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Working out for weight loss

We polled our community and had our team of physiotherapists, answer some common questions about working out for weight loss. Our team is qualified to answer questions about weight loss because they have extensive knowledge in the field of human movement and exercise physiology. Here is what they had to say:

What are some good workout plans for men and women trying to lose weight? What do you like about them and why would you recommend them?


Cardio, without a doubt is the most effective thing to do if the only goal is to reduce body fat. If your goal is to only build muscle, weight training is the most effective method.

When I am working with a patient or a client, I often will recommend a combination of cardio and weight training, I find this helps with improving overall body composition. A fairly basic workout plan targeting weight loss might involve 3 cardio days and 2 strength training days.

For cardio, any physiotherapist will tell you the number one low impact, cardiovascular exercise is swimming. It is an excellent low impact workout that burns fat like crazy. Your natural buoyancy in water allows you to exercise without putting any stress on your joints. Going for long, steady run can be really time consuming and they have been proven to be less effective that HIIT workouts for burning fat. A HIIT workout stands for High Intensity Interval Training. 30 minutes of HIIT, where you alternate between sprinting for one minute then jogging for two minutes, will burn fat like crazy.

On your strength training days, we want to maximize the amount of muscles we activate.
Compound lifts, like squat, deadlift and clean & press, utilize multiple muscle groups and require a lot more energy during the exercise. The more muscles being activate, the more energy required, which equates to more fat loss. That is why we use compound movements. Exercises like squat engage you quadriceps, lower back muscles, glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors and core. Deadlift engages your hamstrings, lower back, glutes, hip flexors and core. Clean & Press is a really well rounded exercise, it targets your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, core, hip flexors, deltoids, chest, lats, traps and triceps. Do compound lifts!

What are the factors that women and men should consider when selecting a workout plan for weight loss?

When I am working with a client/patient, we always begin with a baseline assessment. This assessment covers a variety of different internal and external factors that can have an impact on our ability to lose weight. The first factor we look at is age. Old and young people develop/grow their muscles in the same way. However, as you get older, our bodies become less efficient at building muscle. This makes it more difficult for older people to exercise, but at the same time it makes it even more important for older people to exercise!

It is important that you structure a workout plan that is suitable for your age. We typically don’t recommend senior citizens to jump on crazy diets and high impact activities, as this can lead to complications and injuries, in turn slowing down the weight loss process. I recommend seniors to do weight training as it will help build muscle, reduce fat and maintain bone density, which will be crucial for staying healthy for years to come.

External factors like, what you do for work and proximity to your place of workout are important as well. If you live a very sedentary lifestyle, sit 8 hours for work a day, we often try to make some subtle changes that can help individuals hit their weight loss goals. Things like a treadmill desk, standing desk or just simply going for short 5 minute walks to break up the day can help.

At the end of the day, you can workout till the cows come home, but if you are eating an excess in calories, you won’t lose any weight. For weight loss, diet will always be more effective than physical activity. I will often tell patients/clients that it will take 45min of running to burn off the amount of carries in a McDonalds medium fries. You have to do an insane amount of cardio to lose weight, however, if you follow the right steps in the kitchen, you’ll hit your goals in no time.

Do you have any other tips for men and women trying to lose weight?

The best advice I can give for an individual who is trying to lose weight, is something I tell my patients everyday. Motivation will only take you so far, maybe a few of weeks or a couple months, if you are lucky. Discipline will take you the distance.

For individuals who live very sedentary lives and are new to exercise, I recommend they set a goal of 150mins of exercise per week. This is a baseline for health and it applies to majority of people, both active and sedentary. However, it is unlikely to assume that a sedentary person will be able to keep up with an active persons 30minute sprinting workout. There is a lot of cool technology out there these days. I see more and more apple watches and fit bits on my patients. Utilizing tech to track your heart rate can be a great way to see if what you are currently doing is enough exercise for your body. Below I have included the ideal heart rate for increasing metabolism (fat burning) and aerobic endurance for specific age groups:

20’s around 120-140 BPM

30’s 114-133 BPM

40’s 108-126 BPM

50’s 102-119 BPM

60s 96-112 BPM

If you don’t have access to tech, pay attention to the signs our body is showing works just as well, like breaking a sweat. A lot of people don’t realize that just going for a walk for 30minutes is incredibly effective. Non-exercisers will notice a significant change in their heart rate after a 30minute walk. This is a starting point, once your body starts getting used to this type of exertion, ramp up the intensity, the heart rate will follow.

The last tip I’ll give, is arguably one of the most important, sleep. Getting 7-8.5 hours of high quality sleep is incredibly important. Research has shown that inadequate sleep while can reduce weight loss and encourage overeating.

I hope this helps on your healthy lifestyle journey.