Best Cardio for Weight Loss?

March 28, 2012

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cardioHave you ever wondered about the best “cardio” or cardiovascular workout for weight loss? Before going to my specific suggestions, let’s talk a little about what a cardio workout is and how it helps weight loss.

Cardio workouts are ones that get your heart pumping and leave you a little winded for an extended period of time. Think of it as stoking a fire – when your heart is beating faster and your increased breathing pumps all that extra oxygen into your blood, your body’s furnace burns hotter in the form of an increased metabolism. This means you’ll burn more calories per minute both during your workout and for several hours afterward. Cardio for weight loss also helps your body “burn up” stored fat.

So how hard do you need to get your heart beating? Subtract your age from 220 to figure out your maximum ideal heart rate, and then aim for somewhere between 60 and 80 percent of that number; 70 percent – called your “target heart rate” – being the most ideal. This will put you right in the calorie- and fat-burning zone where you want to be.

Many people make the mistake of pushing themselves to the maximum, but the problem with that is you can’t sustain that intensity very long. Better to work out at a more moderate pace for longer, than try to go full bore for only a few minutes.

Plus, aiming your cardio workout for weight loss at 70 percent of your maximum heart rate will be a lot more comfortable than trying to push yourself as hard as you can. There’s no point in risking getting hurt, and your cardio for weight loss shouldn’t be overly unbearable or painful, either.

Speaking of pushing yourself, be sure to check in with your doctor first before starting any new cardio workout, especially if it’s been some time since you’ve been active. If you take medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, or other medical conditions that might affect your heart rate, your target heart rate goal may be lower than 70 percent.

All that said, I still need to answer the question, “What is the best cardio for weight loss?

First, it’s the best cardio for weight loss based upon your physical ability, health conditions, and personal preferences. If you don’t “like” it, chances are you won’t stick with it. Walking can be a good choice, as it doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment and can be done almost anywhere at any time.

If your weight causes joint or foot pain, water aerobics might be a better pick as the buoyancy of water helps take pressure off your feet and joints while at the same time adding some resistance. Many people also feel the exertion and discomfort of being hot and sweaty less when they are in water.

Cycling and even hand cycling are also great ways to get your cardio rate up and burn fat and calories. Or for water lovers, paddleboarding is a relatively new cardio workout that several of my patients really enjoy.

In short, find a workout you enjoy that gets your heart pumping and your breathing up, and you’ll have discovered the best cardio for weight loss – for you!

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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[…] what is the best exercise program for weight loss? Here are some ideas I suggest to my own patients to help them get moving, burn fat, and boost […]

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