Cardio exercises for weight loss: Is 300 minutes a week enough?

You’ll find cardio exercises in almost everything you do – whether it is walking your dog, doing Zumba or running. Of course, the intensity varies from one activity to another. When it comes to weight loss, high-intensity exercises work wonders. But before you put on your sneakers and go for a run, it is important to know how much cardio you need for weight loss. Overdoing it can lead to various negative consequences.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, cardio, which is also known as aerobic exercise, is an activity that helps you to breathe a little harder. While doing so, it also increases your heart rate.

Health Shots reached out to Delhi-based certified fitness and nutrition coach Abhi Singh Thakur to find out about cardio and weight loss.

Running exercise
Running is a great cardio exercise. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Cardio for weight loss

Is 10 or 30 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week good enough for weight loss? That’s a question that many women with weight loss on the mind ask themselves. Thakur says that the amount of cardio that a woman needs to do for weight loss depends on various factors. such as age, current weight, fitness level and diet. For weight loss, he says, women may need to do cardio potentially at least 300 minutes of cardio exercises per week. They also need to be mindful about now overdoing cardio exercises or it can lead to the following side effects.

• Increase the risk of injury such as stress fractures and muscle strains.
• Lead to burnout and fatigue
• Lead to decreased performance.
• Disrupt the hormonal balance, leading to menstrual irregularities and reduced bone density.
• Cause the body to break down muscle tissue for energy, leading to a decrease in overall muscle mass, which can lower the metabolism and make it harder to lose weight in the long run.

So, it’s crucial to find a balance between cardio exercise, strength training, and recovery to achieve weight loss goals safely and effectively.

How cardio helps with weight loss

Cardiovascular exercise is good for those who wish to get rid of extra fat in their body. Here’s why it’s good for weight loss:

1. Burns calories

Cardio exercise is an effective way to burn calories and create a calorie deficit, which is needed for weight loss. Thakur says that the more calories you burn, the more weight you can lose. So, running, cycling, swimming and rowing are all great for burning calories.

2. Increases metabolism

Cardio exercise can increase your metabolism, which is the rate at which your body burns calories at rest. Regular cardio exercise can increase the number of calories you burn during the day, even when you’re not exercising.

3. Reduces body fat

When women think of weight loss, it’s mostly the abdominal area that they are generally concerned about. The good news is that cardio exercise can reduce body fat, especially in the abdominal area. Fat loss is essential for weight loss because fat is a calorie-dense substance, and losing even a small amount of fat can have a significant impact on overall weight loss, says the expert.

4. Improves insulin sensitivity

Cardio exercise can improve insulin sensitivity, which is the body’s ability to use insulin effectively. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, and when it’s working correctly, it can help the body use glucose (sugar) for energy instead of storing it as fat.

5. Reduces stress

Cardio exercise can help to reduce stress levels, which can contribute to weight gain. Stress can cause the body to release cortisol, a hormone that promotes the storage of fat in the abdominal area.

Effective cardio exercises for weight loss

While running is a great cardio exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime, there are more options. Let’s take a look!

1. Cycling

Cycling is an excellent low-impact cardio exercise that can be done indoors or outdoors. Here’s how to do it:

• Adjust the bike seat height so that your leg is almost fully extended when the pedal is at the bottom.
• Start pedalling at a comfortable pace, gradually increasing your speed and resistance.
• Keep your core engaged, shoulders relaxed, and eyes forward.
If you’re cycling outdoors, wear a helmet and of course, follow traffic laws.

cycling cardio
Cycling is fun and good for weight loss. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

2. Jumping rope

Jumping rope might sound like something that can only be enjoyed by kids. But it is a simple and effective cardio exercise that can be done anywhere.

Here’s how to do it
• Hold the rope handles in each hand, with the rope behind your body.
• Jump over the rope, landing on the balls of your feet and keeping your knees slightly bent.
• Gradually increase your speed and challenge yourself with different jump variations.

3. Dancing

It is a fun and enjoyable cardio exercise that can be done alone or with your partner or friends. There are fun dance workouts too.

Here’s how to do it:
• Choose your favourite type of music and start moving to the beat.
• Incorporate different dance styles and moves to keep it fun and challenging.
• Keep your core engaged, shoulders relaxed, and breathe deeply.

4. Swimming

Swimming is an excellent low-impact cardio exercise that works the entire body, says Thakur.

Here’s how to do it –

• Start by warming up with a few laps of freestyle or another stroke.
• Swim at a comfortable pace, gradually increasing your speed and distance over time.
• Focus on maintaining proper technique and breathing rhythm.

But you should know that weight loss is not just about cardio or any kind of exercise. Your weight-loss journey should also involve a healthy diet and lifestyle.

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