Ask any fitness professional or personal trainer and they’ll tell you one thing for sure: cardio isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. A slang term for ‘cardiovascular activity,’ cardio exercises are those heart-pounding, repetitive (a.k.a., boring) workout routines that leave us drenched in sweat and gulping for more oxygen – hardly everyone’s idea of a good time. In fact, one survey revealed that cardio (running, bicycling, etc.) was perceived as "the worst way to work out" according to almost 40% of the respondents.
This is important to understand - When we begin a new routine that we find less-than-enjoyable, we tend to rapidly abandon that routine, and we need our fitness routines to be sustainable in our lives if we’re to have any long-term success shedding unwanted fat. The challenge for society is that we still cling to this belief that any efforts that are focused on fat loss must include some form of high-intensity cardio if we want to achieve a noticeable difference.
But that’s just not true…
A Calorie Deficit is Required to Lose Fat
Cardio is not a requirement for fat loss, but a calorie deficit is. Though that’s something we can achieve through dietary modifications alone, we’re going to show you the best strategies to help you burn fat without having to deal with the anxiety of how you’re going to get through that 30-minute slog on a treadmill.
Before we get into that, we should mention that we’re not here to disparage cardio entirely. It has built a verifiable reputation for being an effective fat-burner for a reason, and that’s because high-intensity workouts do cause our bodies to burn more calories. Since our bodies are wired to burn fat when we consume fewer calories than our bodies need, cardio can be very effective in fighting fat. We’re simply saying you can burn fat without needing to include cardio in your fitness routine.
Ultimately, if fat loss is your goal, then your results will rely heavily on your ability to establish a “calorie deficit.” You either need to consume fewer calories than your body burns, or you need to amplify the intensity of your workouts so that your body can burn more calories than it did before.
That’s it. That’s the magic formula.
The problem for the world’s “cardio haters” is this widely held belief that cardio is a necessary evil in the quest to burn more calories than we consume. The fact is that there are many ways that we can put our bodies in a calorie deficient state that don’t include cardio but are certainly no less effective for burning off unwanted fat.
We sat down with a personal trainer with a fitness center in Canary Wharf (London) to learn about the strategies he recommends for how we can burn off excess fat without having to endure the monotony of traditional cardio workouts like running or biking.
Here are the key takeaways from that conversation:
Start Strength Training (Weightlifting) for Fat Loss
Our society won’t often marry the terms “fat loss” with “strength training.” That’s because of existing perception that activities like weightlifting work counter-effectively to any goals we have that are focused on losing weight. The idea of packing on muscle mass when you’re trying to lose weight may not sound like the right course of action. However, one recent study done in the U.K. revealed that strength and resistance training can be more effective at burning calories than traditional cardio. If that surprises you, you wouldn’t be alone.
Here’s the science: Weight training modifies the composition of our bodies so that we can consistently burn more calories during the day. Strength training builds more muscle mass, of course, but that’s an essential component in accelerating your metabolism. The more active our metabolism, the more calories our bodies will burn, even while we’re at rest.
Eat More Protein
Consuming fewer calories is always a sound strategy for burning fat, but you should also be modifying your diet to include foods that are higher in protein content. Foods that are high in protein help us to feel fuller, even when we’re deliberately consuming fewer calories. Our efforts to lose fat will be much more successful if we’re not constantly fighting a mental battle to not eat because we feel like we’re starving all day long.
Increase Daily Physical Activity
If fat loss is your goal, then every burnt calorie counts. If you look at your current lifestyle and determine when you’re being the most sedentary, that is precisely the time when you should try to add in some form of low-impact, low-intensity physical activity.
If cardio just isn’t your thing, that’s okay. There are so many other options to increase the amount of physical activity in our lives, especially now that it’s summer. Walking around the block, taking the stairs instead of an escalator, even doing yardwork, these are all activities that contribute to something called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT; a measurement for the calories that we burn as we move our bodies throughout the course of our daily lives. When we choose to take the stairs instead of an elevator or chose to take a 20-minute walk instead of watching TV, our NEAT ratio increases.
Drink Enough Water
H20 has an important role to play in shedding unwanted fat through a process called lipolysis – that’s medical lingo for “burning fat.” It’s the natural process of breaking down stored masses of fat into absorbable forms of energy for our cells to use for fuel. Without enough water in our systems, we are presenting an unnecessary ‘roadblock’ to the proper metabolization of stored fat in our bodies so be prudent about consuming the proper amount of water.
One easy method to determine how much water you should be drinking every day is to convert your body weight into pounds (lbs.) and then divide that number by two. For example, if you weigh 200 lbs., then your goal should be to consume 100 ounces of fluids, preferably water, each day.
Discover the World of Personal Training
COVID variants like Omicron and Delta may have prolonged the effects of the pandemic, but there’s no denying our society’s renewed focus on optimizing our mental health and physical fitness. In the post-pandemic-world, personal trainers (PTs) and certified fitness professionals are being sought out in increasingly higher numbers as more people make fitness and mental health a top priority in their lives. If cardio isn’t your thing, consider working with a PT or fitness professional who has the training and credentials to evaluate your lifestyle and design a workout routine that’s tailored to the kind of exercises you prefer to do, even if that doesn’t include cardio.