Every­thing you need to know about this very pop­u­lar form of phys­i­cal activ­i­ty and its effect on the body.

Let’s fig­ure out why you need to get on a tread­mill.

Why do you need cardio?

Car­dio is short for “car­dio­vas­cu­lar” (i.e., car­dio­vas­cu­lar), which means that car­dio exer­cis­es are designed to train the car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem. How­ev­er, more often than not, car­dio is syn­ony­mous with aer­o­bic exercise—those that use oxy­gen to meet the body’s ener­gy needs. Exam­ples include run­ning, cycling and swim­ming. They are dif­fer­ent from anaer­o­bic exer­cise (strength train­ing), which uses oth­er ener­gy sys­tems.

Doing car­dio (aer­o­bic) exer­cise will help strength­en your car­dio­vas­cu­lar sys­tem and bet­ter pre­pare you for endurance activ­i­ties. You won’t be out of breath while climb­ing stairs or run­ning to catch a train because your body will be bet­ter able to meet its oxy­gen needs. Reg­u­lar car­dio­vas­cu­lar exer­cise cer­tain­ly has a huge num­ber of health ben­e­fits, rang­ing from reduc­ing the risk of heart dis­ease, stroke, low­er­ing blood pres­sure and sim­ply improv­ing your over­all well-being.

The main condition for losing weight

We have writ­ten more than once that los­ing weight depends on ener­gy bal­ance: that is, how much ener­gy you get and how much ener­gy you burn. And this con­cept is so sim­ple in its essence that peo­ple often refuse to believe in it. They want to think that there must be some amaz­ing trick or life hack that will help the body lose weight with­out fol­low­ing the basic rules of ther­mo­dy­nam­ics.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there is no way to cheat the laws of physics. Any ener­gy your body receives must either be spent or stored. The amount of ener­gy you con­sume depends entire­ly on what you eat. How­ev­er, on the oth­er side of the equa­tion, there are many dif­fer­ent ways to burn calo­ries. First, you expend ener­gy to main­tain your basic func­tions (breath­ing and stay­ing alive). This is basic metab­o­lism. Plus, when­ev­er you move, you burn extra ener­gy to meet these needs.

Is cardio effective for weight loss?

When­ev­er you per­form any exer­cise — aer­o­bic or anaer­o­bic — the body requires ener­gy to meet these needs. And whether that ener­gy comes from glu­cose, fat, or even pro­tein, the fact remains that your body will burn the ener­gy you once con­sumed for fuel. It fol­lows that car­dio is sim­ply a tool to help increase the body’s ener­gy needs, there­by burn­ing more calo­ries. But, con­trary to the expec­ta­tions of many, it is far from the most effec­tive tool. While car­dio will indeed help burn calo­ries, it’s only a small part of the equa­tion.

Let’s look at an exam­ple. The aver­age per­son does­n’t have the time or desire to do more than 30 min­utes of car­dio sev­er­al times a week. In those 30 min­utes, if you work hard, you can burn about 300 calo­ries. Maybe 400–500 if you’re real­ly work­ing at a real­ly high inten­si­ty. Then you leave the gym and, feel­ing hun­gry, decide to treat your­self to a donut — you deserve it, right? Well, a small donut that you eat in 30 sec­onds con­tains about 400 calo­ries. So you burned 400 calo­ries in 30 min­utes of hard work, and then ate 400 calo­ries in 30 sec­onds on the way home. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this means you won’t lose weight at all. You get oth­er health ben­e­fits, but your weight stays the same.

It all comes down to diet

There’s an old say­ing that “you can’t escape a bad diet,” and it’s 100 per­cent true when it comes to los­ing weight. And while the idea of ​​burn­ing calo­ries through car­dio is tempt­ing, it’s point­less if you decide to rely on it as the linch­pin of your weight loss strat­e­gy. After all, the amount of food you eat is the most impor­tant fac­tor in deter­min­ing how much weight you will gain or lose.

Yes, there are exam­ples of peo­ple whose extreme car­dio exer­cise allows them to eat sig­nif­i­cant­ly more. Think about marathon run­ners or peo­ple who spend sev­er­al hours on a tread­mill every day. But if you’re read­ing this arti­cle, you’re prob­a­bly not active­ly train­ing for a marathon, and you don’t intend to live in the gym. So, if you’re an aver­age per­son who can go to the gym sev­er­al times a week, then your weight loss will depend pri­mar­i­ly on your diet, and not on the tiny amount of calo­ries you burn in a car­dio ses­sion.

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