Calisthenics: The Best Exercise for Weight Loss?

One of the most popular fad diet trends this year has been calisthenics, or sometimes called planking because of its rising popularity on social media platforms like Instagram. A lot of people want to try it because of its simplicity—all you need is a plank and a wall to do it. While the idea of planking may seem like a quick and easy way to get fit, is it actually the best exercise for weight loss? We took a deep dive into the research to find out.

The Trend

Planking became so popular this year that hashtags like #planking and #calisthenics began trending on Twitter. Google search interest for ‘calisthenics’ and ‘planking’ have both risen by 20% this year.

The craze started when fitness blogger Hollie Blair shared a video on her Instagram account. In the post, she shows off some amazing abs while doing some calisthenics. The video was later followed by another video of Hollie doing the same exercise routine. Shortly after, people began copying her and posting their own videos. The trend truly took off when bodybuilding champion Alanna Johnson shared a clip of herself doing some calisthenics. Since then, many influencers and popular Instagrammers have posted their own snaps showing off their amazing buns while doing some simple moves.

The surge in popularity was likely because of numerous celebrities who have spoken out against obesity and touted calisthenics as a way to get fit. Many high-profile individuals, such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Halle Berry, have touted the benefits of calisthenics in their books. Celebrities who’ve spoken out against obesity might also have helped fuel the trend. For example, in Graham’s Handbook of Household Management, he encourages readers to do “some simple calisthenics regularly, as it is extremely beneficial to the health (and slimming) of the whole family.”

The Research

While it’s easy to get sucked into the craze and want to try out this new exercise trend, the research on whether or not calisthenics is the best exercise for weight loss is more nuanced. In fact, there are several different types of calisthenics and, as the name implies, they all work something different for weight loss.

In the study “Comparison of Low-Intensity and High-Intensity Calisthenics Exercise Routines in Women,” researchers from the University of Calgary compared the effects of low- and high-intensity exercise routines on female weight loss. For the study, they recruited 22 sedentary women and randomly assigned them to either a low-intensity exercise group or a high-intensity exercise group. Both groups followed the same general routine for 12 weeks, except for the intensity level: the low-intensity group did mild calisthenics while the high-intensity group did intense exercises. The researchers also measured the women’s caloric intake and expenditure to determine how much weight each group lost and whether or not the calorie cut was enough to make a difference.

At the end of the study, the low-intensity group had lost about 4 pounds while the high-intensity group had lost 10 pounds, on average. Based on these numbers, the study suggested that high intensity exercises, such as those done in gyms, might be better for weight loss than low-intensity ones, such as those done at home. The authors of the study noted that additional research is needed to determine which type of calisthenics is best for weight loss, but they encouraged people to try them all and find the one that works best for them.

The Bottom Line

While it’s easy to want to try new things in life and be inspired by the many celebrity trendsetters who’ve embraced calisthenics, there’s also a need for caution. This year has seen a rise in the popularity of this workout trend, which has likely been boosted by social media platforms like Instagram. That’s a great platform for people who want to showcase their fitness routines, whether or not they work or are effective for weight loss.

As a result, it’s important to do your research before trying out a new fitness fad or craze. Luckily, doing some simple Internet searching will help determine whether or not calisthenics is right for you. If you’re interested in trying out this new workout trend, be sure to consult with a medical professional or a personal trainer to find out what works best for your body type and health goals.