icon Feb 14, 2022 - Fitness Trainer

How To Use Cardio Workouts For Fat Burning

Article by: Nic Joyce

Not so long ago, cardio workouts were people’s go-to choice for getting in shape. These days, you’re more likely to hear folk downplaying cardio’s role in fat loss. The truth is, cardio can get you leaner and lighter in all the right ways. But you have to get it right.

Cardio for fat loss

Let’s revisit the fundamentals of fat loss. To lose body fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit (your body uses body fat energy to fill the gap you’ve created). This means either eating fewer calories than you expend, or expending more than you eat.

When you think about it this way, it’s easy to see why cardio is a good fat loss candidate. It burns a lot of calories, expanding your calorie deficit “gap”. But there’s another side to fat loss, and this is where cardio workouts can sometimes miss the mark.

As you lose body fat, you’ll get lighter. This automatically means your BMR will decrease, so you actually need fewer calories simply to exist. So you need to do something to keep that metabolism high as you get leaner, otherwise you run the risk of getting small and skinny. This is where resistance training enters the chat. Any kind of resistance training (weights, body weight, functional training) will keep your metabolic rate higher even as you get lighter from fat loss.

3 reasons to do cardio

(aside from fat loss)

Heart health

It’s not called “cardio” for nothing. Cardiovascular exercise helps keep your heart healthy, improving blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Mental wellbeing

Find a form of cardio you love, and it will be a great way to manage stress. Make it outdoor cardio and you’ll get the added benefits of fresh air, sunlight, and being in nature.

3 Brain benefits

Cardio can improve your cognitive health, slowing down any decline in brain health and boosting your memory and thinking abilities.

What exactly is cardio?

OK, so cardio is a way to support your fat loss efforts and it’s great for your heart, brain, and all-round wellbeing! Sign us up. But what exactly counts as cardio? Does it have to be running (what if you hate running)?

Here’s the good news. Any workout that raises your heart rate and keeps it there counts as cardio. Walking, circuit training, swimming, hiking, climbing, dancing, biking (and, yes, running). If you get a bit out of breath, but you can keep doing it without needing a break, it’s cardio.

Is cardio different to aerobic exercise?

Remember the days of aerobic workout videos? Those ladies were on to something. “Aerobic” workouts and “cardio” are the same thing, just described a different way. The term aerobic refers to the way your body uses oxygen during this kind of training, and cardio refers to your heart rate increasing.

HIIT workouts for fat loss

There’s a difference between aerobic cardio and anaerobic cardio, and this is worth thinking about when designing your fat loss plan. As we’ve explained, aerobic cardio is the kind of workout you can do for a while without needing to take rest periods. Anaerobic (literally meaning “without oxygen”) is the kind of high-intensity cardio you do as a series of intense work periods followed by rest.

HIIT (high intensity interval training) comes under this description, because it’s the sort of workout where you push to your max for 20 seconds or more, then take a short timed rest interval.

There are loads of ways to do HIIT for fat burning. Jump on a treadmill and do sprints or hill reps (check out our workout at the end of this article). Lift weight or swing a kettlebell for intervals. Do a Crossfit conditioning WOD (Workout of the Day for you non-crossfitters). If you’re working super hard, resting, then repeating several times you are doing a HIIT session.

Steady state cardio for fat loss

Steady state aerobic cardio is the kind of workout you can do without needing a rest. As the name suggests, you get going and then carry on at a steady pace. Think fast walking, jogging, bike riding or team sport that has you running about for 30 minutes or more.

Try this treadmill fat loss session

Here’s a short, tough hill interval session to do on a treadmill to burn calories and boost your fat loss plan.

– walk/jog for 5 minutes
– increase to your regular pace for 2 minutes
– increase incline to 2% for 2 minutes
– bring it back to flat for 2 minutes
– increase incline to 4% for 2 minutes
– bring it back to flat for 2 minutes
– increase incline to 6% for 2 minutes
– bring it back to flat for 2 minutes
– increase incline to 8% for 2 minutes
– bring it back to flat for 2 minutes
– increase incline to 10% for 2 minutes
– slowly bring the incline down to flat and reduce your pace to cool down