What’s the most common question asked by people looking to lose weight? Do you know it? This might surprise you, it’s “what’s the best cardio for weight loss?”
Then again, it might not surprise you at all, since over 30% of all emails I receive are about cardio, and which form they should be doing.
So I thought I’d write a nice long post about the best cardio for weight loss. Or at least my opinion of what the best cardio for weight loss is.
Before we go on we need to clarify what the word “best” means in the context of weight loss. The best cardio for weight loss is going to require the least effort, burn off the most calories in the last amount of time, and is going to be performed easily without much equipment. With those criteria in mind, let’s start discussing different forms of cardio, and then determine what the best one is at the end.
- Running is my absolute favourite form of cardio, so I’m going to have to try really hard not let let my bias interfere with this examination.
Not everyone is like me, and some people might hate it, and it might not be the best cardio for weight loss, so let’s take a look at some facts:
- Calories Burned: It’s really hard to estimate how many calories would be burned by running without knowing the distance ran, the time taken to complete the distance, and the weight of the runner, but I’ll give it a shot. A 220 pound man who ran 5 miles in an hour would burn roughly 830 calories. This is a good amount, a really good amount, but can the other forms of cardio beat it?
- Effort Required: This varies as well. You can obviously run as hard as possible and tire yourself out after no time at all, or you can go at a slower pace and last for hours. For the purpose of weight loss, it takes quite a bit of effort to burn a significant amount of calories by running.
- Ease: Running can be done anywhere. It is one of the most versatile forms of cardio in existence. Run on a treadmill, run to work, run on the beach, run at the park, run on the spot. The opportunities are limitless.
- Cycling is a great form of cardio, and I suspect that despite my bias towards running, cycling might take the title of best cardio for weight loss.
Even if it doesn’t win the title of best cardio for weight loss, cycling is still incredibly fun and a great way to lose weight.
- Calories Burned: Using the same example as with running (220 pounds, an hour of continuous exercise, and medium intensity), cycling will burn around 680 calories an hour.
- Effort Required: Similar to running, you can go as fast or as slow as you want. In my opinion, cycling is far easier than running. I can cycle at a decent pace indefinitely, whereas I can only go for so long when I’m running. I’ve also noticed, especially with overweight individuals, that they can cycle at the equivalent intensity as running for up to twice the time period, effectively doubling the results with the same output.
- Ease: If you have a bike, you can ride nearly anywhere. You don’t have quite as much freedom as a runner, but the differences are negligible in most cases. There’s also stationary bikes, which you can buy and have in your home gym or use at a real gym.
- Swimming and I have a love/hate relationship. I thoroughly enjoy playing around in the water and swimming leisurely, but when it comes to doing laps, I hate it.
I hate swimming with any form or technique, it just feels horribly unnatural and I don’t like doing it. That being said, I’ll acknowledge it’s usefulness as a form of cardio for weight loss.
- Calories Burned: Again, we’ll use the same stats as in the previous two examples (220 pound male doing an hour of continuous medium intensity exercise), and we get around 600 calories burned an hour. I was surprised at this number, I thought for sure it would be higher.
- Effort Required: I don’t know about you, but there’s no way I could swim for 60 minutes, even at a low intensity. While swimming might be a more fun form of cardio, it’s sure to be a much harder task than running or cycling.
- Ease: Unless you own a swimming pool (in the case that you do, invite me around for a swim will ya?) you’re going to have to find somewhere else to do your laps. This can be tricky, because some towns don’t even have a public pool where you can swim laps. There’s always the ocean, but the ocean can be dangerous for beginner swimmers and again, not every city/town has a beach.
What’s the verdict, then? The results are in, and they’re very close, but there can only be one winner. So what’s the best cardio for weight loss? You guessed it! Running! That’s right, running barely scraped by and took out first place. Trailing close behind is cycling, with swimming not far behind.
Running has the advantage of being able to be performed wherever you are, it burns a great deal of calories, and it doesn’t require a lot of effort. For these reasons, I am declaring running the best cardio for weight loss.
Do you disagree? Leave a comment explaining why! I’d love to discuss this further and see if anyone can change my mind.