Best Type of Cardio to Lose Weight

By: Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN

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Energy Expenditure (Calorie Burn) in Various Activities

As you can see from the above chart, running burns more calories than other activities, at the same intensity. There are two main reasons for this.

First, running is weight bearing which means that the muscles of your lower body must work harder to support you and propel you forward; thus, expending more calories. Therefore, the heavier you are, the more calories you will burn (assuming equal intensity as someone who is lighter).

Second, running is one of the least efficient of human movements, which means that it produces a lot of heat/energy expenditure for its movement. This also means that a lot of calories are being spent. This is great for those who want to lose weight but not so great for those looking for efficient modes of movement.

But it makes sense if you think about it. Cycling is easier than running, right? That’s because cycling is one of the most mechanically efficient human movements, meaning that more of the energy you put into the movement actually results in movement (and not as much heat production) as running!


But What If Running is Not Your Thing?

If running is not your cup of tea for whatever reason (joint pain, don’t enjoy it, etc…) then your best bet for burning maximum calories and getting a terrific cardiovascular training effect is rowing and/or cross-country skiing. The reasons for these 2 choices have already described. However, there is another great option if you don’t mind the weight-bearing activities – the stair climber!

In my experience working with over 1000 people from all walks of life I’ve seen first hand what works most effectively. The science only backs up my observations.

For instance, an eye-opening study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that among 6 popular indoor exercise machines, treadmill running yielded the greatest energy expenditure (ie. calories burned). The second most effective in this study was the stair climber. These 2 machines ranked higher than rowing, cycling, and the elliptical.

I like the stair climber because it forces your body to work against gravity vertically. I’d like you to remember this very important notion. Are you ready? Ok, here it is…

Any time you move your body vertically you will be spending a tremendous amount of energy, especially if you are heavier.

That’s why walking or running up hill is so challenging. Even in cycling, the most efficient hill “climbers” weigh the least.

For many of my clients who have not been able to run, rowing has been the first choice when it comes to their cardio. I encourage you to do the same.

My second choice, cross-country skiing, is obviously not available in its purest form to the majority of exercisers. However, there are a numerous types of elliptical machines that try to mimic to cross-country skiing movement. The biggest challenge facing elliptical users is that they don’t know how to properly use the machine.

I am always amazed at how many people (especially women) who spend hours upon hours on the elliptical simply going through the motion without much effort (and perhaps while even reading a magazine!). Maybe this describes your workouts?

The fact that the elliptical is a very simple machine to use presents a catch 22 scenario. On one hand, it is definitely beneficial for those with joint issues who can’t tolerate high impact activities like running. But on the other hand, the nature of the movement makes the elliptical almost too easy, rendering it a very ineffective for fat loss tool for many people.


You crank up the resistance!

The key to effective elliptical usage boils down to eliminating the machine’s momentum by getting your muscles to do more of the work. The only way to do that on the elliptical is to increase the resistance to a point that your arms are required to work just as hard as your legs to create the movement. Otherwise, forget about it!

It is for this simple reason that I developed the Elliptical Workouts for iPod/MP3 players. I wanted to provide people just like the opportunity to have the proper coaching and workout structure that would maximize their results in less than 30 minutes on the elliptical.

If you don’t have them already I would highly recommend getting both volumes so that you can experience the pleasure of my motivating coaching over your headphones while benefiting from the best 30 minute cardio workout of your life – guaranteed!


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