Can Daily Cardio Help You Lose Weight?

Daily cardio workouts help you lose weight because of the calories you burn. It might seem like you need superhuman motivation to work out every day, but it gives you more chances to torch calories than putting in a few days per week. If your goal is to lean out, every extra chance to burn calories helps.

Making the time to work out every day is worth it when your waistline starts to shrink. (Image: Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury/Caiaimage/GettyImages)

Tip

Doing cardio every day, even if it's just 20 minutes of interval training, helps you burn calories and lose weight.

Calories in vs. Calories Out

To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you take in. That's easier said than done. There are three basic ways to lose weight: eat fewer calories, exercise more or both.

There's no right or wrong method in general, but exercise will help. An August 2018 review published in the journal Nutrients explains that working out regularly helps you lose weight both in the short-term and long-term.

Whether you've tried a diet or simply have a hard time controlling your portions, you know that eating less is tricky. When you eat less and start to lose fat, your body produces a hormone called ghrelin that makes you hungry, explains the National Eating Disorders Association. At the same time it decreases a hormone called leptin that makes you feel full.

In this way, exercise controls your appetite. An intense sprinting workout on the treadmill or even an hour of moderate jogging or swimming can stimulate your appetite. It might make sense that exercise can make you eat more, but a June 2016 review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found the opposite to be true.

The researchers explain that exercise actually helps regulate your appetite, so you don't have as many random cravings for food. This can help lower your calorie intake, causing further weight loss.

How Often to Work Out

For some, working out every day is easier than monitoring meals. It doesn't require much thought and you might even enjoy working out. There's a sense of accomplishment that you get from a workout, which you might not get from dieting.

Current exercise recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine suggest that 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week help keep the average adult healthy. Moderate-intensity would be something like jogging, swimming laps or cycling at an even pace. Their recommendation for vigorous activity, such as sprinting or interval training, is 75 to 150 minutes per week.

To get 300 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio per week, you'd have to go to the gym five days each week and work out an hour per session. Alternatively, you could go for a little over 40 minutes per session every day of the week. The ACSM also notes that going above 300 minutes per week has additional health benefits, so your sessions could be longer than 40 minutes.

Best Type of Cardio

When deciding between moderate-intensity and high-intensity cardio, think about your risk for injury, your daily schedule and calories burned. Higher intensity exercise carries a higher injury risk than moderate intensity activities. For example, sprinting on a treadmill has more joint impact than jogging.

The amount of time you're willing to spend at the gym also factors into the type of cardio you choose. High intensity intervals are more effective and convenient because they burn more calories per minute. You can get in and out of the gym faster, making it less cumbersome to be in the gym every day.

A May 2017 review published in The Journal of Physiology indicates that sprint and interval training is better than moderate-intensity, long-duration training for improving aerobic capacity. The researchers explain that studies comparing high-intensity interval training with moderate-intensity cardio show that high-intensity interval training is more effective at increasing VO2 max, which is a measure of aerobic capacity.

How Many Calories Cardio Burns

The number of calories you burn in a cardio session depends on the exercises you do, workout intensity and your size. The intensity of the exercise is a big factor.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 185-pound person will burn 555 calories in an hour of running at 7.5 miles per hour. That same person will burn 733 calories in an hour at a speed of 10 miles per hour. That's almost a 200-calorie difference.

If you decide to sprint rather than do medium-intensity exercise, your workouts should be shorter. Higher-intensity exercise takes more of a toll on your body.

Size also plays a part in how many calories you burn during a workout. Harvard Health Publishing shows that a 125-pound person will burn about 495 calories in an hour of running at 10 miles per hour, compared to 733 calories burned by a 185-pound person.

Opt for machines that use your leg muscles, such as the stationary bike or elliptical, which can help you torch more calories. Your leg muscles are much bigger than the muscles of your upper body, meaning they use more energy.

Most cardio machines have a built-in calorie counter that allows you to see how many calories you've burned during the workout. These aren't always accurate, but can provide a rough estimate of your energy expenditure.

It's also important to pick a piece of cardio equipment that won't cause injury. Working out every day can lead to overuse injuries if you're not careful. Treadmills, which are higher impact than ellipticals, might not be safe to use every day. If you get hurt, then you can't work out, so you can't burn calories.

What Is Healthy Weight Loss?

Simply eating less might make the scale move, but it may not be the healthiest way to lose weight. A study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise in January 2018 shows that weight loss from eating less can make you lose muscle mass and decrease your aerobic capacity.

Researchers found that subjects were able to keep their muscle mass and stay in shape while losing weight by exercising regularly. The study participants had to either reduce their calorie intake, exercise more, or both. Those who exercised in addition to eating fewer calories lost the same amount of weight but held onto their muscle mass.

That means exercise won't just help you lose weight but also help preserve your mass. If you're trying to lose weight for a more toned look, maintaining lean muscle is important.

Working out every day can give you the false impression that you're doing enough to lose weight. While you might dread the idea of dieting, eating less plays a big part in weight loss. If you're doing cardio every day but the scale refuses to budge, it might be time to change your eating habits and develop a healthier diet.

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