Cardio, for some people, is a way of life. They wake up early, they put their running shoes on and they get going. Some may run 1 mile and some may run 10. Regardless of how far you go or how long you run for, cardio is a great exercise for the mind and body.
Cardio helps you challenge mental and physical barriers that you didn’t even know existed. It is a heck of a workout in itself whether you’re on the treadmill or on the pavement. Some cardio workouts can even burn upwards of 1,000 calories!
It is pretty remarkable what cardio is capable of doing for your mind and body. When it comes to weight loss, however, is it necessary? Throughout this article, I am going to answer the famed and timeless question, “Do you have to do cardio to lose weight?”
What is Cardio?
Before I answer the question, I want to explain what cardio is. You have definitely heard the word before and I’m sure you know what it entails. But do you know what it means? The actual definition of cardio from Dictionary.com is “aerobic exercise that stimulates and strengthens the heart and lungs”.
I don’t know about you, but I originally thought that the definition of cardio would be a little different. Everyone, that I know at least, that consistently does cardio rarely ever mentions the heart or lungs when they’re bragging about the benefits. What they tend to brag about instead is that it burns a lot of calories, it gets their mind right and makes them ‘feel’ amazing.
Although all of those are actual benefits of cardio, I get the notion that people think cardio is strictly for losing weight and they really only do cardio to burn calories rather than for its amazing benefits on the mind and body. Like I’ve said in my recent posts, NOTHING WILL MAKE YOU LOSE WEIGHT UNLESS YOU ARE EATING IN A CALORIC DEFECIT.
A caloric deficit is when you consume fewer calories than your body uses in a day. So, for example, let’s say that you burn 2500 calories per day. If you only eat 2300 calories, overtime, you will lose fat (If you want to learn how to calculate how many calories you burn in a day, I talk about it in one of my recent posts). Not only is it a simple formula, but it is a formula that has gotten twisted and construed in a way so that many people think it is impossible to lose weight without doing cardio.
Many people and myself included, barely EVER perform any cardio and are able to boast lean, aesthetic looking bodies. In fact, as I write this article sitting in my pajamas, I am burning fat.
Then Why is Cardio So Popular?
Like I said earlier, cardio is very popular and as it should be. Cardio provides numerous benefits not only to the body, but to the mind as well. Some people even use cardio, specifically running, as a form of meditation.
I know some of you hardcore cardio junkies are mad at me for saying you don’t need to do cardio to lose weight, but it’s the truth! That doesn’t mean that cardio can’t be beneficial to weight loss though.
Performing cardio can allow you to eat more calories in a day by forcing your body to use up more calories. So, as another example, say you burn 2500 calories a day but you also run on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes. This exercise would probably make you burn around 500 calories. In addition to working out, these calories burned on the elliptical could be considered extra burned calories. Therefore, allowing you to eat more in a day while still enjoying the benefits of being in a caloric deficit. With this example, I wouldn’t recommend that you eat 500 more calories because you can never know how many calories you actually burn while performing cardio, but consuming 200-300 extra calories should be fine.
What I want to make sure that you understand is that just doing cardio won’t help you lose weight. Only a caloric deficit can do that. You can spend 3 hours on the elliptical, but if you are still eating more calories than you burn, you are not going to lose weight.
Although I don’t currently do cardio, I’ve learned some great exercises over the years that I think you could find useful.
Incline Walks: Incline walks are by far my favorite cardio exercise. Get on a treadmill, max out the incline setting (usually around 12-15) and set the speed to around 3-3.5. After that, all you have to do is walk for 30 minutes. Sounds easy but at around the 8-10 minute mark not only will you be sweating profusely, but your calves will be on fire. This is a great exercise because you don’t have to get your heart rate up too high and in 30 minutes you can burn between 300-500 calories depending on your speed and incline.
Interval Sprinting: Interval sprinting is great if you like to run outdoors. For this, you don’t need a treadmill or a gym, you just need a pair of running shoes. What you should do first is get familiar with the route you want to run. Whether it’s going to be 1 mile or 5, you should have some landmarks in mind that are around the same distances apart. Once you figure that out, it’s pretty simple. You just have to start either running or jogging until you hit a landmark. Once you hit one of these landmarks, its time to sprint to the next one! Then you walk/jog again and you keep repeating this until you get to the end of your route. As you do this more often, you should be challenging yourself and sprinting longer distances while trying to beat you’re previous time.
In conclusion, cardio is very beneficial to anyone who strives to have a healthy body and a healthy mind. It can strengthen your lungs and heart, help you burn calories and even boost your mood. Cardio should not be ignored.
With all its benefits, I just want to make sure that it is a known fact that YOU DO NOT HAVE TO DO CARDIO TO LOSE WEIGHT. It can certainly help and for those who love doing cardio, all the power to you. You should have no problem losing weight and eating in a caloric deficit. But if you want to lose weight and don’t like doing cardio at all, don’t worry, achieving weight loss without cardio IS POSSIBLE!
Good luck on your journey and please feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts on cardio and weight loss!