Some people will have you believe that the only way to change your body is to leave yourself in a sweaty heap in the gym every day or tie yourself to the treadmill or elliptical for hours at a time. This doesn't have to be the case!

If you're new to the exercise world, it's OK to simply start off by filling your life with activities that you enjoy. It could be running, playing racquetball, hiking, or Sunday soccer with your friends. Whatever keeps you active for 60 minutes, 3-4 times per week, will help you feel good and experience some success.

But along with that kind of activity, it's a perfect time to include more structured training. In particular, it's important to focus on strength training and cardio, especially in the form of high-intensity interval training.

Strength training: What? Isn't lifting weights better for bodybuilding or getting huge, rather than losing fat? Believe it or not, it's an essential part of lasting weight control.

Strength Training

"It's understandable if you're hesitant to believe that, but here's why it works: Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat, even when you are just sitting in front of the TV," explains registered dietician Susan Hewlings, Ph.D., in's Foundations of Fitness Nutrition video course. "The more you have, the more you'll be able to burn. It also gives you control over your health and appearance in a way that simple calorie control can't, and helps develop the strength and energy you need to fit more total activity in your life."

The benefits don't end there. Resistance training also has profound beneficial effects on your bones and joints and helps to prevent osteoporosis (loss in bone mineral density), sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass), and lower-back pain, assuming you use proper exercise form.[4]

Of course, there are plenty of different ways to approach strength training: fast-paced or slow, high reps or low, a bodybuilding-style body-part split or full body, just to name a few. There's really no wrong answer, and a lifter will cycle through all of them over the course of years. But researcher Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., suggests giving serious consideration to full-body training, particularly if fat loss is your goal.

Cardio and HIIT: The word "cardio" may bring to mind a treadmill with a TV set on top, but that's only one way to get it done.

High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, can also be a very effective weight-loss tool. It's pretty easy to incorporate into any fitness plan because it can be applied to a variety of settings and different types of equipment can be used.

Another positive: The best HIIT workout is often the simplest. For example, a popular introductory workout is to bike hard for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds. Continue in this fashion for 10 minutes at first, building up over time to 20 minutes, with a light warm-up and cool-down of about 5 minutes of easy peddling on either end. Two or three brief sessions like this a week, along with some lifting, and you can achieve some surprising results!

Cardio and HIIT

If you're looking for something more systematic, the most popular weight-loss programs in BodyFit share a common thread: They give your lungs and heart a calorie-burning challenge, but also lead you toward a healthy overall body composition and muscle growth.

The 5 Most Popular BodyFit Elite Weight-Loss Programs

Your Attitude

Not every day is going to be a great day, and sure, you'll encounter the occasional hiccup or low point when it comes to your nutrition and training plan. Know that now and accept it. But if you stay dedicated to controlling portions and being a little more active, you'll slowly but surely see those pounds come off.

By far, the most important part of implementing healthier habits into your lifestyle is bettering your self-image and happiness. How you look is not nearly as important as how you feel. Maintain positivity and you'll see the changes you want to see!