Cardio exercise is only one part of a weight-loss plan. You also need to revamp your eating habits and embark on a weight-training program. In order to lose a pound in one week, you need to create a 3,500-calorie deficit. The best way to use cardio exercise for weight loss is to create a calorie deficit by burning calories through exercise and cutting calories you eat. For example, over the course of a week, you may cut 250 calories per day by switching from mayo to mustard on your sandwich at lunch and snacking on Yoplait Lite yogurt instead of Columbo Fruit-on-the-Bottom. And, you could burn an extra 250 calories a day by taking a one-hour walk or a half-hour jog.
Keep in mind that losing weight isn’t as easy as it sounds on TV diet commercials. It takes a lot more commitment than just drinking that delicious shake for breakfast. And it takes time. Don’t try to lose more than 1/2 pound to 1 pound each week, and don’t eat fewer than 1,200 calories per day (preferably more). On a super-low-calorie diet, you deprive your body of essential nutrients, and you have a tougher time keeping the weight off because your metabolism slows down. Genetics also plays a large role in weight loss. It’s easier for some people to lose weight than it is for others.
Here are some general cardio guidelines for weight loss. You may want to consult a registered dietitian and certified fitness trainer to come up with a plan best suited to your specific goals and schedule.
How often you need to do cardio for weight loss: Here’s the cold, hard truth: You probably need to do five or six workouts a week.
How long your workouts should last for weight loss: Here’s another dose of reality: You should aim for at least 45 minutes of exercise, a mix of cardio and strengthtraining, six days per week. You don’t need to do all this sweating at once, but for the pounds to come off, the calories you burn need to add up.
How hard you need to push for weight loss: To make a serious dent in your fat-loss program, you should work out in your targetheart–ratezone most of the time. But keep in mind: If you’re pretty darned “deconditioned,” even exercising at 50 percent of your maximumheartrate can help build up your fitness level.
You may have heard that exercising at a slow pace is more effective for weight loss than working out more intensely. In fact, many cardio machines have “fat burning” programs that keep you at a slow pace. But this is misleading. During low-intensity aerobic exercise, your body does use fat as its primary fuel source. As you get closer to your breaking point, your body starts using a smaller percentage of fat and a larger percentage of carbohydrates, another fuel source. However, picking up the pace allows you to burn more total calories, as well as more fat calories.
Of course, going faster and harder is not always better. If you’re just starting out, you probably can’t sustain a faster pace long enough to make it worth your while. If you go slower, you may be able to exercise a lot longer, so you’ll end up burning more calories and fat that way.