12 Weeks to Weight Loss Exercise Program

A group working out
Getty Images/Digital Vision

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 (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

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Monday
Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals
-Beginner Elliptical
-Or choose your own cardio


Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-25-Minute Intervals
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-25-Minute Intervals
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total body stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-25-Minute Intervals
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total body stretches

Tuesday

Total Body Strength: 1 set

Beginner Abs

Tuesday

Total Body Strength: 2 sets

Beginner Abs

Tuesday

Total Body Strength: 2 sets

Core Strength and Stretch

Tuesday

Total Body Strength2 sets

Core Strength and Stretch

Wednesday  Choose 1

-
20-Minute Cardio


-Or choose your own cardio




Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
-Or choose your own

Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total Body Stretches

Thursday

Total Body Strength: 1 set

Beginner Abs

Thursday

Active rest (such as an easy walk) 

Thursday

Active rest

Thursday

Total Body Strength: 2 sets

Friday
Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals
-Beginner Elliptical
-Or choose your own cardio


Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Friday
Choose 1

-20-Minute Cardio
-Or choose your own cardio

Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Friday
Choose 1

-10-Minute Blast: 2.5 reps
-25-Minute Intervals
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total Body Stretches

Friday
Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals
-Beginner Elliptical
-Or choose your own cardio


Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Saturday

Beginner Abs

Saturday

Total Body Strength: 1 set

Saturday

Total Body Strength: 2 sets

Saturday

Intermediate Abs and Core Workout

Sunday

Rest

Sunday

Rest

Sunday

10-minute walk

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 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Monday
Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals, Level 3
-Or choose your own cardio

Plus: 7 Total Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals, Level 3
-Or choose your own

Plus: 7 Total Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-10-Min Cardio: 2 to 3 sets
-Or choose your own

Plus: 7 Total Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
-Or choose your own

Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Tuesday

-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set
-Core Strength and Stretch

Tuesday

-Total Body Strength and Balance1 set
-Core Strength and Stretch

 

Tuesday

-Total Body Strength and Balance: 2 sets
-Intermediate Abs and Core Workout

Tuesday

-Total Body Strength and Balance: 2 sets
-Intermediate Abs and Core Workout

Wednesday
Choose 1

-
25-Minute Cardio

-Or choose your own cardio



Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-10-Min Cardio: 2-3 sets
-Or choose your own

Plus: 7 Total Body Stretches

 

Wednesday Choose 1

-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
-Or choose your own

Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-10-Min Cardio: 2-3 sets
-Or choose your own

Plus: 7 Total Body Stretches

Thursday

-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set
-Core Strength and Stretch

Thursday

Active rest

Thursday

Active rest

Thursday

-Total Body Strength and Balance: 2 sets
-Total Core Workout

Friday
Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals, Level 3
-Or choose your own cardio

Plus: 7 Total Body Stretches

Friday
Choose 1


-
25-Minute Cardio


-Or choose your own




Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Friday

Cardio and Strength Circuit

Friday

Active rest

Saturday

Total Core Workout

Saturday

-Total Body Strength and Balance: 1 set

Saturday

Total Core Workout

Saturday

Cardio and Strength Circuit

Sunday

Rest

Sunday

Rest

Sunday

10-minute walk

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 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Monday
Choose 1

-
10-Minute Cardio: 3 sets

-Or choose your own cardio



Plus: 
10-Minute Yoga

Monday
Choose 1

-40-Minute Cardio Boredom Buster
-Or choose your own

Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-40-Minute Cardio Boredom Buster
-Or choose your own

Plus: Lower Body Stretches

Monday
Choose 1

-10-Minute Cardio: 2 to 3 sets
-Or choose your own

Plus:
 Upper Body Supersets

Tuesday

-Total Body Strength, Balance and Flexibility: 1 set
-Total Core Workout

Tuesday

-Total Body Strength, Balance and Flexibility: 1 set
-Total Core Workout

Tuesday

-Total Body Superset Blast: 1 to 2 sets
Standing Abs

Tuesday

-Lower Body and Core Strength Workout  
-Lower Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-Beginner Intervals
-Beginner Elliptical
-Or choose your own cardio

Plus: Total Body Stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-10-Minute Cardio: 2 to 3 sets
-Or choose your own

Plus: 10-Minute Yoga

Wednesday Choose 1

-30-Minute Cardio, 3 Ways
-Or choose your own

Plus: Total Body stretches

Wednesday Choose 1

-40-Minute Cardio Boredom Buster
-Or choose your own

Plus: 10-Minute Yoga

Thursday

Active rest

Thursday

Active rest

Thursday

Active rest

Thursday

-Total Body Superset Blast: 1 to 2 sets
-Core Strength and Stretch

Friday

-Total Body Strength, Balance and Flexibility: 1 set
-Total Core Workout

Friday

-Total Body Strength, Balance and Flexibility: 1 set
-Standing Abs

Friday

-10-Minute Cardio Home Circuit: 2 to 3 sets
- Total Body Stretches

Friday

Active rest

Saturday

-Beginner Intervals
-Or choose your own cardio

Plus: 10-Minute Yoga

Saturday

-Cardio and Strength Circuit: 2 sets

Saturday

Standing Abs

Saturday

-10-Minute Cardio Home Circuit: 2 to 3 sets

Sunday

Rest

Sunday

Rest

Sunday

10-minute walk

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.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The Role of Exercise and Physical Activity in Weight Loss and Maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014;56(4):441-447. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012

  2. Zemková E, Kyselovičová O, Jeleň M, et al. Upper and Lower Body Muscle Power Increases After 3-Month Resistance Training in Overweight and Obese Men. Am J Mens Health. 2017;11(6):1728-1738. doi:10.1177/1557988316662878