The Best Type of Cardio Exercise for Weight Loss
Although weight loss is not exclusively affected by cardio exercise alone (weights, dieting, sleep etc. will also affect weight loss), this form of exercise can have a profound effect on shedding the extra kilo’s.
Cardiovascular exercise has the unique ability to raise the heart rate substantially and increase the energy expenditure of your body for a period of time during your workout. It can also induce additional calorie expenditure after your workout has completed. Furthermore, cardiovascular exercise has the ability to improve your level of fitness, so in subsequent workouts you can expend even more energy within a given period of time.
But when it comes down to the different formats of cardiovascular exercise, what is the best type of cardio for weight loss?
If we were to consider the science exclusively, interval training has been demonstrated to result in significantly more fat oxidation (or fat loss) as compared to steady state cardiovascular exercise (or maintaining the same level of intensity for a prolonged period of time). A classic example of this was in a classic 1994 study lead by Angelo Tremblay, where it was demonstrated that a high intensity interval training cardio workout was far more effective at breaking down fat tissue, relative to an endurance based exercise group. In fact, the interval training group only exercised for a quarter of the time that the endurance group exercised at and managed to lose nine times more fat weight!
We have written a comprehensive article on this topic and if you would like to find out more about this 1994 study, please read “The Fat Burning Zone”.
Science has shown time and time again that interval training is significantly more effective for weight loss as compared to steady state exercise. Does this necessarily mean that interval training is the best cardio for weight loss?
No, I am not dismissing the very conclusive science that has been conducted in this field. I whole-heartedly agree that interval training is a highly effective approach for fat oxidation. That being said, an even more important consideration is how consistently you undertake the cardiovascular exercise.
Interval training, while extremely rewarding, is physically and mentally demanding. It requires 100% effort and as such can be extremely discouraging to anyone who doesn’t particularly enjoy exercise. Interval training will only be effective if it is completed on a regular basis – as the cumulative effect of multiple cardio workouts is what results in significant amounts of weight loss. If you thrive on a challenge, then this may be for you. If however you cannot sustain a consistent approach with such a full-on exercise format, then it may be far more effective to undertake a lower intensity training regime.
Another major consideration is your fitness. If you are particularly unfit, or have minimal recent exercise experience, it is unwise to initiate training with a high intensity approach. This can place far too much physical strain on your body, resulting in a lowering of the immune system and an excessive amount of fatigue following your training session. Doing “too much” can be quite counterproductive, so it is important how capable your body is of handling the physical workload that you wish to subject it to.
When it comes down to the best cardio for weight loss, you need to be smart and be consistent. Sporadic workouts are not going to yield fantastic results. Doing too much (or too little) is also not going to result in an optimal degree of weight loss.
Begin with a moderate approach if you do have limited exercise experience and then gradually increase the intensity as your fitness improves. A gradual approach is generally more effective in regards to sustainability and thus long-term and significant weight loss.