You already know that you lose weight when you burn more calories than you eat. The best way to do that is with a combination of cardio, strength training and a healthy diet. But, the cornerstone of most weight loss programs is cardio, cardio, cardio. Just some of the reasons it's important are:
- It helps you burn more calories in one sitting. Getting your heart rate up means your blood is pumping, breathing hard, sweating and burning calories.
- With many cardio exercises, you can burn 100 to 500 calories depending on how hard you work, how long you exercise and how much you weigh.
- Burning calories with exercise means you don't have to cut as many calories from your diet.
- You can do cardio exercise most days of the week without worrying about injury or overtraining.
You know cardio is important for weight loss, but which exercises are best and how much do you really need for weight loss?
The truth is, there really is no best cardio exercise. The best activity is the one you'll do on a regular basis. So, finding something you like is critical to reaching your weight loss goals. That said, some exercises offer more intensity than others.
Impact activities: Exercises that involve some impact, like walking, will usually boost your heart rate quicker than no-impact activities like swimming or cycling.
High impact activities: High impact, or exercises that involve running or jumping, will often burn more calories than lower impact things like walking.
Whole body activities: When you involve both the upper and lower body, as in cross-country skiing, it's often easier to get the heart rate up and burn more calories.
That doesn't mean you shouldn't bother with low impact exercise. Both types of activities offer opportunities to burn calories and doing both gives you a well-rounded program. To get an idea of just how much cardio can do for you, check out the following list of common exercises. Below is the number of calories burned for a 150-pound person in 30 minutes:
- Step aerobics: 340 calories
- Stationary bike: 238 calories
- Swimming: 270 calories
- Walking 4 mph: 170 calories
- Running 5 mph: 270 calories
How Much Cardio Do You Need?
It's tough to know exactly how much cardio we need for weight loss. The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association recommend about 30 to 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity activity on most days of the week. But, the truth is, how much cardio you need varies from person to person and depends factors such as:
- Calories you eat
- Exercise intensity
- Metabolism, age and gender
- Fitness level
- Body fat percentage and weight
- Exercise schedule (duration and time per week)
- Beginner, start with 3 to 4 days of the cardio exercise of your choice, working at a level you can handle.
- Add time each week to work your way up to 30 to 45 minutes of continuous exercise.
- As you get stronger, try interval training once a week to help boost endurance and burn more calories.
- Work your way up to 5 to 6 days of cardio and try to vary what you do and how hard you work.