While it would be nice to take a leisurely stroll and have the pounds melt from your body, low-intensity cardio is not the way to go if you're looking to burn some serious fat. Body fat reduction is dictated by how many calories you burn. In other words, the more calories you burn the more fat you will lose. So get ready to ramp up that intensity to high. High-intensity cardio will get you burning calories and melting fat much faster than low-intensity cardio.
Any activity that increases your heart rate and breathing rate can be considered cardio exercise. It really doesn't matter what type of cardio you choose as long as you enjoy it and it's something that you will do on a regular basis. Walking, running, swimming, cycling, jumping rope and cross-country skiing all count. So do putting on your dancing shoes, playing sports or doing a circuit-style weight training routine. Anything that will get your heart rate up and have you enjoying what you are doing is a good cardio choice for you and your fat-loss goals.
Low-Intensity Versus High-Intensity Cardio
It's true that compared with vigorous intensity, a greater proportion of calories burned during low-intensity exercise come from fat. The lower the intensity of exercise, the higher the percentage of fat used as an energy source. In theory, if you are trying to lose fat, this sounds like the way to go, but in reality it is misleading. The bottom line is when trying to burn fat, you need to burn more calories. With vigorous exercise you can burn twice as many calories in the same time period as you can burn with lower-intensity exercise and thus more fat as well.
Interval training will get you burning fat fast. Alternating high-intensity periods with low-to-moderate intensity periods burns maximum calories. Following interval training sessions, you continue to burn calories and therefore fat as well, even after you have stopped exercising. Because interval training is an advanced method of training, you should start out slowly if you are a beginner. Develop a solid cardio foundation before adding interval training into your fat-loss plan.
Low-intensity exercise, where you can easily carry on a conversation during your workout, provides substantial benefits especially for those just beginning exercise programs. It also promotes weight loss, just not as effectively and quickly as higher-intensity exercise does -- you have to work out much longer to see the same results. Before beginning a high-intensity program, make sure you have a solid cardio foundation and be sure it is medically safe for you to do so. Gradually progress from lower-intensity to higher-intensity levels. If you try to do too much too soon, you may become injured or discouraged.
- Principles and Labs for Physical Fitness - Seventh Edition; Werner Hoeger, Sharon Hoeger
- NSCA's Essential of Personal Training - Fourth Edition; National Strength and Conditioning Association
- SimplyShredded.com: Cardio for Fat Loss
Kristy Lee Wilson is a former Cirque du Soleil performer, Sharecare fitness expert, bestselling author, international speaker, certified personal trainer and youth fitness specialist. An elite athlete from a very young age, Wilson's ultimate mission is to motivate, inspire and educate as many people as possible to live life to their fullest potential.