Weight Loss 101: The Exercise Equation

Less food + More activity

There you have it – the long-accepted formula for how to lose weight.

In other words, fewer calories in, more calories burned. Hundreds of weight loss programs on the market are Why diets don't workfounded on this basic equation – and they DON’T WORK.

Not in the long term, anyway. For one thing, restricting your calories while simultaneously increasing your energy demands is a recipe for disaster. And by “disaster,” I mean:

  • “Cheating” on your diet
  • Feeling angry, deprived, and otherwise devoid of fun
  • Intense cravings
  • Muscle or joint soreness or injury
  • Low energy
  • And worst of all, regaining the weight you do manage to lose – often more than the initial loss


So, what’s the problem?

WELL. If you’re asking moi, there are several. But this isn’t an excuse for me to get on my soapbox (tempting as that is). Instead, I’ll highlight what I think is the most problematic issue.

This deeply ingrained concept of calories in/calories out is all about QUANTITY. Minimal instruction and emphasis gets placed on the QUALITY. What kind of calories? What kind of exercise?

I know it’s hard to let go of such an old, well-worn concept, especially when that concept is still the major paradigm feeding most of the marketing you see. But trust me – if you can shift your focus to quality (not quantity), you’ll not only achieve better, more permanent results, you won’t be such a miserable curmudgeon doing it.


Next week, I will get on my soapbox, and tell you about the kinds of foods to focus on. But first, here’s a breakdown on the different types of exercise you can do to promote weight loss.


Steady-state cardio

What it is: The most common cardio workout in most gyms. You hop on an elliptical, treadmill, or machine of choice (or go for a jog or bike ride outside), and just slow-and-steady it for 20-60 minutes. Traditionally, this is based on your ideal heart rate (HR) for “fat loss,” which is about 65% of your max HR.

Pros: Gentle on the joints and the heart, while still encouraging blood flow and oxygenation. It’s pretty straightforward and doesn’t require much of a learning curve in terms of skill. Can be very relaxing.

Cons: It can be pretty mind-numbing – and because of that, it’s easy to get lazy and just kind of….stroll. The “fat loss” option on most cardio machines usually keeps your level of exertion well below your actual capability.

Best for: New exercisers, injury recovery, those suffering from asthma or heart conditions.

Bottom line: Steady-state cardio has its place, but it won’t do the job alone. You’ll have to mix it up to achieve your ultimate goal.


Cardio intervals

What it is: Mixing bursts of higher intensity with recovery periods. There are many types of interval workouts, and you can create your own structure too.

Pros: Excellent for improving cardiovascular capacity. You can work much harder in a short burst than over a long stretch. The rest periods train your heart to recover more and more efficiently. Awesome for increasing blood flow and metabolism. Also, these workouts tend to be shorter in duration because you’re working so much harder.

Cons: Can be challenging for newer exercisers. The intensity level is much higher, so if you’re looking for a “zen” experience, this might not be your bag.

Best for: Anyone, as long as all injuries or other idiosyncrasies are addressed. Especially good for those who’ve been doing the same, steady-state cardio workout forever (you know who you are).

Bottom line: We’re big fans of the interval workout, as you may have noticed in our GxBURN classes (Tuesdays & Thursdays at 5:15pm). Functional experts generally prefer intervals to steady-state. Really, they’re a must in any well-rounded exercise program.


Strength Training

What it is: Training muscle groups with resistance.

Pros: Resistance training helps improve posture, core strength, endurance, and overall strength. Certain types of strength training help increase lean muscle mass and reduce body fat. Good for joint pain or stiffness too. Also helps increase metabolism and improve digestion.

Cons: Requires lots of instruction to ensure proper form and technique. It’s hard to stick to a really effective, progressive strength routine, mostly because you don’t know what to do, or how to do it correctly.

Best for: Everyone should work to incorporate some form of strength training. A good trainer or physical therapist can design a program for anyone, regardless of fitness level or limiting factors.

Bottom line: You’ve gotta strength train; the trick is just figuring out how. Our Gx classes are a great place to start, and if you’re really serious about it, consider a few private sessions with one of us. Ross wrote a great series breaking down all the forms of strength training. Click to read more:


That covers the basics. There are infinite training programs, each tackling specific goals. And don’t forget this old adage:

The best exercise? Is the one you’ll do.

It seems oversimplified – but maybe we need some of that in the tangled, confusing, frustrating weight loss conversation.

Remember, our staff is always available for questions and guidance about your exercise routine.

If you missed Tuesday’s Find Your Fit info session, we’ve got another one lined up next week – Tuesday, the 23rd at 6pm. See you there!


Written by Damon

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