid-intensity workouts and then moving on to more intense shorter bouts. Also, just because you do not have an hour to allocate regularly for your exercise does not mean you should not bother with any at all. Even shorter workouts are going to help; you are still burning calories.

Intensity and effort

Interestingly, I had a young teenage client put forward a question, “Why do you have TVs on the gym floor?” I replied that people want to watch TV as they are exercising. Her puzzled response was, “Really? When I’m exercising I cannot possibly do that. How can I focus and concentrate on what I’m supposed to be doing?” And there, is the crux of the matter. For those all-important results and increased calorie-burn through your workout, it is essential to focus on the effort that you are putting into the exercise. Half-hearted measures will not cut it. Even if you have time only for a short workout, putting intensity and effort into your movements will help you get better results.

 Rest and recovery period

A crucial element to losing weight, boosting your metabolism, and injury prevention is to plan your workout schedule to include rest and recovery periods. Overtraining or doing the same workouts repetitively can lead to stress and injuries; another reason to ensure that you vary your workouts. Sleep is another important but neglected factor. You really must rest well after an intense workout session.

Dietary habits

The calories that we are looking to burn are based on the calories that we are consuming. It would make sense therefore to focus on controlling eating habits. I find myself (far too often) having a conversation where I have an individual wanting “a workout that will melt away my belly fat”. This after having just told me about the weekend binging that (s)he had indulged in!

The best way to lose weight is to take a comprehensive look at your lifestyle that includes your diet, sleep, goals, and motivation towards specific fitness activities. A workout is only as good as its exerciser. So whatever you choose to burn those calories, if you approach it with energy and fun, you will stay the course with intensity and focus and achieve your desired results. After all, no workout is going to give you results if you don’t actually do it.

(The writer is a fitness expert and instructor)

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