What's the best exercise for burning fat?
You may read books or magazine articles touting the 'best' workout or exercise for burning fat but, the truth is, any exercise that gets you into your target heart rate zone can help you burn calories and lose fat. The best exercise is the one you enjoy. When you enjoy what you're doing, you'll do it more often and work harder at it. The key to making exercise work for you is to focus on:
Intensity: How hard you work is important for losing fat. The harder you work, the more calories you'll burn and that is ultimately how you burn more fat. That doesn't mean you have to kill yourself during every workout, but working at a variety of intensities throughout the week, rather than staying at the same pace every time, can help you maximize your fat burning. Interval training once or twice a week is a great choice for mixing up the pace, burning more calories and building endurance.
Duration: How long you exercise is also important for burning calories. The longer you exercise, the more calories you can burn but, again, that doesn't mean every workout has to last for an hour or more. Your intensity will often determine how long you exercise so, for example, if you're doing high intensity interval training, your workout will be shorter while moderate intensity workouts allow you enough energy to workout for longer periods of time.
Should I work in the 'fat burning zone' to burn more fat?
While it's true that exercising at a lower intensity (usually 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) does use more fat to fuel your body, it doesn't necessarily mean you're burning more fat. It's much more important to focus on overall calorie expenditure if you want to lose fat. Following a balanced program of cardio, strength training and a healthy diet will help you create the calorie deficit you need to lose fat.
How can I burn fat with cardio exercise?
Cardio is one of the best ways to burn more calories in one fell swoop, making it an essential ingredient if your goal is to lose fat. How many calories you burn depends on the activity, how hard you work and your fitness level, among other things.
As mentioned above, there isn't one cardio exercise that helps you burn more fat, but some activities do get your heart rate up faster than others. One way to maximize your calorie burn is to choose:
- Exercises with impact - Impact exercises, like walking or aerobics will usually get your heart rate up faster than no-impact exercises such as swimming or cycling.
- High impact exercise: High impact exercises like running, jumping rope or jumping jacks also get your heart rate up faster than lower impact. For example, a 150-lb person can burn about 170 calories walking at 4 mph for 30 minutes, or 272 calories running at 5 mph for the same period of time.
- Whole body exercise: Using both the upper and lower body, as in cross-country skiing, will often get the heart rate up quickly, allowing you to burn more calories in a shorter period of time.
Calorie-Burning Cardio Workout Ideas
- High Intensity Aerobic Interval Workout (HIIT)
- High Intensity Medley Workout (HIIT)
- Interval Training for Beginners
- Low Impact Cardio Blast
How can I burn fat with strength training?
While cardio often burns more calories than strength training, lifting weights is also important for burning fat. Weight Training Guide Paul Rogers states in his article, Burning Fat With Weight Training, "Weight training, performed within an appropriate program, will build muscle, use some fat as an energy source during the weight training, and also burn some fat in the period after weight training when your metabolism is increased, perhaps for several hours."
Some ways to maximize your fat burning:
- Choose Compound Movements - Movements that involve more than one muscle group (e.g., squats, lunges, deadlifts and tricep dips) help you lift more weight and burn more calories while training the body in a functional way.
- Lift Heavy Weights - If you're a beginner, you should work your way up to heavy weights over time. Once your body is ready for more, lifting heavy forces your body to adapt by building more lean muscle tissue to handle that extra load.
- Try Circuit Training - Circuit training is a great way to burn more calories by combining high intensity cardio along with strength training exercises. You keep your heart rate elevated by moving from one exercise to another with little or no rest, while focusing on both cardio and strength in the same workout.
Calorie-Burning Strength Workout Ideas
- Basic Cardio/Strength Circuit
- Cardio and Strength Circuit
- Fat Burning Circuit Workout
- Outdoor Circuit
More Advice for Burning Fat