Visualize this; an overweight marathoner, or an avid swimmer / cyclist. can you see it? Sure there are some overweight individuals that do these activities. But those are the ones that do very low amounts.
First things first. Before I answer the cardio for weight loss question, be sure you understand that there is a difference between weight loss and fat loss. In short fat loss means you’re losing fat (duh!), and weight loss can be anything that results in a smaller number on the scale. It could be water, waste from a trip to the john, muscle mass, fat, maybe even a hair cut. Bottom line – I don’t think anyone is looking to just lose weight, you want to lose fat weight. Check this post if you want a long winded explanation.
Some might say it’s semantics but I assure you it’s not. There’s a big difference. However, for the sake of this post I’m gonna count the two as one because I don’t think you care – you just want to know if cardio is good for “weight loss”.
Q: Is Cardio Good for Weight Loss?
Simply stated cardio is excess movement that burns calories. Knowing that a caloric deficit is necessary for weight loss, anything you do to burn more of those little suckers is going to be a good thing. Well, most anything you do. I wouldn’t recommend chasing cars. Sure it’ll burn some calories – but one wrong move and it’s safe to say the calorie burning will come to a dead stop 😉
About.com further backs up my position on cardio for weight loss
Does Cardio Guarantee Weight Loss?
I’m sure the overwhelming majority of you know the answer to that question is a very loud and resounding No. While cardio is good for weight loss, there’s certainly no guarantee it’ll get you there. It will help get you there, but without dietary changes your efforts may be limited to improved health and slower weight gain.
Yes, you could still gain weight while sticking to a cardio regiment. Let me set the stage for this scenario; you don’t over eat by much but you still over eat. This causes you to slowly gain weight month after month. You decide to jump on the treadmill 3 times per week for 30 minutes a pop. Nothing too hard, you want to use that time to catch up on some light reading (boooooo! – 30 lashings on the ear with a candy cane if this is you). You also hold onto the machine to steady yourself (booooo again). That’s it for your cardio. You haven’t bothered to change your diet yet. You feel as though the treadmill “work” will hook you right up. You might even get into that itsy-bitsy yellow polka dot bikini in a couple years at this pace.
To your shock and awe, you still gain weight! How’s that possible? Let me quickly explain.
It’s safe to say that you’ll burn less than 200 calories for your efforts. Assuming you overeat by 200 or more calories, even if those are “health food” calories. You will still continue gaining weight.
What Is Cardio?
Cardio is defined as any sustained movement that elevates your heart rate, but only to a level that allows your body to stay in an oxygen supplied state. This is somewhere around a max HR of 85%. Working much harder than that will create an oxygen deprived state. This is something that your body can’t sustain for very long periods.
Final Thoughts on Cardio for Weight Loss
Any excess movement you do is going to be good for weight loss, regardless of the method.
As human beings, we were meant to move our bodies. In today’s world of ever increasing efficiency and productivity, jobs that were once very strenuous are being replaced with robots for safety (no more strain on our bodies) and speed. Of course this results in less movement. Overall people are more sedentary than in years past.
We play video games inside instead of traditional games outside. We buy golf carts to take us places that we used to walk (e.g. cruising your neighborhood). We illegaly park in a handicap space or fire lane right up next to the store to keep from walking any further than we absolutely have to. We ride escalators and elevators instead of walking the stairs. We do funny things with our cars to get close enough to the mailbox so we don’t have to get out of the car. And the list could go on but I’ll stop there.
Yes, cardio is good for weight loss. But realize that you don’t have to be in exercise mode to get a little extra cardio. There are lot’s of opportunities every day to get in some extra movement and low intensity cardio. Take ’em!