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The Relationship Between Cardio and Weight Loss

Updated on April 26, 2010

Cardiovascular exercise refers to training the heart. Cardio burns lots of calories, so it is a great addition to a weight loss plan. Cardiovascular activity, however, is just one component of weight loss. Combine healthy eating with a variety of activities and you'll accomplish your goal of losing weight.


Cardiovascular exercise comes in many forms. Walking is one of the simplest types of cardio activity. When comparing machine-based activities such as treadmills, indoor bikes, and elliptical machines, note that any machines that engage the upper and lower body simultaneously, burn more calories than lower body-only modalities. Swimming, dancing and step aerobics are all forms of cardio. When choosing a mode of cardiovascular exercise, consider personal interest, injury risk and fitness goals.


In addition to burning calories, cardiovascular exercise has many health benefits. Resting heart rate and blood pressure are lowered with regular cardiovascular activity because the heart becomes stronger. Increased HDL ("good" cholesterol), reduced body fat, lower risk of coronary artery disease, and decreased anxiety and depression are benefits of regular physical activity. Additionally, weight-bearing exercises like walking and jogging maintain bone density. Non-weight-bearing activity, such as cycling and swimming, is good for those with arthritis.


Healthy adults under age 65 should do moderately intense cardio for 30 minutes a day, five days a week recommends American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association. "Moderately intense" means working hard enough to break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. ACSM states that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary.


Intensity is a major factor in exercising for weight loss. High-intensity exercise burns more calories in a shorter amount of time than low-intensity exercise. Choose a mode of exercise that can be adjusted to challenge the respiratory system. Incline, speed and amount of resistance effect intensity. For instance, treadmill walking can be made more challenging by increasing the incline or speed. Increase the intensity of indoor cycling by raising the resistance.

A Complete Approach

A well-rounded weight loss program includes modifications in diet to consume fewer calories, performing resistance training and cardiovascular exercise. Resistance training burns calories and improves your muscle tone. According to an ACSM Position Stand, moderate-intensity exercise for between 150 and 250 minutes per week improves weight loss in studies that use moderate diet restriction. Relying on cardio exercise alone requires a tremendous time commitment. Maximize your calorie deficit by eating smaller meals and planning your workouts.


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      Cardio and Weight Loss 6 years ago

      These are some really good tips. I used to think that running was the only real way to burn serious calories, but that is actually not the case at all.

    • mixfitness profile image

      mixfitness 7 years ago from Round Hill, VA

      Thanks, GmaGoldie!

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Very well written. Great Hub! Voted it up!