The best cardio workout for weight loss is the one that burns the most calories and body fat in the shortest period of time – so what is it?
Well, it’s not an exercise as such – more a way of doing your cardio workout that scores the highest marks in our opinion.
In our experience, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the clear winner. It has been supported by a growing body of evidence!
For years, the perceived wisdom has been that the best way to burn fat is through, low intensity, relatively long duration aerobic workouts – 30-60 minutes of walking, jogging, cycling and so on.
And this is a productive way to train. Just not the most productive if you want to burn the most calories and body fat in the shortest period of time to achieve rapid weight loss results.
Cardio Workout to lose Weight Fast
Studies have shown that short, high intensity cardio workouts would appear to facilitate the greatest calorie burn, fat loss and cardiovascular fitness gains – in far shorter workouts.
HIIT is cardio carried out for periods of around 20-30 minutes, combining short intervals of high intensity anaerobic activity with longer intervals of low intensity aerobic activity.
It’s not a new concept – it’s been around for a while and has spawned a number of variations on the theme, but it is incredibly effective and for us is the best cardio workout bar none!
Here’s an example. Select any cardio exercise, one you enjoy – running on the road, track or a treadmill, a rowing machine, an elliptical trainer or a bike. It doesn’t really matter.
Let’s use running on a treadmill….
- Warm up for around 5 minutes.
- When you’re just starting to sweat and your heart rate is at 60-70% of its max you’re ready to go…
- Quickly increase the treadmill speed so you’re sprinting – running as hard as you can for say 15-20 seconds. Alternatively, instead of sprinting flat out you may want to sprint at a lower intensity – say 80% of your max – for a longer interval, say up to 60 seconds and shorten the recovery time to around 2 minutes (many treadmills won’t go faster than 12 mph, so choose this option if that’s the case).
- Now slow the treadmill right down so you’re jogging slowly for 2-3 minutes as you recover – longer if you need it.
- Then speed the treadmill up again and sprint for 15-20 seconds, or up to 60 seconds depending on what you’ve chosen to do for your best cardio workout.
- Repeat this cycle of high and low intensity intervals 5-8 times and then cool down for 3-5 minutes at a slow jog until your heart rate is back to nearly normal.
- Clearly, the exact timings will vary depending on your level of fitness. If you’re new to HIIT you’d be well advised to start at say 50% of your highest sprint intensity and work your way up.
- You’ll also find that as you get fitter your sprint speed will increase and the active rest period will decrease.
- Aim for your HIIT workout to last 20-30 minutes in total and repeat 2-3 times a week for the best cardio workout.
- Try combining your HIIT sessions with 1-2 steady state aerobic workouts for balance.
- You may want to try doing your HIIT workouts on your weight training rest days and not on the same day, which can be tough. So you’ve a rounded workout program of cardio and resistance training.
- Alternatively, try combining your strength training and HIIT in a short 45 minutes workout, repeated 3 times a week. Read our review of Turbulence Training for more on this incredibly effective way of burning fat and building muscle.
What To do Now?
Now, I warn you, HIIT is a killer workout and not one for those with a heart condition or for beginners – you will need a reasonable level of aerobic fitness before you try it.
Ideally, you should be able to train at 75-80% of your maximum heart rate for 20-30 minutes before trying HIIT.
You’ll also really need to push yourself to get the maximum results from the best cardio workout.
However, the results are worth it. Studies have shown that you can burn up to 3-4 times as many calories in a HIIT workout than in a low to moderate intensity workout of the same duration.
In other words, you’d have to jog for up to 3-4 times as long on the treadmill!
Some Important things to keep in Mind While Doing This Cardio Workout…
Furthermore, due to the intensity of the workout, your body takes longer to recover so your metabolism will be revved up and burning more calories for the rest of the day – calories from body fat in particular – following the workout than during the workout itself.
This is due to excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC), where your body uses a lot of oxygen in recovery, maximising fat utilisation during your recovery period.
Furthermore, you’ll stress your cardiovascular system far more than in a steady state cardio workout. That means your body will adapt by increasing the amount of oxygen it can utilise during exercise.
The result is that you get fitter faster and can workout harder. So increasing the calories you can burn the fat you lose.
Can you see why we think this is the best cardio workout? Why not give it a try and see how quickly that extra layer of fat melts away!