What is an ideal exercise program for fat loss?

Eric Olsen
The ideal fat-loss routine balances intensity with duration; you want to exercise at the highest level of intensity you can that allows you to sustain the activity for at least 30 minutes. Thus you're better off walking at a leisurely pace for 30 minutes or an hour than trying to jog and ending up exhausted after 10 minutes. With habitual exercise, you'll be able to gradually increase the intensity to expend more calories in a given time for increased fat-loss. And better yet, with regular exercise at higher intensities, the body becomes more adept at using stored fats for energy at any level of intensity, in order to conserve glycogen stores, thus accelerating fat-loss.
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

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Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...
There is no ideal exercise program for fat loss if there was everyone would be doing it.  Bottom line you need to burn more calories than you take in.  If you look at it you must burn 3500 calories to burn 1 pound of body fat.  So if you can keep your deficit at 500 calories per day you will lose 1 pound in a week.  Ideally if you want to see results you must track what you eat and what you burn each day to hold yourself accountable.
The most ideal fat loss program always begins with your food intake.  Your total calories that you take in must be less than your body needs on a daily basis to lose body fat.  Once you have established what your body needs as far as intake then you can build a fitness program that is both supportive of your goals and beneficial to your body as a whole.  Just remember when the primary goal is fat loss the first element that we have to deal with is food.

An ideal exercise program for fat loss will include both a cardio-respiratory program and a progressive resistance training program. It is important to know that you cannot "spot reduce."  We do not get to choose where fat loss comes from!  

To lose body fat you have to consume fewer calories than you burn. So your main goal should be to increase movement (so you’re burning more calories) and to eat the appropriate amount of calories. 1 lb of body fat is approximately 3500 calories.

If you are just starting your program try to start with 20-30 minutes of cardio. If you have a heart rate monitor use it! Try to keep your heart rate between 65-75% of your max HR. If you don't have a heart rate monitor, use a scale of 1-10 try to be at a 5. Aim for a minimum of 3 days per week!  

For resistance training, try to do 2-3 days per week! I highly recommend circuit training. So what this means is you are continually moving from one exercise to the next!  If you need a rest take it; but try to keep it under 90 seconds! The more you move the more calories you will burn!

As always before starting any exercise program make sure to consult with your physician.

Exercise of any form, resistance training or cardiovascular exercise, provides opportunity to expend energy, creating the possibility for a negative energy balance that will result in fat loss. A great method to exercise is to perform a circuit training program. Circuit training consists of several stations in which the client performs an exercise for a set amount of time or repetitions. Once time or repetitions have been achieved, then the client moves on to the next exercise in the station. Circuits can have as few as three exercises but can be as much as desired.  

Circuit style resistance training may be better suited for burning calories and thus losing fat. Recently, several studies have compared the effects of circuit resistance training to traditional cardio forms of exercise. It was shown that circuit training was just as beneficial as traditional cardiorespiratory exercise for improving and/or contributing to improved fitness levels. The following benefits of circuit training were stated:

  • Produced equal to or greater caloric expenditure for the same given time span as cardiorespiratory exercise
  • Produced greater levels of calories expended after exercise.
  •  Increased overall strength.

 Based upon this information, it appears that circuit training is a viable means for producing caloric

expenditure, increasing strength levels, and maintaining or increasing fat-free  mass while cutting down on the overall time of a complete workout.    

As an NASM Certified Personal Trainer using the Optimum Performance Model, there are a lot of key tactics one could use in order to create a fat loss program. I would recommend starting your training by including frequent cardio exercise (walking, jogging, elliptical) and also stabilization resistance training that requires usage of more than one muscle and also that challenges your limits of balance. For example, instead of doing a basic lunge or shoulder press, you could combine the two by performing a lunge to balance to overhead press. This exercise would work your legs, shoulders and also your core stabilization muscles. Doing similar exercises to this not only let you work more than one muscles group at a time, but you are burning more calories while you are at it.

There is no one ideal exercise for fat loss. 

The first key ingredient is nutrition.  You need to be burning more calories each day than you take in, and good nutrition is the cornerstone.  You cannot exercise away a bad diet.

Within the exercise area, a good program will combine cardio-respiratory exercises with strength training.  Both will elevate your oxygen consumption, which is what burns calories.  Since muscles at rest need calories, and fat cells use very little if any, increasing your lean muscle mass will help you burn more fat 24/7. 

Cardio exercises will have a more immediate effect.  If you are an experienced exerciser, adding in intervals to your cardio will increase the calories burned during exercise, and after exercise.

The best answer is "the one you'll actually do." I personally like to use HIIT (high intensity interval training) to help cut fat while keeping or adding lean mass. Doing resistance exercise in circuits is the easiest way to go about it. There is something to be said for longer bouts of aerobic cardiovascular exercise though. It goes beyond losing fat but also helps with heart health.

Ideally I think you want 3 days of HIIT/circuit resistance training and at least 3 days of aerobic cardio exercise (i.e. walking, jogging, biking, swimming) that last for a minimum of 20 minutes per session and longer if you have more fat you want to burn.

