Cardio is the best exercise for shedding fat, according to 2012 Duke University study that compared aerobic activity with other types of exercise for weight loss. Whatever your physical stature, 30 pounds is a significant — but by no means impossible — amount of weight to lose. So how much cardio is it going to take to drop that 30 pounds?
Lots. To lose a "clinically significant" amount of weight you'll need to do about 250 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise such as jogging or brisk walking, at a very minimum, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
And you'll need to keep it up for 30 weeks or more — unless, of course, you boost your efforts by using a calorie counter to help you cut calories.
Here are some tips for figuring out how best to work cardio into your weight loss plan.
Any talk of weight loss has to begin with calories. To lose a pound, you've got to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume.
Cardio rules for burning calories, and its benefits go beyond the fat you burn during your hour of jogging, climbing stairs or doing jumping jacks. Just for a baseline, consider that an average, 160-pound female would burn about 500 calories in an hour of jogging.
Do that daily and you would theoretically lose a pound a week. That's great and it puts you in the middle of the maximum rate of safe weight loss, which is 2.2 pounds a week, according to the National Institutes of Health.
In reality, it's a little trickier. Heavy exercise can bring on over-compensation behaviors, such as eating more because you feel you deserve it and more fatigue at other times in the day.
Getting the Right Mix
You can't argue with success, and 89 percent of members of the National Weight Control Registry — people who've lost weight and kept it off for at least a year — say they did it with a combination of diet and exercise. Everyone's metabolism is different, and everyone has their own inclinations. If an hour a day of cardio activity such as swimming, Zumba or high-impact aerobics inspires, delights and energizes you, go for it.
But if it hangs over you like a jail sentence, you might have more success with a steady but less ambitious regimen, such as 30 minutes daily of brisk walking, which more than fulfills the National Institutes of Health's physical activity recommendations for healthy adults.
Turbocharge Your Cardio with HIIT
If you like the idea of getting more bang out of doing less cardio, try High Intensity Interval Training. It's a method of cardio training that involves alternating brief intervals of kick-out-the-slats intensity with longer spells of low-intensity action. HIIT triggers an effect called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) that keeps your body in a higher metabolic state long after you've finished exercising. HIIT has been shown to boost calorie expenditure by six to 15 percent.
Add some resistance training to that and in a short time your newly acquired muscle mass will help you burn more calories just by being alive.