Benefits of Exercise for Fat Loss


Benefits of Exercise for Fat Loss

Indoor gyms may still be closed in Ontario but you don’t need anything fancy for this exercise prescription. In fact just getting outdoors with a pair of running shoes and water bottle is enough!

The effects of exercise on your hormones and your weight will vary depending on the type of activities you choose (e.g., cardio, weight training or yoga) and the intensity and duration of your sessions. But no matter what type of exercise we do, working out is just plain good for us.

Here’s why:

  • Calorie burning: We burn calories while we exercise and, if we do strength training, we burn calories well after the session is completed.
  • Muscle building: Exercise can help us build metabolically active muscle. For every pound of muscle you gain, you’ll burn an extra 30 to 50 calories, even when you’re doing absolutely nothing!
  • Stimulation of muscle-building hormones: A 2002 study published in The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences looked at hormonal changes occurring in women who completed endurance training (40 minutes of cycling at 75 per cent maximal exertion) and resistance training (3 sets, 10 reps of 8 exercises) as compared with the control group that didn’t exercise. Endurance and resistance training both increased estrogen, testosterone and growth hormone significantly. Only the resistance training, however, increased DHEA.

Testosterone will rise higher when you play a competitive sport and even higher still if you win.

  • Stimulation of our fat-loss friends: Exercise stimulates the hormones that are our fat-loss friends, including thyroid hormone, noradrenalin, testosterone, growth hormone, serotonin and dopamine.
  • Reduction of our fat-loss foes: It also reduces the hormones that interfere with fat loss, including excess stress hormones that can wear the body down and excess estrogen, which can increase breast cancer risk. Researchers selected a group of postmenopausal women from Seattle who did not exercise. Half of the women were instructed to begin a moderate-intensity walking program (45 minutes, 5 times per week); the others were told to do only stretching exercises. The women walking decreased their harmful estrogen within 3 months.
  • Mood enhancement: Exercise stimulates your mood and mental function, decreases anxiety and depression and reduces pain by increasing dopamine and endorphins, our natural painkillers. According to a 2005 study from the European Journal of Sports Science, just 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise 2 or 3 times a week can boost serotonin enough to prevent anxiety and treat depression.
  • Fat burning and insulin balancing: Exercise cranks up our PPARs, the regulator of fat metabolism and insulin sensitivity in our muscle cells.
  • Appetite control and reduction of inflammation: Exercise has positive effects on the fat-cell hormones such as leptin and adiponectin that control inflammation and influence our appetite.

You need both cardio and strength workout sessions each week. Let’s talk about how to do the right type of cardio first.


We all know sticking to a regular exercise routine can be tough. Choosing an activity you enjoy—one you know you’ll keep up with consistently—is always your best cardiovascular fitness option. However, if you want the most bang for your cardio buck, then high-intensity interval training on the treadmill (walking or running), elliptical trainer, stationary bike or indoor/outdoor track is your secret to success.

Short bursts of exercise not only improve your cardiovascular fitness but also your fat-burning capacity, even during low- or moderate-intensity workouts. What’s more, high-intensity training provides a boost of our feel-good and appetite-controlling hormones, which can truly be your secret weapons against unwanted weight gain during the cold, dark winter months when many of us are prone to depression and cravings for comfort foods.

Don’t rush into interval training if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, joint problems or if you are over the age of 60. If you fit into any one of these categories, you should definitely consult your doctor first.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of interval training, here are a few examples to choose from. You’ll do cardio at least once a week for 20 to 30 minutes. A second cardio workout is optional.

Four Examples of Interval Training

1. Steady-pace intervals of walking, jogging, running, cycling, etc.

  • 5-minute warm up at a gentle or moderate pace.
  • 1 minute at a fast pace or high intensity followed by 1 minute at a moderate pace. Alternate 5 to 8 times.
  • 5-minute cool down at a gentle or moderate pace

2. Intervals that increase in speed or intensity throughout the workout

The example I have included here applies to running on a treadmill. However, a similar approach could be taken by changing the tension or peddling faster on a stationary bike; by increasing the level or moving faster on your elliptical machine; or by walking on an incline on the treadmill while increasing the speed or incline.

  • 1 minute warm up at 9 kph (5.5 mph)
  • 1 minute at 11.5 kpm (7 mph)
  • 1 minute at 9.5 kpm (6 mph)
  • 1 minute at 12 kpm (7.5 mph)
  • 1 minute at 9.5 kpm (6 mph)
  • 1 minute at 13 kpm (8 mph)
  • 1 minute at 9.5 kpm (6 mph)
  • 1 minute at 13.5 kpm (8.5 mph)
  • 1 minute at 9.5 kpm (6 mph)
  • 1 minute at 14.5 kpm (9 mph)
  • 5-minute cool down

3. Intervals that vary by duration

Rather than increasing the speed or intensity, as shown in the example above, your intervals could range in duration, for example, 30 seconds, 60 seconds, 90 seconds, 60 seconds, 30 seconds with 1-minute, low-intensity sessions between each interval.

4. Advanced option: Sprinting (only 15 minutes or so)

Warm up with a light jog for 5 to 10 minutes.

Sprint 50 to 100 metres and lightly jog or walk back to your starting point. Repeat 10 times.

Cool down with a light jog for another 5 to 10 minutes.

You could also use this approach on hills by running (or speed walking) up the hill and lightly jogging down.

Not ready for this type of intensity yet? That’s okay, we have great tips for walkers too. Read Dr. Turner ND’s blogs on Timing Your Walking Workouts for Fat Loss and also Boost Your Walking Session Intensity for Fat-Burning

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