We all know that moving more and eating less helps to fight against weight gain. But what’s the best way to exercise to avoid obesity? A new research study from China identifies the five best exercises for beating the battle of the bulge.
The study is published in medical journal PLOS Genetics, and shows that the best exercise for staying slim and avoiding weight gain is regular jogging. But it’s not the only exercise they recommend. Others that tested well include power walking, regular walking, some kinds of dance, mountain climbing and serious yoga.
What does the Chinese research show?
Researchers studied 18,424 Chinese adults between 30 and 70 and asked them to record how they exercise. The resulting data was then compared with the genetic traits of the subjects to determine the best exercises.
Obesity is a global problem, with reports from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in the US saying that around 40% of adults in the country are obese. Furthermore, 72% are overweight or obese. In the UK, hospital admissions for obesity related problems rose by 15% in 2018, according to NHS data. These figures show the need for more scientific research to prove the importance of exercise.
There have been various studies concerning weight loss over the years, but this group of researchers used different measures. These include body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip ratio and body fat percentage to determine which exercise successfully manages weight. Previous research generally only measured BMI, which is an obesity measure that is increasingly unpopular with healthcare providers and scientists. The least effective forms of exercise discovered in the study for weight loss include swimming, light stretching, cycling and some forms of dance.
Long-reaching health benefits
Research already shows that regular and frequent exercise is good for weight loss and has a knock-on effect of improving the chances for people with various diseases. This applies to all sizes and shapes of body. People who are not overweight or obese should not be fooled into thinking they don’t need to exercise, however. They still suffer negative health consequences from a lack of regular exercise.
Jogging is particularly beneficial for weight maintenance and loss as it keeps the heart rate in the lower end of the zone. This is the so-called ‘fat burning zone, which forces the body to use any surplus fat for its fuel source. Higher rates of exertion lead to higher heart rate zones, which then turn to sugar or glycogen for fuel. Therefore, for weight loss, lower intensity exercise for longer periods of time uses more fat.
In addition, obese and overweight people have a higher fat to muscle ratio, which makes it simpler for their body to use the fat for fuel. The other exercises that the researchers find to be beneficial, need more effort to maintain the pace of a useful workout. They also expend more calories, as they are more difficult to do than straight forward jogging.
Less effective exercises
The least effective exercises appear not to work well for weight loss as they don’t force the body to use its body mass during exercise. For example, when you’re cycling, you’re sitting down, so you don’t use the same total amount of energy as jogging does.
Anyone who is new to jogging but wants to try it for weight loss and general fitness, should always begin slowly. It’s important to build up gradually. If necessary, you can start by walking, building up to walking fast, and eventually jogging. It’s also useful to do regular resistance training to help build up your leg muscles.
Switching between walking and jogging is a good way to ease into regular jogging sessions. Stick at a pace that feels comfortable and listen to your body. If you feel too much discomfort, slow down to walking. Eventually the walking intervals will get shorter, and you’ll be jogging for longer.
A good interval training plan could be a 2.5 minute jog followed by a 45 second walk. Next do a 3 minute jog and a minute walk, and build up that way. The key is to remain in your own low heart rate zone so that you are burning fat.
About Surya Iacono
Surya Iacono is a fitness and wellness expert and blogger based in London, UK. Surya’s fitness blogs are aimed at keen gym-goers and exercise fans already well into their journey and looking for tips, tricks and ideas to take it to the next level.