Weight Loss: Burn the Treadmill

You’re being duped folks! Long duration cardio training does not make you lose more fat and weight. If I had a dollar for each time I heard the phrase, “… but I need to do cardio so I can burn fat and lose weight…” I’d be rich. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. I understand where the confusion comes. It’s really not your fault. You’re being hoodwinked by health and wellness companies who put on this persona that they are health experts. They are not. These are simply business savvy folks who misinterpret science and pass garbage on to you. Let me explain.

Graphics like this misguide those seeking weight loss.

Graphics like this misguide those seeking weight loss.

First, the respiratory exchange ratio (RER) says that fat is metabolized greatest when the body is at rest. This is true. However, the aforementioned wellness companies misinterpret this and say that the closer the exercise level is to low intensity, the greater the fat loss. Thus, they try to give you these easy to follow fat burning weight loss guidelines. Have you seen those ridiculous diagrams on cardio machines that say 55%-65% of max heart rate is the “Fat Burning Zone” (see image). We also have trusted magazines like Women’s Health and Fitness that give you a Fat Burning Zone calculator. If you plug data in to the Women’s Health and Fitness calculator you will see that they also recommend you work at approximately 60% max heart rate.  We trust this information and are led to believe that lower intensity, longer duration activity equals weight loss. This is untrue.

The body does burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the fat burning zone, however, at higher intensities (80 or higher), you burn more calories. Net caloric expenditure is what matters for weight loss. So what burns calories? Intensity! Boost intensity, boost caloric burn, and lose weight. Look at the benefits of resistance training versus traditional cardio training:

  • Can burn more calories in less time
  • Ability to work a great number of muscle groups
  • Greater EPOC (Calories burn for 12-24 hours after exercise vs. just 1-4 with traditional cardio)
  • Improves strength
  • Decreases risk of overuse injuries

I’d like to share two journal articles I recently came across. These prove that higher intensities work!  The first is a meta-analysis from the August 2014 British Journal of Sports Medicine, meaning it is critically appraised and at the top of the research food chain in terms of evidence.

Weston, KS, Et al., High-intensity interval training in patients with lifestyle-induced cardiometabolic disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med. 2014;48:1227-1234

This review aimed to evaluate high intensity interval exercise and moderate intensity continuous exercise to see which improved the lifestyle of individuals with chronic cardiorespiratory diseases. In other words, did high intensity interval exercise or moderate intensity exercise better improve the health of those with cardiovascular disease?

The authors found 10 studies that met their inclusion criteria. The quality of the studies was assessed by use of a modified Physiotherapy Evidence Base Database (PEDro) scale. A meta-analysis compared the mean difference between High Intensity Interval Training and Moderate Intensity Cardiovascular Training. The population included had some form of cardiorespiratory disease, such as coronary artery disease, heart failure, hypertension, metabolic syndrome or obesity. The authors looked at how much oxygen consumption (VO2 max) improved between high intensity and moderate intensity groups. The authors concluded that high intensity interval training significantly increases cardiorespiratory fitness by almost double of those who participated in moderate intensity continuous exercise.

The next article comes from NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. This article was published in April 2014.

Thomas JF, Larson KL, Hollander DB, and Kraemer RR. Comparison of two-hand kettlebell exercise and graded treadmill walking: effectiveness as a stimulus for cardiorespiratory fitness. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Apr;28(4):998-1006.

This article is pretty straight forward. It was designed to determine whether kettlebell exercise would produce similar cardiovascular stress to that of walking.  It was hypothesized that a moderate-intensity, continuous kettlebell protocol would produce similar metabolic and cardiorespiratory responses as a brisk bout of graded treadmill walking. The authors found that VO2 max was similar between the two groups. The authors also found that rating of perceived exertion and heart rate was greater during kettlebell exercise.

What is most interesting about this article is that the authors selected moderate intensity kettlebell exercises, such as sumo lifts and double arm swings. The participants also had a 3-minute rest period during the kettlebell exercise. Really? Moderate intensity exercise and a 3-minute rest period provided similar if not better results? Imagine if we did high intensity kettlebell exercise?

I cringe when I walk into a gym and see all the cardio machines in use. These folks are missing the boat if they are trying to lose weight. Do you really want to waste time having some internal competition with the super-fit, lululemon-wearing treadmill nazi who jumps on the machine next and insists on going 1% steeper grade and .1 MPH faster than you? Do you really want to air cycle on the elliptical (which, by the way, has absolutely zero relationship to normal functional movement)? Maybe you can use the recumbent bike, perfect for people who want to exercise while lying down. Heck, it is possible that your only goal is to read 10 chapters of the latest John Sanford novel. If the above is correct, jump on that cardio machine. But if you want to lose weight and get fit, stay off the cardio equipment and get your heart pumping with some resistance training.

If you are struggling with weight loss and need something different to get you over the edge, contact me to discuss options or set-up a free consultation. I offer in person one-on-one training, or virtual training.

2 thoughts on “Weight Loss: Burn the Treadmill

  1. Pingback: 15 Myths and Facts for Runners | Diet Balance

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