Cardio & Aerobic Exercise to lose weight

dp / 29 February 2012

Do you need to do "cardio" or "aerobic" exercise to lose weight?

Motus Training founder, Darren Putt, has been helping people with their health and fitness for almost 10 years. Over that time, Darren and the Motus Team have worked with a variety of clients ranging from rehabilitation work to professional athletes.  However the majority of clients still put weight loss, fat loss or changing their body shape as their number one goal.

?Much has been written on how you should go about losing weight and body fat: the best type of exercise, how long you should do it for, how many times per week, etc.  There has long been a belief that to lose weight or burn fat you must do hour upon hour of ?aerobic? or ?cardio? exercise and that weight or resistance training is purely for building muscle?.

In this special report, Darren exposes some of the flaws in this thinking and shares with you some secrets on what you really should be doing in order to lose weight and burn fat. 

Firstly, to understand what type of exercise is best to encourage fat loss and/or weight loss we need to define the terms that are commonly used.

To avoid getting caught up in dictionary definitions and for the purposes of this article, we will use the term ?cardio? to describe activities like walking, running, cycling and rowing done at a relatively low intensity for a period of 20 minutes or more.  We will use ?resistance training? to describe any exercises using either body weight or external weights (dumb-bells, barbells, machines).

The common assumption is that cardio exercises are for fitness, health and fat-loss whereas resistance training is for muscle building and does not particularly benefit the cardiovascular or aerobic systems.

In reality, any form of exercise that places a demand upon the heart and lungs (i.e. raises heart rate and breathing rate) will improve this type of fitness.  In fact, it has been shown that the cardiovascular system works its hardest when recovering from very intense exercise, such as sprints or weight training.

The idea that cardio exercise was the way to burn fat came about by popularization of ?fat loss? zones for heart rates whilst exercising.  The reasoning behind this was that if you exercise at this level of intensity (usually 50-75%) for a given period of time, after a while your body would be mostly be using fat for fuel.  There are a number of flaws in this, the main one being:

  • The time at which your body switches to using mostly fat depends largely upon the levels of energy you have stored in your muscles and bloodstream ? and this, of course, depends upon what you have been eating and drinking.  Therefore, at an intensity of 50-75%, this point can vary from between 15 and 75 minutes.  Furthermore if people take on food or sugary drinks (e.g. Lucozade Sport) whilst they exercise, it can be even longer - or they won't reach it at all!   This is far too variable and imprecise for us if we want to lose body fat quickly.  This notion is also partly responsible for the large, soulless cardio areas of commercial gyms largely used by people who are failing to achieve the results they would like.

What has been shown to be more important to fat loss is the overall amount of 'work' you do in a training session and maximising its intensity.  The amount of work you do is not limited to the time you spend exercising.  We maximise fat loss by selecting the type of training and specific exercises that keep your metabolism elevated for long after you finish the session.  A quick look at the research shows us that a typical cardio workout may leave your metabolism elevated for around 6 hours afterwards whereas a well-designed resistance training programme could leave you metabolism raised for up to 48 hours afterwards!

In terms of intensity you can liken resistance training to sprint training: if you pick a weight you can lift a maximum of 10 times, this might take you around 30 seconds of very intense effort and you will need at least a couple of minutes recovery before you could manage it again.  You will probably have worked at over 95% of your maximum intensity.  In contrast people who are sweating away on a cross trainer at the gym are likely going at roughly the same pace for anywhere between 10 and 60 minutes, usually without a rest, so the intensity has to be significantly lower, maybe around 50-70% of maximum.

So when it comes to weight loss and fat loss, our approach at Motus Training is to make the most effective use of our clients' time and focus on resistance training ? we don't even have any cardio machines at our training studio.

If you would like to see how a correctly designed resistance training programme could help you with your fat-loss and weight loss goals, we invite you to get in touch with us to arrange a free consultation to discuss your health and fitness needs.  Please call 01789 450 141 or email lizzie@motustraining.co.uk

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