It’s like a global cliché: A person puts on weight, and immediately he/she thinks ‘OK, I need to start doing cardio to lose it.’ So, they’ll join their local gym and begin running on the treadmill, or using the elliptical or bike, for endless hours.

Then after a couple of weeks, they’ll either get bored, they’ll plateau, or they’ll get discouraged and their health and fitness journey stops altogether.

The age-old question: Is cardio effective for weight loss?


First, we have to distinguish between effective and ineffective methods of cardio, and then we have to determine if ANY form of cardio is really the be-all, end-all when it comes to weight loss.

For starters, everybody knows about steady-state cardio. That equates to the same type of cardio that I mentioned above: The aimless running, treading or cycling that so many people do when they sign up for a gym. In my experience this is not the way to tackle either your weight loss or your general fitness goals. Unless you’re an endurance athlete, this method of exercise is just not functional.

When else are you going to run for 40 minutes straight outside of a race? My point exactly!

is cardio effective for weight loss_2

I recommend you perform interval training circuits like Tabata or HIIT

Tabata circuits are performed by selecting anywhere from one to eight exercises, and performing eight rounds of those exercises in an interval of 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest. Each Tabata circuit adds up to four minutes.

If you select one exercise for your Tabata circuit, you’ll be doing it eight times during those four minutes. If you select two, alternate between the two for the eight rounds. If you select eight, perform one set of each exercise throughout the Tabata circuit.

HIIT is a little more advanced and a little more variable

There are no limitations on interval durations, number of exercises performed, etc. The only suggestion I’d make is to perform your circuit at a work-to-rest ratio of 2:1.

The reason I recommend Tabata and HIIT circuits over steady-state cardio is for the simple fact that everybody seems to be losing their most valuable asset: Time. Between work, family and social obligations, we just don’t seem to have the time that we used to. Utilizing these methods of interval training throws that excuse out the window, and enables you to get fitter in less time.

How does this work?

Well, as mentioned above, each Tabata circuit is four minutes in length. If you perform three Tabata circuits, that’s 12 minutes (15 if you throw in a minute of rest between the performance of each circuit). HIIT circuits can be as long or as short as you want! You can literally take your lunch break, or a commercial break during your evening TV watching and get a workout in. This way you’re done without sacrificing any crucial part of your day.

Interval training circuits are also known to increase your EPOC levels, which elevates your metabolism for hours after you’re done working out. It’s a free ride, and it’s a lot less boring than traditional steady-state cardio!

This brings us back to the main question posed for this article: Is cardio effective for weight loss? The answer is both yes and no!

Importance of nutrition

When coupled with a sound nutrition regimen, interval training can be extremely effective in helping an individual to lose weight. The problem is that our society has been taught that weight loss is about exercise first, and nutrition second.

We’ve been taught that if we have a bad day nutritionally, we can overcome it by murdering ourselves in the gym. This is NOT true!

You can have the best exercise program in the world, but if your nutrition sucks so will you. Your appearance, your energy levels and your results.

Best of luck with your weight loss goals! Until next time.

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Pollyanna Hale Health and Lifestyle coaches
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