The 5 Best Exercises to Help You Lose Weight

What you eat is important. But research has found that these might be the top five exercises for weight loss, even for people with a genetic risk for obesity.

There are so many factors that contribute to the weight, shape and size of our bodies. One of the main contributors is our genes, which write the code for all of our traits. Genes are different from person to person, and our weight set point is no exception (AKA the weight range that our bodies prefer to be in). Some of us are genetically predisposed to have smaller bodies, and some of us have genes that can put us at a higher risk for obesity.

However, lifestyle factors are still important for your overall health and can also impact your weight. A study published in PLOS Genetics found that there are some exercises that promote weight loss, especially for those with obesity-favoring genes. After looking at 18 different kinds of exercise, they identified five exercises that showed the most benefit. Some might surprise you, and the variety on this list might help you find a way of moving you enjoy.

1. Jogging

This is probably not a shock to anyone. Regularly jogging for 40 minutes on average had the strongest evidence to offset the genetic disposition for obesity. These benefits could be for several reasons. Regular time outdoors and regular cardio can reduce stress, along with the obvious calorie burn. The researchers suggested that leisure time jogging had the strongest effect on all of their outcome measure due to its combination of benefits. Look for a park or green space near you or join a local running group (many cities and sports stores offer them for free) to turn an activity that seems mundane into more of an adventure.

2. Walking & Power Walking

Not into jogging? You can still take advantage of the trails with a brisk walk. Similar to jogging, getting outside to walk can have benefits aside from weight loss. Making the time for a regular stroll can help to improve blood sugar, prevent heart disease and even improve your fertility. Duration may be key for helping the pounds come off. Director of the University of Colorado Center for Human nutrition, James O. Hill, Ph.D., told EatingWell that he recommends one hour of physical activity daily if your goal is weight loss.

Though it may take more time than jogging, walking can be worked into your routine in many simple ways. You don't need an hour all at once. Try a few shorter walks throughout the day or even just parking farther away to get your steps in.

people doing yoga

3. Hiking

Enjoy some beautiful views while getting your blood pumping! Hiking was one of the types of exercise where researchers saw a decrease in BMI, even with people with the genes that increased their risk of obesity. This activity was done for the longest duration, with the average time spent hiking at around two hours. Hiking is a great adventure for the whole family as well. Plus, role-modeling exercise can be beneficial to help kids grow healthy habits.

4. Yoga

If you're waiting for a reason to practice mindfulness and improve your flexibility, look no further. Along with jogging, yoga decreased multiple measures of obesity and obesity risk factors. These results were especially seen with longer yoga sessions, which they considered to be around 70 minutes. Similar to many kinds of exercise, there are some health boosts yoga can provide aside from reducing the number on the scale. Yoga is a natural back pain reliever (which is key if you're sitting at a desk all day). Regular stretching, even at home, can also help keep your bones strong and prevent osteoporosis. Getting on your mat more can also help protect your heart.

5. Dancing

Yes, you read that right: dancing can help you lose weight, regardless of you genes. As this study was conducted in China and Taiwan, the style of dance that had the greatest effect was standard national dancing. This is similar to a structured ballroom dance. If you aren't much of a ballroom dancer, dance classes like Zumba are great for getting your blood pumping. Or you could bring back a tried and true classic: Jazzercise. Don't roll your eyes just yet, it has worked before! Not to mention, it is a surefire way to put you in a better mood or squash a creative slump.

Bottom Line

As a general rule, try to find physical activity that you can get excited about. If it isn't enjoyable or it doesn't suit your lifestyle, it probably won't be something you stick with. These exercises are great examples of how varied movement can be, but they are not the only options. Also, activity can add up over the day, so try to work in little bouts of movement aside from a structured exercise to keep your body happy and healthy. Pro tip: if you are having trouble getting motivated, get moving with a friend. Making exercise a social event can hold you accountable while helping the time pass.

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