I’m currently aiming to lose fat and I heard that cardio exercises like jogging or running are the best overall exercises to burn maximum calories and body fat. So, should I jog at a high-speed over a short period of time or at a low-speed over a long period of time for optimal fat loss? Is jumping rope also good for burning fat?
In answering your question it is first important to understand exactly what it is we are trying to accomplish with cardio exercise. When trying to burn fat it is critical that we understand that cardio exercise itself does not burn fat. Cardiovascular exercise provides many benefits to the body but when it comes to burning fat, its primary purpose is to increase the energy output of the whole body. This will only result in fat loss if the body is not receiving adequate calories to meet its energy demands. It’s very easy to illustrate this process by looking at the body’s fat burning process as one would look at their monthly finances. Our analogy looks like this:
- Savings Account = Body Fat
- Monthly Bills = Energy Expenditure
- Monthly Income = Calories Consumed
By looking at the fat burning process in this way it becomes very easy to highlight the process. Regardless of how much our monthly bills are, if we are making enough income to cover those bills, there is no reason to take any money out of our savings account. But if we are not making enough income to cover the expenditures then we are left with a deficit. This deficit must then be covered by burning up some of our savings account. And the greater the deficit, the more of our savings account we have to burn. It really is that simple when you think about it. But of course in our case we want to create this deficit.
This process is so important to understand because you begin to realize that the type of cardio exercise you choose isn’t nearly as important as creating the deficit. I’ve seen people train for months and complete a full marathon without losing any weight whatsoever. That’s a serious amount of energy expenditure over a long period of training without any weight loss. Why did this happen? Because as they expended more energy, they ate more calories so it all balanced out. I’ve also seen people lose incredible amounts of weight with little or no exercise at all simply by creating the deficit by eating less. However, I don’t recommend this type of severe calorie reduction approach. Since exercise provides so many other benefits, it’s much better to combine both to create the overall calorie deficit.
So with the role of cardio exercise in place let’s talk about how we can get the most “bang for our buck” when we are training. Clearly, if we are doing all out sprints we are going to burn more calories than jogging for the same amount of time. Trying to decide if sprinting for a short amount of time burns more calories than jogging for a long period of time I think is really just splitting hairs. Distance running, sprinting and jumping rope are all fantastic forms of cardio exercise so deciding which one is best really misses the point. They all have inherent benefits specific to each so why not do them all? I enjoy all of these exercises so I combine and rotate them often. Sometimes I go for a long run and then add a few rounds of jump rope at the end. Some days I’ll do a short warm-up run and then do some sprints. Sometimes I’ll go for a bike ride in the morning and run at night. Other days I’ll swim laps. The point is that there is no one best option so try to combine and rotate them as much as possible. Not only will you burn a tremendous amount of calories this way but it will get you in much better overall shape.