Did you know that more than 2 out of every 3 adults is considered obese or overweight? With statistics like this, it’s no surprise that weight loss is one of the most common fitness goals for people at all levels.
One of the quickest ways to lose weight is through cardio workouts, but the best cardio workout for your needs can vary depending on your medical history and your specific goals.
Before you can decide on the best cardio workouts for your fitness goals, it’s important to gain an understanding of the science behind losing weight.
Weight Loss is a Math Problem
Despite all of the fancy gadgets, miracle pills, and gimmicky workout plans you’ll see available on the consumer market today, there is only one real way to lose weight: burn more calories than you take in.
This can be done in two ways:
You consume calories through the food you eat. If you track the calories in each of your meals, you’ll get an understanding of how many you are consuming in a single day. You can then compare this to your “maintenance number,” which is the amount of calories you need to eat to stay at the same weight.
This is also referred to as your TDEE, or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. If you don’t know your maintenance calories, you can use a calculator online to figure it out. You can also just experiment by eating different amounts of calories each day and then seeing which amount causes you to lose weight, gain weight, or stay the same.
As you exercise and get your heart rate up, it causes your body to work to burn calories. If you were completely sedentary in a day, you would still burn your TDEE calories, but exercise adds additional burn. That’s why so many people rely on cardio workouts to burn fat!
Of course, exercise has more benefit than just burning calories. Both weightlifting and cardio exercise will help you improve your fitness, but in different ways. Lifting improves strength and stability, while the best cardio workouts help you improve endurance.
Either one will help you burn calories to lose weight, but cardio exercises are more efficient.
Let’s dive in and look at some of the best ones:
The Best Cardio Workout Methods for Weight Loss
While there are hundreds of ways to burn calories, from cleaning the house to singing, for those who seek to intentionally maximize the burn, these methods are most efficient:
Humans have been running for thousands of years, first as a mode of transportation, then as a recreational activity to improve health and fitness. Running is one of the best cardio workouts because it is so efficient at burning calories. Depending on your weight and speed, running can burn between 700 to 1000 calories per hour.
The downside of running is it has a significant impact on your joints and bones. If you have a history of knee or foot injuries, or these areas are sensitive, it may be best to avoid or limit your running.
It’s one of the easiest human movements, something we’ve been doing since we were only a few years old. Walking is also an excellent way to burn calories, because it’s an activity anyone can do that can be taken up anywhere.
While walking won’t torch calories like some of the other activities on this list, even small increases in the amount of walking you do can help. Now that everybody is wearing a Fitbit or Apple Watch, it’s common to see walking gamified – people will try to get to 10,000 or 15,000 steps in a single day.
Cycling is an extremely popular workout because of its low impact on the joints and knees, yet high intensity. Cycling is also very customizable. Using resistance knobs and different intervals of intensity, it’s possible to create a workout that fits both your goals and fitness level.
Of course, if you want to start cycling, you’ll need either an actual bicycle, or an at-home spin or recumbent bike – or access to one in a gym. This equipment costs money, and it does take some time to get accustomed to the bike.
What makes swimming such a great workout is its setting: the water. The natural resistance of the pool makes swimming some of the best cardio for weight loss, since it helps the body burn more calories. It’s also low-impact – you don’t have to worry about your joints pounding the pavement or treadmill like you do with running.
To swim regularly for cardio, you’ll need a pool or a membership to a gym that has one. And while you can get a workout just from walking or thrashing around, the most efficient cardio workout will come from learning to swim with proper technique, which takes time.
These low-resistance workout machines can help you simulate the action of walking without any of the impact on your feet or knees. Most machines will also have handlebars to hold on to that allow you to work your upper body as well as lower body. Because of their total body nature, ellipticals are one of the best ways to burn calories.
To use an elliptical machine, you’ll need one at home or access to a gym that has one. Due to their extreme rise in popularity over the last 10 to 15 years, ellipticals can be found today in more places than ever, including hotel and apartment gyms.
Final Thoughts on Cardio for Weight Loss
The truth is, any of these workouts could be an excellent way for you to burn fat – it depends on what you enjoy. The best cardio workout is the one you will stick to with the consistency required to lose weight and get healthier. You’ll also want to pick one that is suitable for your body – those with knee injuries probably won’t want to be running every day.
Finally, remember that people crave variety and novelty. Even if you pick a workout that you really enjoy, you may get tired of it over time. Switch things up and keep it fresh to ensure you maintain the consistency required to lose weight. For more information, check out the rest of our site.