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Fitness Falsehood #1: Cardio is What You Need to Lose Weight

First, there are different types of “cardio” (= cardiovascular exercise).


There’s steady-state cardio: you get your heart rate up to a certain point and keep it there for 20-30-40-50 or more minutes. This is what most people think about when they think “cardio” – a 3-mile run; a long bike ride; Zumba class; a strenuous hike; 45 minutes on the elliptical machine. Your heartrate may fluctuate slightly, but generally it stays in the same general “zone.” You can talk during steady state cardio, but it should be moderately difficult to carry on a conversation or sing along to your playlist.


There’s high intensity cardio, sometimes called HIIT (high intensity interval training), because the work is so intense that you can only do it for a short period before you need a rest. And you need that rest. Your heartrate is uncomfortable during your “work” intervals, you almost feel as if you can’t catch your breath, and, definitely, you’re sweating. And you cannot talk or sing along, not even if it’s Foo Fighters on the playlist – you’re too busy desperately sucking air.

Both these types of cardio have a place in an over-all fitness plan. Both have different effects on your metabolism. Neither is the single key to fat loss. Sorry. (Foreshadowing: there is not a “single key” to fat loss.)

Regardless of the style of cardio you choose on any given day, the amount of calories (=energy) you use in that cardio session are actually quite a small percentage of your total daily calorie use. Sorry, that’s just #facts. And that session may or may not make a big enough dent in your daily calorie balance to put you into a “fat loss” calorie deficit. Sorry, that’s more #facts.

To lose fat, you need a combination of both types of cardio, plus strength training, plus careful nutrition: to keep your metabolism humming; to create lean, active tissue; to feed your body what it needs to maintain its active muscle while using its fat stores for the extra demand; to make your body more efficient at calorie burning all 24 hours of the day. Wha?? Yeah, I know that sounds complicated. It kinda is and it kinda isn’t. The good news is that you really don’t have to spend 60 minutes a day on the elliptical to lose fat.

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Here's an idea: instead of trying to re-write your entire life come January 1, how about you pick one thing to focus on improving and improve it? I know, I know, that sounds so not sexy. So not dramat