Cardio, also referred to as an aerobic exercise, is the most commonly known method of working out for fat loss. It’s a form of light-moderate intensity exercises which utilize the oxygen present in the body for aerobic metabolism. Putting it simply, it is any type of exercise that challenges the heart and lungs to use oxygen as a fuel source to sustain the body over a longer period. Common examples include running, cycling, swimming, rowing etc
Cardio Results in Fat Loss – Is it that simple?
Cardio burns calories and is universally known for its fat loss benefits. But it isn’t as simple as putting on your running shoes and doing a 20 minute jog around your neighborhood.
The aim here is to determine the best form of cardio exercise for fat burning, while explaining the reasons why these methods are effective.
When you combine fats, carbohydrates and proteins, they provide the fuel source for all cells in our body. However, fat is used as the primary fuel source during aerobic activity as it is easily mobilized as fuel in the presence of oxygen, therefore it will be utilized more in this period which lasts longer than anaerobic activities.
So, aerobic exercises performed at a moderate intensity, usually in the 50-70 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR), should burn more fat than anaerobic exercises, such as weightlifting, that are performed at a high intensity (80% or more of MHR) utilizing energy in the form of glycogen.
Recent studies have however concluded that aerobic exercises, such as cardio, at a higher intensity (75% of MHR) burn more calories as compared to exercising at moderate intensity. Key to this is that the exercise should be performed within the aerobic zone (oxygen utilization) and does not jump into the anaerobic zone (carbohydrate utilization).
- Mitigates the risk of heart diseases
- Improves the working efficiency of the cardiovascular system
- Improves bloodcholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Reduces risk of osteoporosis
- Improves muscle mass
- Aids in fat loss
- Reduces stress and tension, and increase the mental well-being
Training can become tricky for beginners when it comes to cardio training, as it’s not ideally an exact science. However, following the below tips to burn calories by cardio will help you get the maximum output from your sessions.
- Warm Up and Stretch
As with any other from of exercise, aerobic activity requires you to warm your muscles, lubricate your joints and get your heart rate going for the task ahead. Many people consider aerobic activity as a subsidiary to warming up, which is a huge mistake. Warming up can include jumping jacks or brief running in place. After you warm up, consider dynamic stretches, and not static stretches.
- Taking it slow
Aerobic exercise should be taken slowly during the initial stages of training. Doing too much too soon will result in injury or burnout. Your training should incorporate gradual increases in volume and intensity.
- Working out within the target Heart Rate Change
Although it isn’t exactly an accurate measure of fat burning efficiency, it provides a sound guideline to formulate your work out intensity around. Aerobic exercise is ideally done between 50-70 percent of your MHR (MHR = 220 – your age). Try to workout at the upper end to reap the most benefits.
This is the greatest pitfall when it comes to cardio training. Doing too much will actually reverse the health benefits of cardio. A cardio session should last between 30-45 minutes for it to be most effective. Going beyond this will result in different types of injuries due to repetitive muscle use and will also result in loss of muscle (Ever wondered why sprinters are more muscular than marathon runners?). Less muscle will slow down your metabolism process and hence restrict fat loss.
- Drink! Drink! Drink!
Aerobic exercise results in huge loss of fluids from the body through sweat and body heat, and you carry the risk of dehydration. So its important to keep yourself hydrated before, during and after your workout. Using electrolytes instead of water is a better way to keep hydrated as it is better retained by the body.
May it be overall fitness, losing the extra baggage you gained over the winter or just to look good in the mirror; there is no better way to achieve your goal than adopting a cardio training routine. Methods may differ, but the principles are the same, so one should choose an activity with which they are comfortable with. After all, its all about having a good time while getting in great shape.
It is hoped that we have answered a lot of questions cardio training beholds, and will help you achieve your fitness goals.