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Why Cardio Isn’t the Best Exercise for Fat Loss?

“I am all set to lose my weight. I got the brand new treadmill after all. I am gonna run everyday!”

“I started walking everyday, so my weight is going to go down soon.”

“I don’t need exercise, I cycle everyday. I’ll be able to keep my weight in check”

Are these things that you have said to yourself or heard other people say? But after weeks of sweating, your weight stayed the same? When someone decides to lose weight, the first thing they think of is to start running or get a machine like a treadmill to motivate them. Cycling, Running, Swimming and Brisk walking are all part of what we call Cardiovascular exercises. Why are these exercises not helping us to reduce weight? To understand this, let’s take a closer look at the science behind how fat loss happens and how exercise plays a role in it.

Benefits of Cardio!

Cardiovascular exercise or simply Cardio, involves rhythmic, repetitive movement that increases your heart rate and improves blood circulation. It’s a key component of any fitness routine. Cardiovascular exercises play a crucial role in maintaining and improving overall health.

 

Cardio improves your heart health tremendously. Cardio exercises strengthen the heart, allowing it to pump blood more efficiently, and reducing the risk of heart disease. Consistent cardio workouts can help reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, decreasing the chances of developing hypertension.

Increased blood flow during cardio exercises delivers more oxygen and nutrients to muscles and organs, improving overall health and performance. Regular cardio exercise enhances lung function, making it easier to breathe and helping prevent respiratory issues.

Cardio workouts release endorphins – the feel-good hormones – which can help combat stress, anxiety, and depression. And finally, physical activity, including cardio, is known to improve sleep quality, helping you feel more rested and refreshed. The innumerable benefits of cardiovascular exercises makes it an ideal component for a balanced lifestyle.

Is Cardio not effective for fat loss then?

Are you running on the treadmill for months and not seeing your belly fat going down? Sorry to spoil it to you, but Cardio isn’t as effective an exercise for fat loss as you think. Cardio doesn’t help you to LOSE FAT, it just helps you to OXIDIZE (BURN) FAT.

What’s the difference?

There are two elements in this equation: 1) Fat Storage and 2) Fat Oxidation (Burning Calories in ‘Bro’ terms). Fat balance is what you have after deducting fat oxidation from fat storage. So naturally, if storage is more than oxidation you end up gaining fat. If you want to lose fat, then the fat storage has to be lower than the oxidation. It is possible only through energy deficit. In other words, you have to reduce your energy intake (calories) from food compared to what you burn. Now you see why Cardio only takes care of one side of the equation.

How can I incorporate an effective cardio program into my exercise routine?

Let’s not completely shut out Cardio from our exercise routines. You can try and make them more effective. Incorporate these five essential FITTE factors to optimize your workout to achieve better results.

1. Frequency

You can begin with the frequency of exercises. How often do you exercise? Aim for 3-5 sessions per week, adjusting based on your fitness level and goals. Ask yourself- are you training for a marathon season or a sprint? Then it makes sense to practice cardio frequently. But, say you are looking to lose weight, then you don’t need to do cardio every day. Resistance training is more optimal for fat loss as it helps to preserve muscle mass as you lose fat.

2. Intensity

 

Intensity of workouts is crucial. How hard are you working? Use heart rate, perceived exertion, or talk test to gauge your workout intensity. Include a mix of moderate and high-intensity sessions. To gain a better understanding of how to increase the intensity slowly, we can divide cardio training into three zones- Zone 1, Zone 2, and Zone 3.

 

Zone 1 (50-60% of max heart rate) is easy-breezy! This zone helps build your aerobic base, aids recovery, and burns a higher percentage of fat. It is ideal for long, easy-paced exercises. Say hello to brisk walks and light jogs.

Zone 2 (60-70% of max heart rate) is cruise control! If you’re aiming at increasing endurance, hit this zone. It is slightly more intense than Zone 1, but you can still hold a conversation. It is ideal for moderate-intensity workouts like steady-pace cycling or swimming.

Zone 3 (70-80% of max heart rate) pushing the limits! It’s a balance between aerobic and anaerobic workouts, and your breathing gets heavier. This is where you boost your cardiovascular fitness. Some examples: High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT), hill sprints, and fast-paced aerobic classes.
Calculate your maximum heart rate here. (link)

But, how do you know which zone to train in?
Deciding your zone is simple! Look at your goals. If you are looking to improve cardiovascular health & regular exercise, you can stay in Zone 1 and 2. Zone 2 and 3 help build cardiovascular endurance and stamina. If you’re improving athletic performance and speed, no doubts, head to Zone 3.

 

3. Time

Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity or 15-20 minutes of high-intensity cardio per session. The best time for cardio workouts is the time that works best for you and your lifestyle.

 

4. Type

Cardio doesn’t always mean sweating on a treadmill. Think about the kind of activities you enjoy. Choose a variety of exercises, such as running, swimming, cycling, or dancing, to keep workouts engaging and motivating.

 

5. Enjoyment

Pick activities you love, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan and achieve long-term success. The most important thing is to make sure you’re consistent with your exercise routine and that you’re doing a form of cardio that you enjoy and that challenges you.

Now that you know how cardiovascular exercises can be beneficial for you, why the wait? Dust off your shoes and pick the right track to get into your zone.

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