Which cardio exercises are best for losing weight and how much weight should I aim to lose per week?
The answer to the first question will only be truly valid by first pointing out the vital role that a proper diet plays to be able to achieve and maintain any long-term weight loss objective. In fact, maintaining a proper diet is the single most important factor when trying to lose weight, keep the weight off and improve overall health. Yes, a proper diet is more important and will have a greater positive impact on your physique than exercising and weight training. However, when a proper diet is combined with a consistent cardio and weight training program, that combination has a synergistic effect that exponentially increases the overall effectiveness of your efforts – much more so than either a proper diet or a consistent cardio program could each do independently.
To answer your specific question, the best cardio exercises for losing weight depend on your individual particular physical abilities, limitations and your personal preferences. If you like jogging then jog. If you like walking then walk. If you like playing basketball then play basketball! If you like a little bit of everything then cross-train and do a little bit of everything! Just try to find something you really enjoy doing on a daily basis and focus on being consistent with that activity. As far as how many pounds you should aim to lose per week, 1-2 pounds per week is a good number to stick to for long-term success. Below is a list of just a few great cardio exercises to consider:
- Speed Walking (outside, indoor track, treadmill) – Researchers found that overweight women who performed speed-interval walking workouts for 45 minutes per session along with some weight training toning exercises four times a week lost 23 pounds in only 16 weeks. Try walking outside and find new areas around your home where the terrain and scenery is different in order to keep your walking workouts fun and interesting.
- Jogging (outside, indoor track, treadmill) – This exercise does not require much explanation. Just be sure to jog at a pace you are comfortable with and make sure you have proper footwear to minimize the potential for blisters or other common issues related to jogging.
- Stationary Bike – The exercise bike can help you burn tons of calories and tone your legs. When working out on a stationary bike, the trick is to make sure you have the machine set with enough resistance. This way, you won’t pedal yourself off the bike, but you’ll also be able to sprint when necessary, which can make for a great interval workout.
- Elliptical Machine – Set the machine at a level you are comfortable with and continue at your own pace but make sure you’re working hard enough to burn adequate calories. Short 30-60 seconds high intensity intervals work amazing with this exercise also and will really make you sweat big time! Allow yourself three to five minutes to cool down.
- Basketball – Find a pickup game or just shoot baskets alone. Try to find a full court and be sure to be on the move constantly running to each end of the court using both baskets.
Other great exercises to consider:
- Wind Sprints
- Stair Sprints
- Jumping Rope
Regardless of which cardio exercise you choose to do, the most important things to always remember is to hit your target heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes (see Heart Rate Chart 1.1 below), be consistent with your workouts and keep your diet as clean as possible.
Heart Rate Chart 1.1 (Source: American Heart Association, www.Heart.org)
Heart Rate Chart 1.1 provides a general range of hearts rates based on average data for each respective age range. The average maximum heart rate (100%) is estimated by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 38 years old, your estimated maximum heart rate should be around 182 beats per minute. Therefore, your target heart rate zone (50% to 85% of your maximum heart rate) for cardio training purposes would be 91-155 beats per minute. Always remember to listen to your body! If you’re not on your “A-Game” one day – so what! Slow down or even stop and cut your workout short that day. Rome wasn’t built in a day and there’s no need to push yourself like a maniac. Your ego will heal a lot faster than an unnecessary self-induced injury!
Checking your heart rate is a relatively easy thing to do. Simply place two fingers on the inside of your opposite wrist, count your pulse for ten seconds and then multiply that number by six. That total is your heart rate at that time. When you initially begin your cardio training program, it is recommended to set your training goals at the lower end of your target heart rate range (closer to 50% of your maximum heart rate). As you progress with your cardio training routine and build stamina, gradually increase your training goals upward towards the higher end of the target heart rate range (closer to 85% of your maximum heart rate) so you can really start burning lots of calories and body fat!