Weighing the Benefits of Cardio

Cardio is short for cardiovascular, which refers to the heart. Cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that raises your heart rate and keeps it elevated for a period of time. In simple terms, it is any exercise that benefits the heart. Aerobic cardio exercises are low intensity, long duration exercises like long distance jogging, cycling, swimming and other steady, sustained exercises. Anaerobic cardio exercises are high intensity, short duration exercises like weight training and sprinting.They are both necessary for balanced health.

But which one is better for burning fat?

Aerobic Cardio (AC): Low effort exercises burn total calories (fat and sugar) at a slow rate. If you do work at a low intensity, you need to increase the time spent exercising to burn more calories. The human body burns mostly sugar (carbohydrates) for the first 15 to 20 minutes during low effort exercises. Then the body begins to burn mostly fat. That means that a 15 minute jog is not going to burn much fat. Fat is a slow-burning fuel that requires oxygen and exercising at lower effort levels enables the cells to use this energy more efficiently than sugar. After the workout is finished, the body stops burning calories (fat and sugar).

Anaerobic Cardio (AAC): The body primarily burns sugars (carbs) during high effort workouts. When the body needs quick energy for fast and/or powerful movements, the body burns sugar because it is a quicker source of energy than fat. But the human body keeps burning fat for up to 8 hours after the workout is finished, depending on the intensity and effort level of the workout.

Therefore, AC burns more fat during workouts but AAC burns more total fat burned during and after the workout. If you’re trying to lose weight, even though a higher percentage of fat is being used during a AC workout, a lower total amount of fat is lost.

The ratio of fat calories and sugar calories you burn is not that significant because even if you burn a lot of sugar (carb) calories, these need to be replaced both by the carbs you eat in your diet and also within your body. Your fat stores will be broken down and transformed into carbohydrates when you need fuel. Even if you’re burning lots of carb calories and less fat calories through exercise, your fat still inevitably gets used.

Given the same amount of time, you burn less total calories with aerobic exercising. Working out at higher intensities with anaerobic exercises helps you burn more total calories, so you lose more weight.

Put simply, It is all about effort. More effort = more energy usage = more weight loss.

If you prefer low intensity exercises, then you need to put in extra time to burn enough calories, which accumulates effort and energy expenditure. If you enjoy high intensity exercises, you need to put in less time but with higher intensity. In the end, the level of effort exerted is going to be about the same. It comes down to your preferred intensity level and time constraints. And since one of the biggest hurdles people face in maintaining an exercise program is simply finding the time to do it, the solution is simple:

You need to work harder to gain the same benefits in a shorter amount of time. It all falls in line with common sense. Do not forget to use common sense when pushing your limits with intensity. Monitor your heart rate and body temperature to gauge your body’s ability to handle the exercises. A 20 minute high intensity workout can be just as beneficial as an hour-long low intensity workout.

Also remember that cardio, whether aerobic or anaerobic, is only part of a balanced exercise routine. Furthermore, a balanced exercise routine is only part of a balanced health plan. Without proper nutrition, even the benefits of the most balanced exercise plan can be negated and made useless. Balance is the name of the game.