Its 3 months past 2021, but it is still early to get going with your weight loss resolutions. And if you have started a fitness or diet regime that isn’t giving results, you have come to the right place! In today’s blog, we list the best cardio workouts for weight loss, many of which you can also do at home.
But first things first.
What is ‘Cardio’?
Cardio is short for cardiovascular and includes any exercise that gets your heart rate up. Also known as aerobic exercise, the goal of cardio is to help you reach target heart zones where you burn most calories and fat. The target heart rate zone for a 20-year old would be 135-155, whereas it would be 121-139 for a 50-year old.
|Age||Target Heart Rate|
Common aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, and swimming. The benefits of cardio workouts include:
- Boosts your lung capacity
- Lowers stress and boosts mood
- Increases bone density
- Improves your sex life
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer
- Improves sleep
The benefit we want to focus on today is burning calories and fat and help you lose weight.
Can you Lose Weight with Cardio Workouts Alone?
Yes, you can. Cardio provides plenty of health benefits and will support your weight loss efforts. Moreover, by improving your appetite and mood, cardio can also help you stick to healthy food choices and help you resist the urge for fast-food, sodas, and chocolates.
That said, you might want to add some resistance exercises or weight training to your fitness routine as well. While burning calories is important, gaining muscle mass boosts your metabolism. This is in turn helps your body to quickly process what you consume and create energy for your body to function.
That doesn’t imply that you have to join a gym or purchase weights for home. You can also try body weight exercises like lunges, crunches, and the good old-fashioned press-ups.
Cardio Workouts for Weight Loss: Health Concerns
Before we list down the best cardio exercises for losing weight, it is essential to note that aerobic workouts can cause health complications if you go overboard with them. This is just like medicine: if you overdose, even the best meds will lead to complications.
Studies show strenuous joggers had the same mortality rates as people leading sedentary lifestyles. On the other hand, light to moderate joggers had higher mortality rates than both these groups.
Other health complications resulting from extreme cardio workouts include:
- Arterial plaque
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood clots
- Heart failure
Research also shows that moderate-intensity workouts like running, cycling, or swimming keep your heart rate elevated at a steady pace. This is the sweet spot of cardio workouts, especially for beginners.
With this essential information underway, let’s now talk about the best cardio workouts for weight loss in 2021.
To start, running at a moderate pace is a time-honored way to burn calories. For instance, a 180-lb person can easily burn over 900 calories an hour running a 7 to 8.5 minute-per-mile speed.
Of course, this requires significant time and effort, which is not possible for students and professionals. Moreover, running puts significant pressure on the knees and legs, and can also break down muscle.
So how to go about it? Here are tips to get started:
- Look for softer surfaces (grass, sand, etc.) instead of harder ones like concrete and asphalt
- Try different routes to avoid boredom
- Find a running partner or group to support your efforts
If you running on a treadmill, incline the machine by 2% to 3% to burn more calories and also support your knees better.
Secondly, we have jump rope, easily one of the best workouts for cardio. Benefits of jump rope include minimal investment, no learning curve, and increasing foot speed as you burn thousands of calories. Moreover, jumping rope also helps to build muscle and enhance coordination. And according to an estimate, you can burn as much as 500 calories in half an hour with a jump rope. This makes it a good alternative to running.
However, jumping rope for 30 minutes at a time is no simple feat. And that’s why you should do intervals of slow and fast jumps to maintain your stamina and focus. Or you can jump really fast for 60 seconds, followed by a 30-second break. Repeat the same pattern for a few times.
One of the major benefits of jumping rope is that you can do it practically anywhere, be it your apartment or a hotel room.
Moving on, cycling on a track or using a stationary cycle is another way to burn fat while keeping your heart rate elevated at a steady rate. And this is yet another cardio workout that helps build muscle.
If you are cycling outdoors, purchase or rent a bike that is comfortable and one that you can carry around in your car. And as with running, you can find a partner or a cycling group to help you push forward.
But things can get a bit tricky with stationary bikes. What happens is that most people simply medal on these cycles while watching videos or scrolling through their social media feed. But while this may give you the mental satisfaction of working out, you are not burning any calories.
Once again, intensity comes into play here. An average 180-lb person can burn almost 700 calories on a moderate ride and up to 1,200 calories per hour during a vigorous indoor cycling class.
If you want to burn the most calories in minimum time, consider intervals on a stationary bike. Pedal at high speed for a couple of minutes, then slow down for about a minute, picking up the pace again. Continue to repeat these intervals for 30 minutes to an hour.
Arguably the best exercise out there, swimming engages the entire body. As you tread the water, your muscles work extra hard to fight gravity, and if you take fast laps, you can burn more than 10 calories per minute.
But not all strokes are alike. If you want to burn maximum calories, be sure to incorporate a number of strokes in each swimming session, especially the butterfly.
Swimming is also a great exercise for summers when other forms of cardio can be extremely strenuous. Plus, you can burn calories even while treading water. But like all the exercises we have listed so far, the idea is to kick things up a notch for as long as you can.
- If you are just starting out, try to do a few laps, and tread water in between. And then back again.
- If you can swim at a high level, pick up speed for as long as possible.
But unlike other cardio exercises for weight loss, swimming requires a greater level of safety, especially if you are using a common pool during the pandemic.
Here’s another exercise that doesn’t require a gym membership. You can go for a sprint outdoors, on a treadmill, or even up the stairs. This simple exercise doesn’t require any equipment apart from a good pair of sprinting shoes, and you can burn lots of calories in a short time. Moreover, sprinting doesn’t put pressure on your muscles as running does.
- If you’re sprinting outdoors, then go fast for a lap and then jog for a few minutes. Repeat this cycle for a few times.
- You can do the same if you’re using a treadmill: Sprint for up to 30 seconds, then slow down the belt and jog for up to 60 seconds. Repeat.
And if you are sprinting up a flight of stairs, walk or job on your way down. And while you’re at it, lift your knees as high as possible to really push yourself.
High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Finally, with HIIT, you can burn anywhere from 500 to 1,500 calories per hour. Plus, these are interesting exercises involving lots of variation within each session. The usual HIIT workout includes a combination of body-weight movements as well as cardio elements, greatly enhancing your weight loss efforts.
You can sign up for HIIT at your local gym, or sign-up for a class online considering the pandemic. In order to maximize your calorie burning, keep the rest periods between each movement to a minimum.
That’s about it! Other cardio workouts for weight loss that you can do at home include:
- Jumping Jacks
- Jogging in place
With summer approaching, now is the good time to get started with a cardio workout and get in shape. Just remember to keep things moderate; there’s no need to push yourself if you can get your heart to pump faster.
And don’t forget to have fun!