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The Best Weight Loss Workouts For Women – A Definitive Guide

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Weight-Loss-Workouts-FMP

Effective weight loss workouts for women are in high demand, as more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

If you’ve tried dieting without success, consider adding some of these great weight loss workouts for women to your daily routine to kick-start your journey.

Doing so also helps shed excess body fat, boost strength, and increase muscle definition!

Weight loss happens when you burn more calories than you eat daily.

Regular exercise helps boost calorie expenditure to meet weight loss goals, even when you’re not dieting.

Choosing the right workout is crucial to optimize weight loss success.

Keep reading for our definitive guide to weight loss workouts for women!

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The Best Weight Loss Workouts for Women

Choosing the right weight loss workouts for women can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to be with a few simple tips and tricks.

The best calorie-burning and metabolism-boosting workout for women is Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT), which incorporates strength training, cardiovascular exercise, and flexibility/mobility.

Choose this type of workout, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT), if you’re tight on time.

Both work equally well for weight loss and fat loss in women, suggests a study published in the Journal of Diabetes Research.

MRT

Researchers found that participating in MRT type circuit training classes three sessions per week for nine weeks — by combining resistance training with aerobic exercise — is an effective weight loss strategy.

Exercises used in this type of training can be any compound strength training exercise, bodyweight exercise, or plyometrics.

If you're combining cardio in the usual circuit fashion, you could use boxing pads, skipping, short sprints (depending on your floor space), jumping jacks, or burpees.

According to ACE, a 150-pound person burns 308 to 573 calories per hour, depending on workout intensity, doing MRT or circuit training (by alternating aerobic exercise with resistance training).

In a true circuit style, ACE says to complete this type of workout, alternate one to two sets of resistance exercises (such as free weights, bands, or bodyweight exercise) with 30-second to 3-minute bouts of cardiovascular exercises — such as cycling, rowing, rope jumping, or jogging in place.

A short, metabolism-boosting workout will help you shed body fat and sculpt a new body in no time!

Learn how to lose weight and burn fat fast with this at-home workout for women!

HIIT

HIIT is just as effective as continuous aerobic training for weight loss and fat loss in obese women.

A study in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that women who alternated four minutes of cycling at high intensities with three minutes of slower exercise bouts (three to four days per week) lost significantly higher amounts of weight and body fat.

The total amount of time women spent doing HIIT training was 30 minutes per session during weeks 1-4, 38 minutes per workout during weeks 4-8, and 34 minutes per session during weeks 8-12.

This 15-minute HIIT workout for women can be done at home with no equipment!

Continuous Cardiovascular Exercise

Researchers who conducted the Journal of Diabetes Research study found that getting continuous aerobic exercise three to four days weekly is an effective weight loss strategy for overweight and obese women.

Participants in this study lost weight and body fat during a 12-week weight loss program by completing 51 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per session during weeks 1-4, 74 minutes per workout during weeks 4-8, and 63 minutes per session during weeks 8-12.

Another study published in the journal Obesity found that men and women who exercised five days (burning 400 to 600 calories per session) weekly for 10 months lost significant amounts of weight without changing their diets.

Study subjects who burned 600 calories per workout session lost more weight than participants who burned just 400 calories during sweat sessions.

Any form of cardiovascular exercise works well as a weight loss workout for women, but certain exercises burn more calories per minute than others.

Harvard Health Publishing provides a list of calories burned during various cardiovascular exercises for adults at three different weights — 125 pounds, 155 pounds, and 185 pounds.

The more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn doing each exercise at the same pace and intensity as smaller individuals.

Based on this list, some of the highest calorie-burning aerobic workouts include running, swimming at high intensities, using an elliptical machine, rock climbing, rope jumping, and high-intensity cycling.

Lower calorie-burning exercises are walking, low-intensity biking, and low-impact aerobics classes.

Regardless of the exercise you choose, pushing yourself hard significantly increases your calorie expenditure.

Learn about the best types of cardio for fat loss and the science behind cardio for WOMEN!

Which is Best for You?

Based on research studies regarding aerobic fitness and weight loss, HIIT aerobic workouts, moderate-intensity continuous cardiovascular exercise, and MRT/circuit training (alternating resistance training with aerobic exercise bouts) are all effective weight and fat loss strategies for women.

The best match for you depends on the time frame you have available and your workout preference.

Choose aerobic workouts or combinations of aerobic plus resistance training, you can stick with for the long-term.

If you enjoy higher-intensity workouts that take less time, HIIT or high-intensity circuit training may be your best bet.

If you prefer slower intensity sweat sessions and have more time for workouts, continuous moderate-intensity aerobic exercise works just as well.

Better yet, alternate HIIT workouts or circuit training with continuous aerobic exercise to change things up and prevent boredom.

This video will help you create your own home workout plan for weight loss and toning!

What About Weight Lifting?

Weight lifting boosts strength and lean body mass but isn’t necessarily the best weight loss workout (unless you combine strength training with cardiovascular workouts).

You can improve muscle definition, burn extra calories throughout the day (even during periods of rest), and maximize fat loss by adding resistance training to regular cardiovascular programs.

To reap the benefits strength training has to offer, combine weight lifting with cardiovascular exercise during functional fitness circuit training to improve weight loss, fat loss, and muscle definition.

Discover all of the benefits of weight lifting for women!

Examples of Bad Workouts

The best weight loss workouts for women are ones that steer clear of exercises that simply don’t work for shedding pounds.

