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What’s The Best Cardio For Weight Loss And Fitness?

Updated on July 17, 2014
dwelburn profile image

David is an army-trained biomedical scientific officer, writer, and lifelong health and fitness enthusiast.

hiit is the best cardio for weight loss
hiit is the best cardio for weight loss | Source

The Best Cardio For Weight Loss

If you want to get in shape and lose excess body fat there are far better ways of doing it than going out jogging for an hour every day. And although jogging does have its benefits, you can accomplish much more in far less time by using the best cardio for weight loss – High Intensity Interval Training.

What Is High Intensity Interval Training?

Commonly referred to as HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training involves alternating short bursts of high intensity exercise with periods of much lower intensity effort. An example of this would be to sprint for 30 seconds and then walk or jog slowly for a minute. The jog allows you to recover somewhat before you do your next sprint. HIIT can however be done with many other exercises.

What’s So Special About HIIT?

The great benefit of HIIT is it’s very time efficient. HIIT burns fat faster than any other type of exercise, and what’s more you’ll continue to burn fat for hours after you have finished your workout. This effect is known as ‘afterburn’ and it does not occur to any significant degree with lower intensity forms of exercise.

HIIT gets you fitter much faster too. High intensity intervals benefit not only your anaerobic system, but your aerobic capacity as well. In fact surprisingly it does this even better than ‘aerobic’ activities like jogging.

But apart from being the best cardio for weight loss and to improve your fitness, HIIT has other benefits too. HIIT increases your output of growth hormone, which has many tremendous health benefits, including helping to maintain youthfulness and vigor. And it also helps burn additional body fat too.

If you do HIIT regularly it will help normalize your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels. Your insulin sensitivity will also be improved, as will your cardiovascular function. This will greatly reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

Apart from this, the ‘feel good’ chemicals it releases in the brain help to combat stress and depression.

An Example HIIT Workout

There are many ways you could approach a HIIT workout, but a typical example would be as follows:

First warm up with a light jog for 5 mins.

Sprint for 30 seconds

Jog slowly for 60 seconds

Repeat 5 – 10 times

Total time: 12 – 20 mins.

If you are just starting out however, and are not very fit, you could start off by simply alternating periods of brisk walking with slower walking. Then gradually increase the intensity as you progress.

Alternatively if you are already quite fit you could do shorter, harder sprints, or longer sprints of a little lower intensity. You could have longer recovery periods to enable you to put more effort into your sprints, or shorter ones which will deplete more of your glycogen stores. Or you could simply vary it according to how you feel.

An example of an advanced form of HIIT where you do 20 second sprints alternated with just 10 seconds of active rest is known as The Tabata Protocol. You can read about this here.

There’s just one downside to HIIT – it’s very demanding, which makes it easy to overdo it. For this reason you should proceed with caution. You don’t need to push yourself to the absolute maximum to get good results. In fact it’s been shown that 90% effort gives better results than 100% effort for sprints lasting 30 seconds or more.

Also, you should not do a HIIT workout more than three times per week. And in fact twice per week is probably better for the majority of people.

How To Get Even Better Fat Burning Results From Your Workout

Whilst HIIT burns fat much more effectively than lower intensity forms of exercise, low intensity steady state cardio does still have its benefits. And if you add 15 – 30 minutes of jogging after your sprints you will get additional fat burning benefits.

The reason for this is that HIIT breaks down fat quickly and releases a lot of free fatty acids into the bloodstream, whereas jogging, whilst poor at releasing fatty acids, is very good for burning them off when they are in your bloodstream. So if you jog for a while after your HIIT you will burn off these fatty acids, and it will also help to continue the afterburn effect for longer too.

So if you want the very best cardio for weight loss, a routine that will burn off all your excess body fat and get you fit and lean in the fastest possible time is to do a HIIT workout and follow it with a short period of low intensity cardio. Of course you should also eat a good well balanced diet, and ideally do some form of strength training too if you want to get the very best results. Give it a go and let me know how you get on in the comments below.


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    • dwelburn profile image

      David 5 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Thanks Rob; yes Tabata is great for the more advanced. Just 4 mins. but extremely intense.

    • Rob Winters profile image

      Rob Winters 5 years ago

      Excellent run down (:-))on HIIT.It really is a super way to exercise and really helps improve lung capacity too.

      For advanced/fit people tabata protocols which are an extreme form of HIIT are also a great option to throw in once or twice per week, particularly if your short on time.Up & Useful :-)

    • dwelburn profile image

      David 5 years ago from Chesterfield, UK

      Thanks; glad you liked it. Yes, you can do a little low intensity cardio on some other days too, as you could not do HIIT every day.

    • SolveMyMaze profile image

      SolveMyMaze 5 years ago

      Great Hub! HIIT is a great way to lose weight. Although like you suggest, I would add in another 20 odd minutes of exercise to fulfil the BHF guidelines of at least 30 minutes of exercise per day.