You’ve probably already heard that cardio alone only does so much, and that it’s better to combine strength and cardio to burn the most fat.
However, new research from Duke University put that theory to the test and found that for weight loss, cardio alone is still the most effective route to weight loss.
The researchers, reporting in the Journal of Applied Physiology, randomly assigned more than 200 overweight adults to one of three, 8 month workout programs: Some performed vigorous cardio alone, others stuck solely to weight training, while others did a combination of both. At the end of the study, the cardio group lost both fat mass and overall weight. The strength-training group? Not so much. Yes, they gained muscle, but didn’t lose any fat mass or weight. Those who combined cardio and strength training—meaning they performed three days of cardio plus three days of strength training ever week—didn’t lose more fat or weight than those who did cardio alone.
Willis and her colleagues aren’t dismissing the value of strength training, she notes. But because the majority of American adults could reap significant health benefits from reduced body fat, researchers suggest that the best option may be to focus more on aerobic training.
“When you lose fat, it is likely you are losing visceral fat,” Willis says. “Which is known to have great health benefits.”
How To Make Cardio Work For You
No matter how outstanding your playlist is, cardio can be DULL. Here are some ways to keep things a little more interesting:
Do Cardio Circuits. Break up your jog with a quick set of 10 burpees or mountain climbers every minute. Including explosive moves like burpees and mountain climbers engages different muscle groups and maximize how your body burns fat, giving you a full-body workout.
Do Something New. Your body quickly becomes acclimated to a workout if you do it everyday. Try Tabata—a method characterized by short bursts of intensity followed by recovery. Why? This method allows your body to continue to burn calories at a faster rate even after you stop exercising. How do you do this? It can be done on any cardio equipment, but let’s use a treadmill as an example. After warming up, walk or run as you normally would for a few minutes. Then, for two or three minutes, walk or run as fast as you can. Return to your normal pace for five minutes or so. Keep alternating between fast and normal intervals for the remainder of your workout.
Take A Gym Class. Unlike cardio equipment, which can seriously become very boring after a while, fitness classes are designed to challenge and motivate you, as well as make exercising feel a little more fun than it otherwise would. Try exploring different classes that your gym offers until you find the ones you like the most.
Can’t Go To The Gym At All? Buy a few cardio-focused exercise videos, or put together your own routine at a local park. Throw in an extra challenges such as adding sprints, doing sets of push in between intervals, doing a set of push-ups at the top and a set of squats at the bottom.”