Does Cardio Burn Fat?

Body image is a crucial thing in modern society. Everyone wants to look as good as possible, but it is not as easy as you might hope.

Unfortunately, the models and actors (see also ‘Actual Paul Giamatti Weight Loss Story: Revealed‘) you see in magazines and movies do not get their stunning bodies easily. There might be some who are genetically gifted with great bodies, but that is not the case for everyone.

As a result, you need to burn fat and keep it off to have a toned and athletic body. The best way to do that is to find a healthy diet and exercise regularly. You can improve both areas of your health, but today we will focus on exercise.

Exercise is not easy for anyone. Some people enjoy it more than others, but it is tiring and painful for everyone. Furthermore, all workouts are not equally efficient at burning fat. Today we will focus on cardio to see how effective it is at burning fat.

What Is Cardio?

People who exercise throw around cardio often, but you might not know what it means. Fortunately, it is not a difficult concept to understand. Cardio exercise is anything that raises your heart and breathing rate. It improves the function of your lungs, heart, and circulatory system.

Furthermore, some myths about cardio need clearing up. Firstly, some might think that any exercise that raises your heart rate counts as cardio, but that is not the case. Lifting weights and walking will raise your heart rate above its resting level, but they are not cardio exercises.

Instead, a cardio exercise needs to challenge your heart and lungs. Raising your heart rate slightly is not a challenge, and as a result, walking is not a cardio exercise unless you are severely out of shape.

Another myth about cardio is you need to run, bike, or swim to train your cardiovascular system. While those are the three most common cardio exercises, they are not the only ones. We will look at those three exercises along with a few others in the sections below.

Types of Cardio

Cardio is any exercise that raises your heart rate and puts stress on your heart and lungs. You can implement several types of cardiovascular training to improve your health.

Low-Intensity, Long-Duration

Low-intensity, long-duration workouts are most common for regular people training to improve their health. When doing a low-intensity, long-duration exercise, your heart rate will be between 40% and 60% of its maximum. The exercise is slow and continuous over a long time.


Typically, to achieve results at this intensity, your workout should last at least 40 minutes, but going for an hour is even better. Low-intensity, long-duration cardio training is great for beginners, and it should help with fat loss.

Medium-Intensity, Medium-Duration

Adding intensity means you can decrease the duration to get similar results. So, for a medium-intensity, medium-duration workout, you only need to work out for 20 to 40 minutes.


However, your heart rate will be at around 70% of its maximum rate. At this intensity, you will start to breathe heavily for the first time. However, you will not breathe so heavily that you need to stop.

High-Intensity, Short-Duration

A high-intensity, short-duration workout requires you to push your heart rate to 85% of its maximum. If your heartbeat goes over 85%, your workout is no longer aerobic.


Going any higher will move your workout into an anaerobic zone. You only need to go for 5 to 20 minutes in high-intensity, short-duration workouts.

Anaerobic Interval Training

All three of the workout types above were aerobic options. However, anaerobic interval training can also help your cardiovascular system and burn fat. Anaerobic interval workouts should raise your heart to close its maximum rate.

Cardio and Fat Loss

The biggest myth about cardio is that it burns fat directly. Nothing burns fat directly, but cardio does contribute to fat loss. Instead of burning fat, the cardio exercise burns calories.


Fat loss occurs when you run a calorie deficit. To run a calorie deficit, you need to consume fewer calories in a day than you burn naturally throughout the day, plus the amount you burn through exercise.


Fortunately, cardio exercise is one of the most efficient ways to burn calories, and as a result, it is one of the best ways to shed fat. Harvard Health finds that you can burn over 500 calories in 30 minutes while running at a pace of 8.6 miles per hour.


Unfortunately, that is a quick pace, and most people will be unable to sustain it for 30 minutes. As a result, you will likely shed fewer calories in 30 minutes.


However, you should still shed a significant amount. Additionally, heavier people will burn more calories in 30 minutes than lighter people running at the same pace.


Finally, an added benefit of running and other cardio exercises is that they regulate your appetite hormones. What this means is that even though you burn more calories than you would while sitting on your couch, you do not get as hungry.


As a result, you are more likely to burn more calories than you take in throughout the day.

How Does Cardio Burn Fat?

We touched on this above, but we want to make it clear. Everyone burns calories as they move through their day. Even if you sleep for 24 hours, you will burn calories from your breathing and your organs’ functioning.


Everything you do throughout the day burns calories. However, cardio exercises burn calories faster than any other workout.


Burning more calories than you take in results in a calorie deficit. When you run a calorie deficit, your body turns to other energy stores to sustain itself. As a result, it starts to burn fat from your body.


Fat is a source of stored energy for your body to use when you do not take in enough calories. So, when you do not eat as much as you burn, your body will burn fat.

Best Cardio Workouts for Fat Loss

You can do several cardio workouts to burn fat. Here are a few of the best options.


We have talked about running a lot today and for a good reason. Running is the best cardio workout for burning fat. Running will burn calories at an efficient rate regardless of your pace. It is a good option for people of all fitness levels and it is an easy routine (see also ‘The Ultimate Stretching Routines for Runners‘) to get into.

Additionally, running is a fantastic option because the only equipment you need is a pair of running shoes. As long as you have good shoes, you can run several times a week.


Biking is another good option that you can build into your daily life. While it is not possible for everyone, you can stop driving to work and bike instead. Doing so will burn calories at the start and end of the day.

However, we should note that biking burns calories slower than running. Typically, one hour of biking will burn the same number of calories as you would from 30 minutes of running.


If you do not own a bike and you are worried about the impact of running on your knees, you can give swimming a try. Swimming laps in the pool is a great way to get your heart rate up without doing damage to your knees. If you are not a strong swimmer, you can use the kickboard.


Most people think of boxing as a sport focused on strength, but it requires a lot of cardiovascular fitness. Boxing workouts burn calories at an extremely efficient rate because of their high intensity.

Jumping Rope

Jumping rope isn’t something you will do in a boxing class, but it is something you can do on your own. The best part about jumping rope is you can do it in your backyard or driveway. It might take a little bit to get the hang of it, but once you do, you will burn calories faster than you expect.

Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are another home exercise you can do to burn fat. You can do them at any time and anywhere. Do a few minute-long sets. You will get your heart pumping and calories will start to burn.

Final Thoughts

Burning fat is not easy. It takes a lot of work and discipline. Not everyone wants to put in the work to get an athletic body. However, once you commit to working on your cardiovascular system, you will never want to give it up.

A healthy lifestyle is not something you can commit to for a few days at a time. You need to commit to it every day. However, once you do it for a few weeks, working out will become part of your daily routine.

Once you decide to work out regularly and eat healthy food, you will shed calories and fat. The best way to do this is to track how many calories you consume each day in a log.

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Jason Hughes
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