There is no end in sight when it comes to hearing about the thousands of workouts you can do to “burn fat, lose weight, improve your sex drive, see-through walls, and levitate” and while I’m sure many of those things are true, it’s also a little overwhelming.
So let’s Jetson-fy this mess, meaning let us make it simpler and more achievable – so you’ll actually do it.
You should break down your workouts into a few classes for maximum benefit. For me, this looks like:
Since I’m at a pretty healthy body weight, I don’t really focus on ‘fat-burning’ exercises other than my cardio, but we’ll throw in some advice from my trainer to help with those of you who are working on body composition (thanks, Tom!)
Let’s take each one in turn!
You know this is important. The heart is a muscle and it needs exercise. Just because you can’t see how ripped you’re getting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on it. Heart disease is the #1 killer of Americans, and a healthy heart has more benefits than just not dying early (circulation, sleep, brain health, etc)
Harvard Medical School says you need 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate cardio (brisk walking, swimming, mowing the lawn). If you’re already fit, you can do just 25 minutes, 3 times a week but you need to be going hard (meaning you’re at 80% of your max heart rate for those 30 minutes). As with most exercise, generally more is better (meaning if you do 300 minutes a week, you’re going to be in even better shape).
How to do cardio?
As I mentioned, moderate aerobic, heart-healthy exercise looks like:
- Brisk walking (i.e. faster than a stroll, hopefully there’s a hill in there)
- Swimming – but you can skip the flip-turns
- Biking – slower than 10 miles/per hour
- Ballroom dancing. Yes, I’m being serious. It’s harder than you think!
- Doubles tennis
More vigorous activity looks like:
- Hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack, which sounds terrible, so I just hit the elliptical or stationary bike (no, I haven’t succumbed to a Peloton yet because I don’t need another subscription I don’t use). You can pick up a decent quality stationary bike on Amazon for under $300, which is a pretty good value if you use it consistently.
- Running – Not my bag, but you get the idea.
- Swimming laps
- Aerobic dancing
- Singles tennis
- Biking – faster than 10 miles per hour
What can you expect?
The long-term effects of cardio are pretty amazing. Generally, your circulatory and respiratory systems will get stronger, which means more oxygen everywhere. More oxygen more often increases your energy, improves your breathing and even lowers blood pressure. One last bonus? It can increase your metabolism which, yep you guessed it, can help with body composition (i.e. less fat!)
Besides looking better with defined muscle groups, strength training has positive mental effects as you commit to and stick to a goal. And it gives you an excuse to not put the dishes away because you can claim you’re ‘sore’.
Here’s the good news – you don’t need to hit the gym or aim for a 250lb deadlift to do strength training. Any movement that pushes your muscles outside their comfort zone that forces them to rebuild is considered sufficient. You should aim for 2-3 times per week, with a day of rest in between. That’s it – you don’t need to worry about committing to a daily weight routine in 2020 – you likely won’t do it, and it just isn’t necessary – especially for people just getting started. Heck, even after a couple of years, I still only do 3 days a week. Granted, I’m not going to win Mr. Universe anytime soon (or even Mr. Western Seattle), but that’s not what I’m going for.
How to do strength exercises?
Again, there are a ton of sites online that tell you how to build a routine, but I’ll just keep this simple, so you might actually do it.
For each of your 2-3 workout days, I want you to focus on a full-body workout. Yes, I know that sounds scary, but it’s pretty simple. The full-body workout will have 5 ‘compound’ movements – ones where you use many muscles simultaneously to work the muscles in unison. Bodybuilding.com has a nice, simple 7 compound movement routine from which you can pick your fave 5 (or just do all for extra credit).
If you’re someone who needs guided workouts for both motivation and instruction, check out my favorite YouTube channel, FitnessBlender.com. They have hundreds of equipment-free workouts that work, and you can do them anywhere. Here are just a few I pre-selected for you to get going.
What can you expect?
Even with the moderate program I describe above, strength training will yield a ton of benefits. From controlling blood sugar levels (no thanks diabetes) to a lower cancer risk (less visceral fat has been shown to reduce the incidence of cancer), strength training is a no-brainer. Want more motivation? Here are 11 ways strength training will help you in life. Finally, if you’re a man over a certain age, strength training causes the body to produce testosterone, which is the primary hormone that contributes to sex drive. So there’s that.
Now that you have a healthy heart and are on your way to getting ripped (or not…), it’s time to focus on agility training. This sort of training can help your lower body get stronger but most importantly, it can reduce your risk of injury. As we get older, various parts of our body (especially the connective tissues) become less elastic and resilient – it’s why suddenly it’s easier to sprain an ankle when you’re 40 even when you’re just playing a casual game of kickball with your kid. Fewer injuries = fewer excuses not to be active = a longer, higher quality life.
If you’re already doing cardio and strength training 5 times a week, you might be wondering where agility training comes in. The good news is you can swap out a cardio workout if you do the right sort of agility training once or twice a month or just add in some agility exercises (which I link to below) as part of your strength training routine. The bottom line is even moving with your cardio or strength routine is going to reduce your risk of injury, but a little focus on making sure a quick shift in movement (like trying to catch laptop that just got pulled off the counter…thanks daughter!) will result in you not being couch-prone for weeks.
How to do agility exercises
There isn’t as much literature on agility training as I’d like to see, but here is a quick and dirty list of no-gear agility exercises that can get you going. Again, you can do these as a distinct session that replaces one or more of your other sessions, or you can just tack a few on each time you work out. My trainer has me do 3-4 of these each time we start the strength workout – they only take a few minutes and they get you ready for working the big muscle groups with your compound movements.
What can you expect?
Besides being less susceptible to injury, agility training helps your movement skills, balance, and reflexes. If you do enough of these drills, you will also notice a big difference in your lower body – stronger, more defined legs are the most common benefit. Finally, these puppies burn more calories than just running alone, so in conjunction with eating fewer Fritos, you will lose weight.
Why fat burning exercises?
Because it seems like everyone has some sort of weight-loss goal in the new year, and there are so many sites out there giving bad advice.
At this point, you’re shaking your head wondering how the heck you’re going to fit another workout routine into your week. Well guess what – if you do the above exercises, you won’t need to do anything more! See what I did there? You may be asking, “what about Cross-Fit!?” It isn’t my personal bag, but throwing in some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) definitely is a fat-burner, so if you like group workouts, cool acronyms, and feeling like you’re going to pass out mid-burpee, HIIT could be for you (maybe that last part is just me…)
How to do fat burning exercises
In addition to following the above exercise routines, you need to pick a food strategy you can stick with. The easiest way to reduce your weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn. 90% of your success or failure of losing weight will come from what’s on your fork. Boring, I know, but effective. At Jetson, we always talk about eating real, whole foods, but this site puts a finer point on it with some high-quality, practical advice.
What can you expect?
If you do your workouts and focus on achievable meal planning, you will burn the fat, drop the pounds, and look and feel better. There, I just saved you $6 that you would have spent on Us Weekly.
There will always be excuses as to why you can’t do some of these all the time, and that’s ok. The point for the New Year is to build a plan, work the plan, modify the plan when things don’t work, and keep going. Remember: something is better than nothing when it comes to exercise and nutrition, so don’t get discouraged when life throws you a curveball and you have to adapt. Heck, that’s why we do agility training.