While it takes a committed effort to lose weight and change your body through exercise, the good news is that steady workouts make a huge difference. If your goal is to drop a few pounds as well as tone your muscles, go for a plan that includes strength training as well as regular cardio exercise.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adult women spend at least 150 minutes per week exercising. If you want to lose weight, though, it's helpful to exceed that recommendation. In your plan, aim for four 30-minute cardio workouts per week and two 30-minute strength training workouts. Warm up and cool down before each workout, and do your best to maintain a physically active lifestyle outside of your exercise sessions to burn more calories.
Strength training improves metabolic rate and defines muscle tone -- but you don't have to worry about вЂњbulking up.вЂќ According to the ACSM, women have too much estrogen to build large muscles. In one weekly strength training session, target arms and legs. In the second, go for the chest, back and core, which are often вЂњproblem areasвЂќ for women. Do two sets of each exercise, with eight to 16 reps per set. For arms, the Women's Heart Foundation recommends front and side shoulder raises, upright rows and curls. For legs, try squats and lunges. To work your chest, do flyes, overhead presses and pushups. Switch to your back with the Superman exercise, pullups and rear flyes. Finish with bicycle crunches, Russian twists and a static plank pose to work the core. According to the American Council on Exercise, women can expect to enjoy 20 percent to 40 percent gains in muscular strength after just a few months of strength training.
All cardio exercises will raise your heart rate and burn calories, so in a long-term weight loss plan, it's best to pick a form of cardio you enjoy and will be able to stick with through time. Great choices include biking, jogging, swimming, dancing, aerobics, team sports or using a treadmill or elliptical. You'll notice faster weight loss if you exercise more intensively, since vigorous activities burn more calories. For example, MayoClinic.com reports that 60 minutes of running at 5 miles per hour burns about 600 calories for a 160-pound woman, but running at 8 miles per hour burns more than 850 calories for the same woman.
Get approval from your doctor before starting a workout plan for weight loss, especially if you're very overweight or have a medical condition. If you're not used to exercising regularly, start slowly and build up to harder activities and heavier weights. When you start, use weights heavy enough for you to barely complete the last rep in a set. Finally, always follow proper form on exercises, and get a trainer to demonstrate any exercise with which you're unfamiliar.