Ideally, all health and fitness programs for any goal should be created for you (Individualized) only, by a supervised expert, implementing the program in a progressive manner, to reduce risk of injury.

Keeping that in mind, several exercises that you would know and enjoy doing is an ideal, basic, program for you, when clustered together.


Most common exercises

  1. Push-ups
  2. Sit-ups
  3. Body weight squats
  4. Steps

Put them together and you will have a true basic program.

Tip: execute all with proper form and complete movement.
Trick: execute each for 15 seconds as fast as you can with no rest between each exercise = 1 round, take 1 min rest and repeat.
Extra Tip: master the exercise, then speed.

Can you do 5 rounds? It’s only 10 minutes!

How about once in the morning, afternoon and evening? That’s 30 minutes in one day! Do minimum of 3 times per week while trying to beat the number of rounds in 10 min or 30 min (moving an extra 30 minutes a day 3 times a week is scientifically researched to increase health and weight loss).

In truth, the only ideal program for permanent fat loss involves consciously making a series of decisions that you must then implement, to yield you the results that you want…

Step one is to think about what is most important to you. Is it being able to keep up with your kids as you get older? Is it wanting to look or feel better about yourself? Whatever it is, it’s important to visualize your goal, crystalize it, and then write it down so that you can reflect upon it during moments when you need to remind yourself the importance of what you are doing and what it means to you!

Step two is get moving! Virtually any activity that involves metabolically activating large groups of muscles is a great way to start. Some examples would be walking at a brisk pace, cycling or hiking at a park. Remember, that it took some time for you to gain your fat weight and it will take some time for it to come off! In order to stick to it, try to pick something that you enjoy and slowly challenge your yourself to do a little more, go a little farther, and push a little harder, as often as you feel capable of doing it!

Step three is to make better nutritional choices and eat smaller portions! Remember, any extra food not used by our body is converted to fat. You don’t have to change your entire life or diet all at once! Just make a conscious decision to change one thing at a time…It can be as simple as committing to drink more water every day. Then, follow through with it!

Step four is to work your muscles! Physically active muscles are like little fat-burning factories that are working twenty four hours a day burning fat! Try to perform movements that work large groups of muscles together instead of isolating separate ones for the quickest results. A good example would be a strength training circuit comprised of some all body exercises such as squats, push-ups, and assisted pull-ups, alternated with some aerobic exercises in between your sets…Don’t worry about not being able to perform very many repetitions of any one exercise at first.  Just do what you can, but slowly try to challenge yourself to push a little harder each time! As you improve, you can increase the range of activities and training programs to keep your body challenged and the new you at your best! -LA


Mr. Donovan Green
Athletic Training
An ideal exercise program for fast loss would be kick boxing. Why? Kickboxing not only works your body from head to toe, it also assists in alleviating stress and increasing self-confidence. You can burn up to 1,000 calories in one hour by doing a very intense kick boxing class. You do not have to be a black belt to join a kick boxing class. All you need is the will and some really good energy store. Good luck and let me know how you are doing once you sign up for a kick boxing program.

When it comes to losing fat we really need to focus on two things: decreasing our overall calorie intake, and increasing our daily physical activity level.

Diet will account for 70 percent or more of your success in a fat loss program. First you need to figure out how many calories you need to maintain your current weight and then adjust for weight loss. Try to consume between 250 and 500 calories per day below your maintenance calorie intake. I recommend keeping a journal either on paper or online of your food and exercise activities. This will help to keep you on track and can give a good picture of just how much you are eating.

Moving more will only help to increase your results. Include both cardio and resistance training into your program to achieve optimal results. Perform cardio activities, like jogging, biking, or swimming three to five times per week for around 30 to 45 minutes each session. Perform resistance training 2-3 times per week focusing on total body workouts that move lots of muscle each session. Train all of the major muscle groups each session to burn the most calories possible. Circuit training is great because it saves time and can help to keep the heart rate elevated increasing the calorie burn even more. 

All in all, consistency in your training program will be a key factor in determining your success. You have to stick with it to see results.  

There are many ways to lose weight/fat, but the best program that you can be a part of is one that will both build muscle and get your heart rate up. Building more muscle will help burn more calories, and so will having you heart rate elevated. Personally I believe that doing circuit training will give you the best bang for your buck. Circuit training is weight training that is meant for you to have minimal rest periods, which will help you keep your heart rate elevated.

Brad Lamm
Addiction Medicine

There are as many answers to this question as there are exercise programs and most of them will start with…it depends.

It depends on your current level of fitness, your desired goals, your exercise history, your true commitment level and so on.

Before you rush out to buy a membership at your neighborhood gym or sign-up for a marathon, you may wish to take pen in hand (or keyboard in hand) and list exactly what you want to accomplish, in what time frame, and what it will realistically take (yes, that word) to do so.This can be thought of as a type of mission statement for your health. For example: I want to be able to walk a mile without being winded within a month." This is an achievable goal, for most people, and you would then be able to create a plan of steps to take to make it happen, such as walking five minutes a day for the first three days, then ten minutes a day for three days…you get the idea.

