Q. For my New Year’s resolution I want to lose at least 20 pounds. All my friends are telling me different things, some say run, others walk, some say Pilates or yoga, some say find a personal trainer, some say just take a weight lifting class or join Curves. I don’t have much time during the day, but can find an hour or so to get this done. Which is the right path?

A. This is probably the most popular question asked during this time of year. I first want to commend you for taking the steps necessary for better health and longevity. And despite the many choices that you have for weight loss, the answer is rather simple: Calories in needs to be less than Calories out.

Each of the types of exercise that you have listed above will help you to achieve your goal of weight loss because they will expend energy and that burns Calories. But to help you sort through the variations and focus your time most effectively, you will need to learn the differences between them to help your decision.
Pilates and yoga provide excellent balance and equal development of muscle groups while focusing on use of core muscles and breathing techniques. The biggest negative of many of these movements is the lack of significant weight bearing exercises that you need to maintain and/or improve bone densities, as you get older. In nearly all studies in exercise science research, the weight loss benefits of Pilates and yoga are not as significant as other exercise modes.

Running and walking offer the benefits of weight bearing, but running long distances can tap into a different energy system that does not provide as significant weight loss benefits as high-intensity walking. One of my favorite workouts for weight loss is a hill interval. If you find an area that you can jog up the hill at a fast pace that then walk down, repeating several times, that should be suffice. Changing courses and paths and different terrains will add variation and keep you from getting bored, but you should be doing this at least 3x a week if you can.

The other type of training I would suggest for weight loss is resistance training. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be, allowing you to process oxygen faster and burn more Calories. Classes offered at gyms and circuit training at places like Curves are a good start for some of the basics. But, of course, a personal trainer will offer you a much more personalized workout that takes into consideration your past history and previous injuries while making the most of your time and varying the workouts to keep you on track. I would suggest starting out taking the class or meeting with your trainer at least 2x a week until you start to adjust to some of the initial soreness from adding this type of exercise.
The last part of this equation, but by far the most important, is Calories in, or your nutrition. Another benefit of having a personal trainer is that they will often help educate you as to what foods you should be eating and when you should be eating them during the course of the day. If you chose to go the class or circuit training route, then I would suggest having your diet evaluated by a nutritionist or registered dietician. There are several on the Internet that you don’t even have to meet with in order to get this done including one that we use locally, Jennifer Prish of Active Nutrition.

Again, congrats on getting started on a new direction in your life and good luck with the exercise!

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