You'd think that if you are exercising, it would definitely make a dent in your fat loss. But that's not always the case. Not all exercises are made equal, and some are literally useless when it comes to burning calories.
Here are the top 5 from the infamous list. But before you read further, it's important to understand the basis of calorie burning through exercise. Here's how it works.For you to lose weight, you need to burn calories. To burn the most calories, you need to move big muscle, and move it through a large distance.
Take running, for example. You move each muscle in your body through the distance that you run. And you move it fast. That is the trifecta of calorie burning -- move big muscle, move it further, and move it fast.
Now, back to the bottom 5:
The Sit-up This exercise is probably the 'favourite' among those trying to lose weight or trying to reduce their belly. While there is no question that the mighty sit-up does work those abdominal muscles, the calories burned from doing sit-ups is so small that you'd need to do hundreds of thousands of them to make any difference.
Why it doesn't work: Abs are little muscles in your torso, and this exercise targets those muscles. If you look at the amount of muscle that you move in this exercise, it's not much, and you move it only through a small distance. So, the effective calorie burn is small.
Researchers at the University of Virginia found that it would take 250,000 sit-ups for you to burn 1 lb… that's less than half a kg of fat.
Also read: Too much exercise doesn't mean great health
Twisting: You would have surely seen people twisting vigorously on those round little platforms in the gyms or with a bar across their shoulders, because their gym trainer told them it would help loosen the fat on their sides. More than burning fat, they have no idea how they are exposing themselves to injuries.
Why it doesn't work: When you twist your waist, you are using some of your core muscles, but since your muscles are not working against gravity, you're not burning many calories. If you do it vigorously, you might be putting your back at risk of injury.
The Vibrating Machine: Fortunately, this one is waning in popularity. In the '80s and the '90s, the vibrating machine was a huge rage. You stand on this platform, with a belt around you, and when you turn the machine on, it shakes the belt vigorously. This was another 'magic fat melter' machine that failed to live up to its promise.
Why it doesn't work: In this one, all the muscles in your body are vibrating, but there are two problems.
1. Your muscles are moving through tiny distances, so its minimal work
2. The machine is doing the work. You're just resting on the belt. So, where's the calorie burn?
Toe Touching: The toe touch is a popular yoga exercise. Every school kid does hundreds of these during PT class. Somehow, the word's spread that toe touching helps you lose weight. Being a yoga exercise, it sure has its physical and physiological benefits, but if you're doing toe touching just to lose weight, please stop!
Why it doesn't work: With toe touching, it seems like you're moving a lot of muscle, and you are moving your whole upper body up and down. But the muscle you're really working out are some of those abs, which are tiny muscles… so there is only a minuscule calorie burn. And if you're short on flexibility, this exercise might actually put your lower back at risk of injury.
Also read: Good exercise is about quality, not quantity
Morning Walker: This machine is a really popular gadget being sold these days. From the late night TV shopping shows to the hottest ecommerce sites are doing brisk business with the 'morning walker' machine, but it's not making anyone lose weight.
Imagine lying down in the room, while the machines moves you legs. How much of a calorie burn are you really expecting? If you're trying to lose weight, you can't be that lazy. The only people that may be allowed to really use this kind of a machine are those who may be medically immobile, but if you can walk, then you better be walking or better yet running!
Why it doesn't work: This one is really not even worth explaining why! You're lying down, you're not really moving- that's why!
Dhruv Gupta is the founder of the Fitho (an online weight loss diet programme, www.fitho.in) and the author of a book on healthy living, Losing It- Making Weight Loss Simple.