If you come from a family sporting dad bods, you’re more likely to carry extra pounds yourself. Some of that is nurture: You grew up in an environment where people ate more and possibly exercised less. The other part is nature: Some people carry an obesity gene that makes them more likely to be overweight.
If you’re one of those people, you might want to select your workouts carefully. A new study of 18,424 Chinese adults by Wan-Yu Lin of National Taiwan University found that certain exercises are more effective than others at encouraging weight loss in people genetically predisposed to obesity.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers investigated gene-exercise interactions by first evaluating participants on five obesity measures (BMI, body fat percentage, waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio). After performing a regression analysis to determine their genetic vulnerability to obesity, researchers reviewed the type of exercise participants engaged in, and compared these findings with the obesity level.
There were some obvious — and not so obvious — findings. Jogging was found to be the best form of exercise for weight-loss, while cycling was near the bottom of the list. Fast walking was also beneficial, as were mountain climbing, dancing, and yoga. Swimming, meanwhile, was another weight-loss dud.
While the scientists are still sorting through the reason that certain exercises favor weight-loss in those genetically predisposed to obesity, it’s plausible that the most effective activities consistently elevated participants heart rate for long durations, while activities like swimming and cycling either didn’t get the heart rate up or were too “gentle” on the body (they are not considered weight-bearing activities) for people to reap the full benefit.
Whether or not genetics is contributing to your fight to stay fit, you can take control of your destiny. Start with this 30-minute workout which takes the top five science-backed weight-loss exercises from the study and mashes them into one belly fat-burning, waist-slimming workout.
Warm up/Walk: 5 minutes
Start with a moderate amble and work your way up to a fast-stepping, arm-swinging walk that gets your muscles warm and your head in the right space to push hard.
Jog: 10 minutes
Break into an easy jog, choosing a pace you can sustain for 10 minutes straight. The right tempo should be slow enough that you can converse with a friend but hard enough that those sentences are pretty short.
Climb stairs: 5 minutes
Since you’re unlikely to find a mountain nearby to scale (or have the time to do it), swap slopes for stairs and find a case you can climb for the next 5 minutes. (If that’s truly mission impossible, find a single flight and run up and down it repeatedly.)
Dance it off: 7 minutes
While the study found international standard dancing, also known as ballroom dancing, was great for weight loss, you can get the same benefits of fast footwork and solid cardio by busting a move to your favorite tunes in the house or at the gym. Choose music with 130 BPM or higher and don’t stop moving until 7 minutes is up.
Cool down/Yoga: 3 minutes
Yoga might not seem like an automatic fat-blaster, but because the classes tend to be longer (an hour or so) and participants attend frequently, it gets points for consistency. Finish your workout with this sequence that stretches muscles while building strength.
- Start in downward facing dog (hand and feet on floor, hips in the air).
- Inhale and lift your right left off the floor behind you, bend at the knee and allowing your hips to open.
- Swing your right leg forward and place it between your hands, knee bent, so you are in a low lunge. Breath in and out five times.
- Transfer your weight from your bent right front leg back to your straight left leg, bending your left knee and straightening your right in a half-split position. Hold for five breaths.
- Continue to shift your weight back, allowing your body to spiral slightly, twisting until you are seated. Allow your right leg to bend and coil over the top of your left into the double-pigeon pose (sort of like Indian-style but with your right foot over your left knee and your left foot beneath your right knee).
- From here, let your arms fall by your sides, straighten your spine, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.