What’s the best type of exercise?

What exercise is best?

It really is a long standing debate isn’t it

Some swear by steady state cardio, others by HIIT style training and others say weight training is best.

No wonder people get confused. 

The truth is they are all beneficial and they all play a role in successfully losing body fat and changing your body shape.

So just what is the benefit to each of these types of training and how should you use them?

Lets start with the one that gives you the biggest bang for your buck.

Weights Training: Now don’t get worried; lifting weights will not make you big and bulky.  What it will do is create shape, tone and definition whilst increasing your bodies strength

Remember last weeks email – Calories Out v Calories In? It highlighted that the more muscle a person has the higher their Resting Metabolic Rate is – which means the more calories they burn at rest. 

So it makes sense that preserving and or increasing the lean muscle mass on our bodies should be a primary focus right?

The trick with weights training is to progressively overload the muscles.  This means over time we increase the weight to force the muscles to continue to adapt; adapting muscles means they grow which results in more calories being burnt.  No, I’m sorry to say pump classes and light weights do not have this effect – these fall into the cardio category.

This is a great article that explains the benefits of weight training for fat loss.


Second to resistance training is HIIT style training or Intense Cardio Exercise.  

This involves working as hard as you can for around 20-30 mins

Performing this type of cardio can burn 3 x  more fat than steady state cardio.  That’s right 3 x more!!!

Working at higher intensities over short periods creates a unique metabolic response.  These short bursts of high intensity cardio result in the “fight of flight” hormones being released.  The result of these hormones is more fat is utilized in the hours after exercise to fuel recovery.    This is known as the EPOC (Excessive Post Oxygen Consumption) effect

An Intense Cardio Session should make you uncomfortable.  At about the 10 min mark you should be looking forward to the end of the workout.  That’s how you know you are working at the right intensity level

If you’d like to know a little more about EPOC and how it works this article on How Many Calories Burned explains it well.

And what about things like brisk walking and running, otherwise known as Steady State Cardio or Low Impact Activities?

Now this is an interesting one.  

Lower Intensity Activities use fat for their fuel source.  Converting fat to energy is a slow process so lower intensity activities are suitable to this. However, unlike Intense Cardio Exercise the fat burnt from Lower Intensity Activities is restricted to the time you are doing that activity.  In other words a 30 min Low Impact Activity only burns fat for 30 mins, whilst a 30 min Intense Cardio Session can potentially burn fat for up to 48 hours afterwards. 

It is important to understand that for Low Impact Activities to be on benefit the heart rate does need to be elevated to around 60% effort.  A casual stroll that you can chat the whole way through will not have the desired effect. 

Whilst it may be more comfortable to do the Lower Impact Activities over the Intense Cardio Exercises, these lower impact activities can actually reduce the bodies muscle mass, where as the Intense Cardio Exercise is better at helping to maintain lean muscle mass than steady state cardio is.

And remember the more muscle we have the more calories we burn meaning the leaner we become.

So just how do you know what type of training to do and how much to do?

Obviously that depends on a persons individual goals. 

Lets look at 2 separate examples; 

In this example the goal is to reduce body fat. 
1. Resistance training should be the primary focus.  2-3 x 45min sessions a week that focus on overloading 

2. Intense Cardio Exercise should be used in conjunction with resistance training.  1-2 x 20min sessions per week is all that is needed. 

3. Lower Impact Activities 2-3 x 40min sessions per week to aid in recovery and fat burning. 


A training plan along these lines can fit into most peoples lives and in conjunction with eating well will promote fat lass.

In this example the goal is to build shape, tone and definition on a naturally lean body
1. In this instance Resistance Training 2-4 x 45min sessions a week is important. 

2. Intense Cardio Exercise used only if and when needed. 

These body types typically have trouble building muscle so eating in a way that promotes muscle growth along with a structured resistance training program will provide the results this person is looking for. 

I’ve given out a lot of information in this email and it may be a bit overwhelming, but hopefully it helps to clarify the role different exercise styles have in changing a persons body shape.

Have a great week and chat soon