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8 Best Cardio Workouts for Efficient Weight Loss

8 Best Cardio Workouts for Efficient Weight Loss

When people think of cardio, usually a boring treadmill, elliptical machine, or other mundane activity comes to mind. But that doesn’t have to be the case.

When you’re short on time or easily distracted, there are a variety of fat-burning cardio alternatives that will increase your body’s metabolism, boost weight loss, and keep you interested.

Here’s a list of different types of cardio workouts:

  • Steady State (Burns less fat, but isn’t as demanding on the body)
  • Interval Training (Burns more fat)
  • HIIT
  • Spinning
  • Stairs
  • Weight Training (Supersets) short rest periods
  • Weight Training (Compound Sets) short rest periods
  • Machine Circuit Training

And I’m going to talk about each of them in detail:

1. Steady State

Steady state cardio involves working at a low to moderate intensity — around 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, for a sustained period of time. This type of cardio doesn’t burn a huge number of calories, but it does burn a high percentage of fat tissue for fuel, and it isn’t too draining.

An example of steady state cardio would be a long outdoor walk at a moderate pace. Interval training, on the other hand, is much more intense.

2. Interval Training

Similar to HIIT but with exercises that are slightly longer in duration, interval training alternates levels of intensity. For example, if you enjoy running, you would run or sprint for 30 seconds, then bring down your heart rate and walk for two minutes.

Pick two intensities per interval, usually one at 85 percent of your maximum heart rate and the other at 60 percent, and alternate between them. I find that 85% for 30 seconds and 60% for one minute, not only burns more calories but increases my energy level as well.

Another example would be jumping rope. Jump rope for two minutes, rest for one minute. Begin again, this time jumping rope for one minute and resting for one minute. On the third and final round, jump rope for 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds. Repeat five sets of this routine.

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3. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

Have a busy schedule? Fifteen minutes a few times a week is all you need. HIIT is an extremely popular workout because it can be done quickly, burn calories in a short amount of time, and can even be done in your home or during a lunch break at work. And the best part – You don’t need any equipment.

With the use of your body weight, HIIT is typically 20 seconds of high intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of active rest which means your heart rate remains elevated for the entire 15-minute workout.

Check out this HIIT routine by Fitness Blender: 15 Minute HIIT Workout

4. Spinning

Spinning is a great way to get your heart up and keep it up in a 45-minute spin class. Our thighs and back are our largest muscles so they work the hardest.

To get the most out of spinning, try to stay out of the saddle throughout an entire spin class. That way, you are forced to hold up your body weight which burns more calories and increases intensity.

It’s also great for stabilizing and building strong core muscles, versus cycling outdoors, where most of the time you are sitting in the saddle and going for distance (steady-state cardio).

5. Stairs

One of my favorite places to get out of the gym for cardio and trim fat from my thighs and butt is the Santa Monica Stairs, near California’s most popular beach. Climbing 170 steps a few times builds the glutes, leans the thighs, strengthens the calves, and builds endurance.

So, if the gym is not your scene and you love the outdoors, climbing stairs is a great alternative. Find a place with multiple steps, do six or seven rounds, and you’ve easily burned around 600 calories.

6. Supersets

A superset is two exercises that work opposing muscle groups, such as biceps and triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings, or different body parts such as the lower and upper body with little to no recovery between sets.

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The superset may include two to five sets of 8 to 15 repetitions of each exercise or more.[1]

So, if you love to workout with weight-training but aren’t really feeling cardio, supersets with no more than 30-second rest periods between exercises will keep your heart rate up. Not only will you build muscle, you will burn fat!

For example, say you are doing a leg workout, five sets of exercises with high reps and low weight is all it takes to turn your weight-training into a cardio workout.

Here’s one of my leg training workouts:

i. Dumbbell Step-Ups on a secure bench or box (4×15, each leg)

ii. Front Squat (4×15)

iii. Wide Stance Dumbbell Goblet (4×15)

iv. Leg Extension (4×15)

v. Leg Curl (4×15)

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    Photo Credit: Shape Magazine

    vi. Front Squat


      Photo Credit: Stack

      vii. Wide Stance Dumbbell Goblet Squat

      viii. Leg Extension

      ix. Leg Curl

        Photo Credit: T Nation

        7. Compound Sets

        Compound exercises are exercises that recruit muscles in the entire body, such as pull-ups, squats, bench press, etc. However, a compound set simply means to “compound” the number of different exercises into a series of sets with little or no recovery between, similar to supersets.

          This may be accomplished by performing four to five exercises for the same muscle group, opposing muscle groups or total body exercises performed in succession such as full body extensions, followed by squat/cleans and complete the compound set of compound exercises with lunges with biceps curls.

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          Compound sets put stress on the body and are great for expending additional calories while strength-training.

          8. Machine Weight Training Circuit

          Like compound exercises, a machine circuit workout targets the entire body, upper body, lower body, or core. The difference is, with the use of machines instead of free weights, muscle strength is increased by by making your muscles work against weight.[2] By limiting rest periods between exercises to 30 seconds, your metabolism will go into over-drive!

          Machines also give you better control over the exercises, which decreases risk of injury.

