Cardio: a common word bandied around in the world of health and fitness, but what does it really mean, and why is it helpful when it comes to weight loss? Get the cardio lowdown as we discuss different examples of what it is and how you can fit it this heart-pumping style of exercising into your life.
There are a wide range of approaches to cardio exercise, including everything from running and biking to playing team sports like soccer and basketball and even strength training. Some types of cardio may be more effective than others, depending on what you’re out there to achieve fitness-wise. Let’s navigate through the different kinds of cardio at your disposal and find out which ones are the most effective, and ultimately the best cardio for weight loss.
What is cardio?
Cardio is short for cardiovascular, and with regards to fitness, it refers to cardiovascular training. Also known as aerobic exercise, cardio is anything that gets your heart pumping rapidly. That can include swimming, riding your bike to work, taking a brisk stroll, doing a HIIT workout or even dynamic styles of yoga. Although all cardio activities are good for your body (especially if you’re looking to maintain a caloric deficit to lose weight), some are more effective than others.
Why bother with cardio, you ask? Well, there are many benefits to consider. Cardio can:
- Increase your endurance and stamina, making you more perform any physical exercise you do for longer.
- Strengthen your heart and enable it to pump blood more efficiently, while also reducing blood pressure.
- Raise the number of red blood cells in your body, which helps the transport of oxygen around your body.
- Reduce the risk of certain conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Lift mood and reduce stress.
- Burn calories, which can support weight loss.
- Boost your lung capacity.
Overall, aerobic exercise is excellent for you and can improve both your mental and physical wellbeing. If you specifically interested in the best cardio for weight loss, then scroll down and we’ll go into more detail.
Cardio and weight loss
Not all cardio exercises are created equal. Sure, doing any cardio is better than doing none at all, but there are ways to increase the performance of your cardio routine and get more out of your workout. Now, that doesn’t mean gliding through exercises without breaking a sweat. Quite the opposite – the workouts we prefer are quick, targeted, and will leave you catching your breath.
Our favorite cardio – and the one we most often employ in our 8fit workouts – is HIIT. It stands for high-intensity interval training, and this is the best cardio for weight loss out there for people short on time or who don’t want to spend hours on end in the gym. There are several different forms of HIIT, but all feature a variety of exercises that include short, fast bursts of movement in intervals alongside regular breaks.
These exercises are excellent for getting your heart rate way up, which is what supports your body in burning fat and calories. This is why we consider HIIT to be the best cardio for weight loss:
- You can fit it into any busy schedule: With HIIT routines lasting from around ten to twenty minutes on average, there’s always enough time to pencil one in.
- It doesn’t require a lot of space: HIIT exercises are so customizable that you can choose routines that you can do if you only have limited room available.
- They’re effective: Thanks to what’s known as the afterburn effect, your body can keep burning calories at a higher rate for long after working out – perhaps even 16-24 hours later!
- It’s F.U.N: HIIT workouts are challenging, but it keeps things interesting as they involve a lot of switching up exercises and intensity, so your time spent exercising tends to fly by.
Types of cardio exercises
Cardio can be just about anything that raises your heart-rate. Looking for a little inspiration when it comes to cardio exercises for weight loss in addition to HIIT, here are some gems:
- Running or jogging. Ever heard of a runner’s high? It’s a real thing (even though it’s still a mystery to sports scientists), and it can lend you a sense of lightness and euphoria immediately after your run. Jazz up your running routine and listen to a podcast or your favorite music while you jog — the next thing you know, you’ll be feeling euphoric and refreshed at the end of your run.
- Gym machines like the elliptical or rowing. Some people love the social aspect of going to the gym, or perhaps find it inspiring to work out alongside others. If that’s the case for you, be sure to check out cardio machines like the elliptical, treadmill or rowing machine. It can be a fun challenge to incorporate sprints and fast-paced intervals into your workouts on those machines to get the most of your cardio session.
- Stair climbing. As anyone without an elevator to get up to your apartment or office knows, stair climbing can get your heart racing. If you don’t have access to a stair climber at the gym, try going up and down the stairs in your building complex or a nearby steep hill. Even better, if you live in a town that has a sports stadium, take a trip there to run up and down the bleachers. It’s a tough workout, but you can pretend you’re reenacting the classic workout montage scene from the film Rocky!
- Swimming. This type of cardio is great because it’s so much fun that it doesn’t seem like a workout at all. Perfect for those who are recovering from an injury or who have arthritis, swimming is an excellent low-impact form of cardio that doesn’t put pressure or stress on your joints. Try out a swimming or aqua aerobics class at your local gym — trust us it’s not just for retirees.
Bike challenge!Every time you approach a hill or slight incline, try to climb it as fast as possible.
- Cycling. Whether you hit the pavement, the trail or the spinning studio, cycling is a great form of cardio exercises. If you have an outdoor bike, you can even use your bike to run errands or commute from point A to point B. Add some intervals into your bike ride by increasing the resistance (or switching into a higher gear) for one minute, then rest for one minute.
The heart of the matter
Though each body is unique, a general rule of thumb when trying to lose weight is to maintain a specific caloric deficit, meaning your body is burning more calories than it takes in. Cardio increases and intensifies movement, thus calorie expenditure; and as long as you eat healthy, well-portioned foods, cardio will aid your weight loss efforts. In the end, the best cardio for weight loss is the one that you enjoy doing the most and stick to the longest.
If you’re looking get the best results, your safest bet is to combine strength training alongside cardio. Building muscle can flicks on your body’s fat burning switch, as muscle burns calories, even when at rest. We recommend finding a happy medium that includes both styles of exercise.
As we touched on just now, nutrition plays an equal if not more critical role when trying to lose weight. Just working out won’t counteract a poor diet. If you’re serious about losing weight and feeling more energized, a combination of cardio, strength training, and healthy eating is the holy trinity sustainable weight-loss. If you’re not much of an aficionado in the kitchen or aren’t sure where to start, then sign up for 8fit Pro and leave the hard lifting to us. We’ve designed hundreds of healthy recipes, and delicious meal plans that complement our and short HIIT workouts to enjoy to your heart’s content.