After you have determined exactly what it is you want and your goal feels good to you…then you can begin to determine which is the best actual course of action. I will add that the best exercise plan is one that makes your heart sing, that you look forward to doing (well, most days at least) and is achievable on a day-in-day-out basis.

Best of luck to you on your new found excitement for exercise!

Any exercise program should be a combination of resistance training or weight training and cardio training or heart training. These two types of programs do not have to be separate entities. You do not have to spend 30 minutes on the treadmill and then another 30 minutes weight lifting. You can make the most of your gym time and combine the two types of training for maximum fat loss. I call it cardio-resistive training.

One way to do this is to do combination exercises; one exercise that targets more than one muscle group at a time. An example would be the step up to bicep curl to shoulder press or the squat to hammer curl. Then you want to add in some exercises that would get the heart racing like the burpee or the jumping jack. If you do all the prescribed exercises in a set amount of time then rest, this is called a circuit. The point of a circuit is to do all your heart is capable of doing without resting. You can complete the circuit as many times as you wish. Even if you only complete it once you have accomplished the goal of cardio-resistive training.

Another way to accomplish cardio resistive training is to do a weight lifting exercise and then do a cardio exercise. For example you would do your pull ups or assisted pull ups and then do some mountain climbers; or you would do your weighted squats and then do some sprints. This is called interval training; where you train with weights and then add some cardio in between exercises.

I am a huge fan of both techniques. They are convenient and effective.

Fat loss is about burning more calories than you consume. Increasing muscle definitely helps the body burn more calories, but ultimately fat loss is a combined effort of eating right and exercising. I see the most dramatic results in clients who are consistant and cultivate body awareness in both exercise and nutrition.

An ideal exercise program for fat loss is one that increases your metabolism. To do this you want to work you whole body focusing on the large muscle groups, such as your quads, lats, upper and mid-back and chest muscles. You can really do any amount of reps 8-12 for strength, 12-15 for strength endurance. Complete at least 12 sets of different exercises focusing on these different muscle groups. Make sure you don't rest for more than 30 sec. in between sets and work hard for 30-45 min.


To your health!


-Dr. P.

An ideal weight loss program would begin in phase 1, stabilization endurance training to ensure proper muscle balance and endurance of the stabilizing muscles. Theoretically, this phase of training will increase calorie burn as the resistance training exercises are performed in unstable but controlled environment such as stability balls, dyna disk. The second phase would focus on endurance -strength training. Phase 3 and 4 would focus on increase strength and lean body mass. Phase 5 power training consisting of 3 strength training with a combination of cardio and additional 2 days of cardio for a total of 5 days.

The ideal exercise program for fat loss is one that involves making lifestyle changes because permanent results only come from making permanent lifestyle changes. Nowhere in the ideal exercise program is there room for fad diets, gimmick supplements and quick fixes. The ideal exercise program for fat loss is composed of strength training, cardiovascular exercise, flexibility, corrective exercises and nutritional changes. It is also one that is matched to your individual needs.

Weight loss is predominantly a game of numbers; calorie numbers to be specific. In order to lose weight you have to be burning more calories than you are taking in. It is impossible to lose weight (actual fat mass, in a healthy manner) if you are taking in more calories than you are expending. It takes burning 3500 calories in order to lose 1-pound of body fat. This is basically impossible to do through cardio or strength training alone. And it's extremely unhealthy to do through drastically cutting your calories.

So what's the best solution? A combination of eating healthier and exercising more, which most definitely needs to include strength training. It is a myth that the best way to burn body fat is through cardio alone. Without strength training, some of the weight lost during weeks and weeks of cardio is going to come from muscle atrophy (a breakdown in muscle mass). This is definitely not desirable! You want to focus on losing body fat, not muscle mass. Plus, your body continues to burn calories at a much higher rate after strength training when compared to cardio.

The ideal exercise program for fat loss is going to be a little bit different for everyone depending on your medical history, current state of health, exercise history/experience level/preferences, current eating and sleeping habits and the list goes on and on. As much as the media would like to convenience you, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' program that is best for everyone. The most effective and efficient way to lost fat is to have a knowledgeable, experienced personal trainer develop a program that meets your needs and wants. Next, you are going to have to commit to it 100%. You can't afford to straddle the proverbial fence and only adhere to parts of the program and only when it's convenient. This means you are going to need motivation, determination, perseverance, will-power, and a willingness to sacrifice! You need to create an excuse-free environment. Anything less will likely produce mediocre results...

An ideal exercise program for fat loss is any program that will enable you to create a calorie deficit each day through your activities. The only real way to lose body fat is by burning more calories than you consume.  You can accomplish this by eating less, moving more, or a combination of the two. Exercise burns fat because it can help you create a calorie deficit in a couple of ways. First, if you add resistance training (weights, resistance bands or even body weight movements) to your routine, then you will build lean muscle mass. Extra muscle will make you burn more calories throughout the day – even at rest! Cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, swimming, etc) will raise your heart rate and have a positive effect on your metabolism too. 

I often recommend circuit training as a great choice for those looking to shed body fat because it combines weight training and cardiovascular exercise. There have also been numerous studies proving that circuit training can even help raise your metabolism for hours after your workout is complete!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.