According to the Physical Activity Guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity. To break it down in simpler terms, that’s just 30 minutes, five days per week.
However, many believe this means that the key to weight loss is lots and lots of cardio. So they hit the gym daily, pounding away on the treadmill or elliptical for hours in the hopes of finally shedding those extra pounds. But here’s the thing: that approach simply doesn’t work. In fact, too much cardio can actually sabotage your weight loss efforts.
The Problem with Too Much Cardio
When you do lots of cardio, your body goes into survival mode. It starts holding on to fat stores because it thinks it might need them later. After all, your body doesn’t know that you’re just trying to lose a few pounds—it doesn’t know that you have a fridge full of food at home. All it knows is that you’re constantly burning calories and not taking in very many, so it starts to worry that you might not make it through the winter.
This is why long-duration, low-intensity cardio isn’t practical for weight loss. You might burn a few calories while doing it, but as soon as you stop, your body will replenish those calories by pulling them from its fat stores. In other words, all that time spent on the elliptical isn’t helping you lose weight—it’s just making your body better at storing fat!
How to know if you’re doing too much or too little cardio
The best way to find out is to use a heart rate monitor.
Here’s how it works:
-First, you’ll need to find your maximum heart rate (MHR). To do this, simply subtract your age from 220.
-Next, you’ll need to figure out your heart rate during exercise. The American Heart Association recommends exercising 60-80% of your MHR.
-So, if you’re 30 years old, your MHR would be 190 beats per minute (bpm). 60% of that would be 114 bpm, and 80% would be 152 bpm. Your target heart rate during exercise should be between 114 and 152 bpm.
So How Much Cardio Should You Do?
If you really want to lose weight, you need to focus on quality over quantity. That means doing shorter bursts of vigorous-intensity cardio rather than long slogging sessions at a moderate pace. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is far more effective for weight loss than traditional cardio. That’s because it keeps your body guessing—and when it is guessing, it’s forced to use more energy (i.e., burn more calories).
A good HIIT workout should consist of short bursts of all-out effort interspersed with periods of active recovery (i.e., walking or jogging at a slower pace). For example, you might sprint for 30 seconds, followed by a minute of walking, then repeat that cycle 5-10 times. HIIT workouts are tough, but they’re also short and produce results!
Cardio Exercises for You to Try
There are two main types of cardio exercises: aerobic and anaerobic.
Aerobic exercise is any activity that uses large muscle groups and can be maintained for long periods. Aerobic activities include walking, biking, jogging, swimming, dancing, and stair climbing.
Anaerobic exercise is a higher-intensity activity that can only be maintained for short periods. Some anaerobic activities include sprinting, HIIT workouts, lifting weights, and playing sports like basketball or soccer.
Both types of exercise are essential for overall health, but if your goal is weight loss, then you should focus on doing more aerobic exercise. That being said, adding some anaerobic exercise to your routine can help you lose weight faster by increasing the number of calories you burn during and after a workout.
With that said, here are five cardio workouts that can help blast fat.
This type of cardio alternates between high and low intensities, which helps you burn more calories in a shorter period of time. For example, you can sprint for 30 seconds followed by a minute of walking, then repeat that cycle several times.
Tabata is a specific type of interval training that consists of eight rounds of 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by ten seconds of rest. This vigorous workout can be done with any type of exercise, but it’s especially effective when done with cardiovascular exercises like running or biking.
Biking is a great way to get your heart rate up without putting too much stress on your joints. You can bike indoors on a stationary bike or outdoors on a regular bike. Just make sure you’re wearing a helmet!
An elliptical trainer is a piece of cardio equipment that simulates the motion of running without the impact on your joints. This makes it an excellent choice for people with joint pain or other injuries that make running difficult.
A rowing machine is another piece of cardio equipment that can be used by people of all fitness levels. Rowing is a low-impact exercise that works both your upper and lower body, making it a great total-body workout.
You’ll burn fat by doing cardio, but remember that diet is still the most important factor. Choose exercises that you enjoy and make sure to get clearance from your doctor before starting any new fitness program.
How about eating?
Diet is also important when it comes to weight loss. In fact, it’s estimated that diet accounts for 70-80% of the variance in weight loss results. That means that if you want to lose weight, you need to focus on eating healthy foods that will help support your weight loss goals. Some tips for eating healthy include:
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Choosing lean protein sources
- Avoiding processed foods
- Limiting sugar intake
- Drinking plenty of water
Cardio can help with weight loss, but it’s not the most important factor. Diet is much more important when it comes to losing weight. That being said, adding some cardio to your routine can help you lose weight faster. Just make sure you focus on quality over quantity and choose exercises that you enjoy.
The next time you head to the gym (or go for a run), keep this in mind: cardio alone won’t help you in your weight loss journey. Instead, you need to incorporate strength training into your workout routine to see results.
Just 30 minutes a day is all it takes!
Also, focus on quality over quantity when it comes to cardio. Doing too much slow-and-steady cardiovascular exercise can sabotage your efforts by making your body better at storing fat.
The bottom line is that a cardio routine can improve your health, but it’s not the only factor involved. A healthy diet and regular exercise are both essential for sustainable weight loss. So if you’re looking to shed a few pounds, ensure you’re doing cardio, eating right, and staying active!