When you want to maximize weight loss success, examples of bad workouts to avoid include:

Very Short Workouts

The shorter the workout, the fewer calories you’ll burn.

Burning too few calories throughout the day can hinder weight loss — especially if you’re not dieting — so choose your exercise duration wisely.

If you’re working out less than 20 minutes per day, weight loss can be a challenge unless you exercise at very high intensities paired with a reduced-calorie eating plan.

Strength Training Without Cardiovascular Exercise

A cardiovascular and weight training workout mix is most important when it comes to weight loss, as it burns calories during the exercise but also increases your metabolism so you continue burning calories for up to 48 hours after.

Strength training alone isn’t the best choice for weight loss, according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Researchers who conducted this study found that while strength training boosts lean muscle mass, mixing aerobic exercise and resistance training is a better choice for weight loss and fat loss in overweight and obese adults.

Aerobic (cardiovascular) workouts, mixed with resistance training is your best bet when you want to shed pounds.

These home workout tips for beginners will highlight the 3 most common mistakes that are holding you back.

Overtraining

Believe it or not, getting too much exercise might hinder weight loss — and the way you feel.

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) says symptoms of overtraining, or working out too much without sufficient rest between sweat sessions, are extreme fatigue, decreased performance during workouts, not sleeping well, stress, and depression.

Not sleeping well and being stressed or depressed can boost appetite and food intake for some people.

It can also decrease workout performance, which means you’ll burn fewer calories.

Doing the same workouts day after day leads to overtraining syndrome, so change things up often to maximize weight and fat loss results.

Exercises That Don’t Break a Sweat

Any form of physical activity is better than being sedentary, but not pushing yourself (breaking a sweat) isn’t the best weight loss strategy.

To effectively shed pounds you must burn more calories than you eat, and very low-intensity workouts make it difficult to achieve that balance — unless you’re working out for long durations or significantly cutting calories by dieting.

Workouts That Are Too Intense or Painful

While very intense workouts are excellent calorie burners, you don’t have to kill yourself with extremely intense, painful sweat sessions.

In fact, doing so may increase the odds you’ll drop workouts entirely, or get injured. Make sure to choose weight loss workouts you enjoy and can maintain indefinitely.

This full-body workout is easy to do and will keep you in shape!

The Importance of Diet for Weight Loss in Women

Eating right is just as important — maybe even more so — than exercise when shedding pounds is your goal.

You’ll achieve weight loss success by burning more calories than you eat, which is why cleaning up your diet can save you hours in the gym.

Use the following healthy eating strategies in addition to completing the best weight loss workouts for women on a regular basis.

Cut Refined Grains and Added Sugars

Refined grains and added sugars provide few beneficial nutrients, don’t promote fullness as well as healthier foods, and tend to pack on extra pounds.

Steer clear of white bread, white rice, sugary drinks, baked goods, processed foods, and sweet treats to maximize weight and fat loss.

Instead, pick whole grains (brown rice or quinoa, for example).

Here are the most important carbs to avoid for weight loss!

Steer Clear of Processed Meats

When weight loss is your goal, avoid processed meats at all costs.

That’s because these meats often contain fillers, preservatives, animal fat, excess calories, nitrates, nitrites, and other unhealthy ingredients.

High intakes of processed meats increase rates of obesity, according to a study published in PLoS One.

As if you need another reason to avoid processed meats, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says these meats — such as hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, and deli meats — are known to cause cancer.

Eat Veggies, Protein, and Healthy Fats at Each Meal

Your best bet when trying to shed pounds is to focus on vegetables, healthy proteins, and nutritious fats at each meal.

All of these foods are rich in nutrients and help fill you up for long time periods.

When planning for protein foods, pick grilled chicken breast, salmon, shrimp, other seafood, turkey, eggs, legumes, low-fat dairy foods (Greek yogurt or low-fat cottage cheese), soy yogurt, or tofu.

Between meals or used as a meal replacement, try protein shakes blended with fruit or nut butter.

Fill your plate half full with fruits and veggies during meals — and opt for healthy fats like vegetable oils, other plant-based oils, avocados, olives, fish oil, nuts, seeds, or nut butter to meet daily nutritional needs and boost satiety.

Watch this video and learn how to calculate your daily protein intake!

Drink Water Constantly

Drink water all throughout the day, especially when you’re completing the best weight loss workouts for women to shed pounds.

Drink enough water to make your urine a light yellow or clear color (vs. bright yellow), to ensure you’re staying properly hydrated.

Drink water before meals to help fill you up, making it easier to eat fewer calories.

Aim for at least 11.5 cups of water daily for women, but you may need more with regular workouts or during periods of hot weather.

During sweat sessions, drink 7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes, suggests the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Make sure to hydrate before and after workouts as well.

To make water more appealing, drink it ice cold or add fruit chunks to it.

Or, opt for black coffee or unsweetened tea with meals (each contains about 5 calories per serving).

Water is just one of the healthy beverages you should be drinking. Find out the others in this video!

Getting Started With the Best Weight Loss Workouts for Women

Whether you’ve just started working out or your current fitness routine is ineffective, begin slowly and build up endurance and intensity.

Focus on resistance training mixed with aerobic exercise to burn extra calories and clean up your diet.

Most of all, choose a fitness program you enjoy so it’s sustainable long-term.

Remember, you don’t have to work out at extremely high intensities to effectively shed pounds.

Start by simply walking uphill, using an elliptical trainer, swimming, or biking at a moderate pace.

Slowly increase your workout duration or intensity.

Consistency is what counts for weight loss success!

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Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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