12 Weeks to Weight Loss Exercise Program

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Looking for an exercise program that's perfect for a beginning exerciser? Need a step-by-step guide to help you lose weight? Here is a 12-week plan that gives you all the tools you need, including:

  • Cardio, strength training, and flexibility workouts
  • Quick tips to help you stay on track
  • Weekly calendars to organize your workouts

The program is simple, but that doesn't mean it's easy. As with any 12-week weight loss program, there will be ups and downs. Some weeks will go well and others will not—fluctuations are normal and it will help if you expect them.

Every workout listed is a suggestion. Listen to your own body and do what's right for you. You can always substitute similar workouts if something doesn't work for you. Walk, go for a bike ride, hike with a friend, or take your kids to the park for a game of tag or Frisbee to get some activity.

If you've never exercised before, review the basics of cardio and strength training first. If you have some experience, you can substitute harder workouts to get faster weight loss results.

Before You Start a Weight Loss Program

There are a few smart things to take care of before you start this or any 12-week weight loss program.

  • Check with your doctor if you have any injuries or illnesses, or if you're on medication.
  • Decide when you will work out (e.g., in the morning, at lunch, or after work) and write it down in your calendar or fitness journal.
  • Find or purchase shoes, clothes, or equipment that you will need.
  • Plan and prepare your meals for the week beforehand.
  • Set goals, write them out, and post them in a place where you can see them.
  • Take your measurements, and make a note of them. Re-take them every four weeks to track your progress. You may also want to track your weight loss.

Weeks 1 to 4

The following calendar includes all the cardio, strength, core, and flexibility workouts to get you started during your first four weeks of weight loss. Most weeks include two or three basic cardio workouts, three core workouts, and two days of strength training.

Your workouts will change slightly each week to help you gradually build strength and endurance.

If you feel tired or sore, take extra rest days. If you have other cardio workouts that you already know you like, you can substitute them in at any time.

Week 1

For most days of the week, you'll choose one of several activities. On some days, you will also have an additional exercise to add to your workout.

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

Tuesday

Choose one:

Wednesday

Choose one:

Plus: 

  • Lower Body Stretches

Thursday

Friday

Choose one:

Plus:

Saturday

  • Beginner abs

Sunday

  • Rest

Week 2

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

Tuesday

  • Total Body Strength (2 sets)
  • Beginner Abs

Wednesday

Choose one:

  • Beginner Intervals
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • Total Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Active rest (such as an easy walk)

Friday

Choose one:

  • 20-Minute Cardio
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Saturday

  • Total Body Strength (1 set)

Sunday

  • Rest

Week 3

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Total Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Active rest

Friday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Total Body Stretches

Saturday

  • Total Body Strength (2 sets)

Sunday

  • 10-minute walk

Week 4

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Total Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Total Body Strength (2 sets)

Friday

Choose one:

  • Beginner Intervals
  • Beginner Elliptical
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Saturday

Sunday

  • 15-minute walk

Weeks 5 to 8

Ramp things up by increasing your cardio time and trying some new strength, cardio, core, and flexibility workouts. As always, take extra rest days as needed, and feel free to substitute your own workouts if any of these don't work for you.

Week 5

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Active rest

Friday

  • Cardio and Strength Circuit

Saturday

  • Total Core Workout

Sunday

  • 10-minute walk

Week 6

Monday

Choose one:

  • 30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

  • 10-Minute Cardio (2 to 3 sets)
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • 7 Total Body Stretches

Thursday

Friday

  • Active rest

Saturday

  • Cardio and Strength Circuit

Sunday

  • 15-minute walk

Week 7

Monday

Choose one:

  • 10-Min Cardio (2 to 3 sets)
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • 7 Total Body Stretches

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Active rest

Friday

  • Cardio and Strength Circuit

Saturday

  • Total Core Workout

Sunday

  • 10-minute walk

Week 8

Monday

Choose one:

  • 30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

  • 10-Minute Cardio (2 to 3 sets)
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • 7 Total Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Total Body Strength and Balance (2 sets)
  • Total Core Workout

Friday

  • Active rest

Saturday

  • Cardio and Strength Circuit

Sunday

  • 15-minute walk

Weeks 9 to 12

This week, you'll be taking things to a higher level with new, longer cardio workouts, new total-body strength workouts. You'll have new upper- and lower-body workouts to challenge more muscle groups and help you build lean muscle. These weeks also add new circuit training workouts, which are great for saving time while helping you burn more calories.

Week 9

Monday

Choose one:

  • 10-Minute Cardio (3 sets)
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Total Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Active rest

Friday

  • Total Body Strength, Balance and Flexibility (1 set)
  • Total Core Workout

Saturday

Choose one:

  • Beginner Intervals
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • 10-Minute Yoga

Sunday

  • Rest

Week 10

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Tuesday

  • Total Body Strength, Balance, and Flexibility (1 set)
  • Total Core Workout

Wednesday

Choose one:

  • 10-Minute Cardio (2 to 3 sets)
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • 10-Minute Yoga

Thursday

  • Active rest

Friday

  • Total Body Strength, Balance, and Flexibility (1 set)
  • Standing Abs

Saturday

Sunday

  • Rest

Week 11

Monday

Choose one:

Plus:

  • Lower Body Stretches

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

  • 30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • Total Body Stretches

Thursday

  • Active rest

Friday

  • 10-Minute Cardio Home Circuit (2 to 3 sets)
  • Total Body Stretches

Saturday

  • Standing Abs

Sunday

  • 10-Minute Walk

Week 12

Monday

Choose one:

  • 10-Minute Cardio (2 to 3 sets)
  • Choose your own cardio

Plus:

Tuesday

Wednesday

Choose one:

  • 40-Minute Cardio Boredom Buster
    Choose your own cardio

Plus:

  • 10-Minute Yoga

Thursday

Friday

  • Active rest

Saturday

  • 10-Minute At-Home Cardio Circuit (2 to 3 sets)

Sunday

  • 15-Minute Walk

Tips to Keep Your 12-Week Program on Track

Before you lace up your workout shoes, your first step is to commit to your program every day. No matter what else is going on in your life, remind yourself of your goals and give your workout the priority it deserves.

Treat your workout like you would any appointment that you wouldn't miss. Write it in your datebook and protect the time that you set aside for it. If you do miss a workout, just pick up where you left off and remember to keep looking forward, not back.

You might find it helpful to keep a workout journal to track your progress. Having a daily source of motivation, including your friends, family, and co-workers, can also help.

Make sure to reward yourself at the end of each week for all your accomplishments, even if you didn't get in every single workout as planned.

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Article Sources
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