Personal Training
10 mins read

The Best Exercises for Fat Loss

Katy resistance band running with a client
Written by
Katy Harkness
Published on
February 22, 2023

It is a privilege to speak to so many people from so many different walks of life in my job.

Something that unites many, is that they would like to lose weight and get ‘toned’.

In fact, I think those may be the very words I uttered to my first PT in terms of my goal.

Consequently, I am often asked what the best exercises for fat loss are.

Spoiler alert – there is no ’10 best exercises for fat loss’. 

And exercise isn’t the only answer.  In fact, there are better answers.

So, my response is always the same.

“It is great that you are looking to move more. That is brilliant for improving your overall health, your strength and your mental wellbeing. I have a question for you.  What are you planning to do with regards nutrition and diet to help with your fat loss goal?”

“Oh nothing, my diet is fine” is often the reply.

Your diet however, is the first place I would look if you are wanting to lose fat.


Science ‘innit - physiology and the equation of energy in vs energy out vs calorie deficit.

Concentrating on just one part of that equation – energy out through exercise – is unlikely to get towards a fat loss goal for a few simple reasons.

  1. We massively overestimate how active we are, And we overestimate (or have great expectations) of how many calories we will expend at the gym – the reality is that for the average person it will be 150-300 calories in an hour (a large banana and an apple for context)
  2. We underestimate how much energy we consume – the majority of us do not know, or guess. Tracking it is often very inaccurate - cooking oil isn’t included, the lattes are forgotten, and everyone barely drinks alcohol.  I had no clue how much energy I consumed until I tracked as accurately as I could for the first time. 
  3. We don’t know how what calorie deficit we need to be in to lose fat. We have the average 2000 calories in our head (which is maintenance calories for the ‘average adult’) and haven’t considered that we sit across a spectrum with it influenced by age, gender, weight, and height

So, two parts of the three-part fat loss equation are nutrition related with the less impactful element of exercise the one we often concentrate and fixate on.

So, if you want to lose fat you need to look at what is going on for you with nutrition.

I like to think of fat loss, being in a calorie deficit and calorie tracking like using a satnav.

  • You must know your destination (your daily/ weekly calorie target).
  • The satnav tells you if you are on the right course or not to get to your destination (tracking).
  • And after a few journeys and having it confirmed that you can get yourself from A to B (fat loss) you can stop using the satnav (tracking isn’t forever)

Whilst it might be a pain to track it can massively help you on your fat loss journey.

If fat loss is your goal then you need to ensure that you are concentrating on your nutrition, you know your destination and you use your satnav to help you get there.

And think about exercise and movement as complementary – it will help you build muscle so when you do lose fat that muscles shows and you get that ‘toned’ appearance you might be after.

So, what are the best exercises for fat loss? There aren’t any.

Do whatever it is that you enjoy doing for your heart health, strength and mental wellbeing – if it is hula-hooping then got for it.

If it is boxing then knock yourself out.

And get a handle on your nutrition to really make progress.

You can work out your calorie deficit using this calculator.

And I’m here to coach you through your fat loss and nutrition journey, because I’m well aware that whilst the satnav analogy is good, fat loss isn’t quite as straightforward as driving from A to B.

About Katy Harkness

Katy founded PLAY Fitness & Coaching after she made changes in her life, which saw her lose over 20kg and become the fittest she has ever been.

As Katy became more interested in health and fitness, the algorithms shared more and more misinformation.

Becoming frustrated with unrealistic goals and standards being set, that are often not healthy, Katy left the advertising industry where she had a successful 20+ year career, to help create the change she wanted to see in the health and fitness industry and to support people to make the sustainable, long term changes they wanted to see in their own lives.

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