          Here’s a machine circuit training example: Muscle and Strength Machine Workout

          The Bottom Line

          The above-mentioned workouts should be completed within 30 minutes, unless you’re taking a class which is typically 45 to 60 minutes, giving you time to get on with the rest of your day.

          By keeping your rest periods to a minimum between exercises, your heart rate will stay elevated and you will burn more calories, get lean, and have more energy.

          Don’t be a gym rat, spending unnecessary time doing lengthy workouts that give you minimum results. For efficient weight loss, perform these workouts three times a week and watch the fat melt away while achieving your fitness goals.

          More Resources About Weight Loss

          Featured photo credit: Spencer Dahl via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Mountain Life Fitness: Super sets, compound sets and giant sets
          [2] Better Health Channel: Resistance training – health benefits

          More by this author

          Terri West

          Certified Fitness Trainer & Nutrition Specialist

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          Last Updated on May 21, 2020

          The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

          The Top Fad Diets That Are Actually Worth the Hype

          You have probably seen enough fad diets to last a lifetime. Many have become popular overnight and left just as quickly.

          Some fad diets, though, have actually passed the test of time and are making some headway in the nutritional world.

          Outlined below are four fad diets that are actually beneficial for your health and wellness. Read on to find out why you should consider adopting one (or more) of these healthy eating styles today.

          An important concept you should keep in mind is to disregard the term “diet” as it is typically used. The word diet implies the idea of restriction and removal. Instead, think of the word diet in this context as a healthy eating lifestyle.

          Let’s take a look at some of these healthy eating lifestyles that have been categorized, by no fault of their own, as fad diets.

          1. The Paleo Diet

          The paleo diet, or ancestral eating, is simply eating the way your paleolithic ancestors would have up to 10,000 years ago, or when the agriculture age began.

          The advantage now is you don’t have to do this in a loin cloth, unless you want to… The focus of this diet is proteins, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds and some healthy fats.

          In the paleo diet, there aren’t any grains, starchy carbohydrates, sugars, or dairy.

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          How Your Health Can Change With Paleo

          The paleo diet is a good way to keep your blood sugar under control. It can also have a positive effect on type 2 diabetes, and can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.

          With this healthy eating lifestyle, people have also achieved good weight loss results and boast improved energy levels. [1]

          It’s not just what’s in the paleo diet that’s important, it’s what’s NOT in it. There aren’t any processed and manufactured foods, junk foods, artificial ingredients or chemical additives.

          Paleo is a way of eating that gets you more in tune with your body and, therefore, can provide a lot of benefits.

          2. Whole30

          The Whole30 diet is relatively new and owes its popularity to social media and the #Whole30 Instagram hashtag that allowed people to share and broadcast their success with the diet.

          With Whole30 you are taking 30 days and focusing on nutritious whole foods such as meats, nuts and seeds, seafood, eggs, vegetables, and fruits.

          During the month you are eliminating:

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          • sugar
          • alcohol
          • legumes
          • grains
          • dairy
          • soy

          Whole30 is similar to paleo, but it goes a bit further eliminating sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup.

          At the end of the 30 days, you strategically reintroduce those eliminated foods back into your diet to discover any possibility of health consequences from them or even potential food allergies.

          Finding Out How Food Impacts You

          Most people eat the same things so often and may not realize that certain foods are causing health consequences, as they’ve become accustomed to feeling lethargic and run down.

          With Whole30 you get the chance to see how these foods may have a negative impact on your body. You’ll also reset your taste buds, which may have become desensitized from processed and artificial “foods” and excess salt.

          This diet will help you regain your love of food… in a healthy way!

          3. The Mediterranean Diet

          The Mediterranean diet has been at the top of the list as a very effective diet for some time now.

          For people in countries like Italy or Greece, this has simply been a normal way of life–along with higher activity levels, sunlight exposure, proximity to water, and lower stress.

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          With the Mediterranean diet, the focus is on heart-healthy foods. It looks like this:

          • Fruits & vegetables
          • Whole grains
          • Legumes & nuts
          • Replacing butter with olive oil
          • Using herbs and spices instead of salt
          • Eating fish and poultry at least twice a week
          • Moderate amounts of red wine

          Help Your Heart & Overall Health With A Mediterranean Diet

          Information from the Mayo Clinic shows that this diet reduces heart disease and lowers your “bad” LDL cholesterol. Studies involving 1.5 million people demonstrated that the Mediterranean diet was associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality, along with overall mortality. [2]

          With all these benefits, this is definitely a “fad diet” that’s worth the hype.

          4. The Alkaline Diet

          The alkaline diet is about changing the foods you eat so that you put your body into an alkaline state and out of an acidic state. When your body is too far on the acidic side it can result in a condition called acidosis. This can lead to issues in your body such as upset stomach, breathing difficulties, headaches, weakness and, fatigue. In extreme cases, it can result in shock, coma, or death.

          The goal is to get your body in a more alkaline state, which results in overall better health. The focus is on including alkaline boosting foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, and legumes. You’re also wanting to reduce acidic foods such as low quality beef and poultry, dairy, eggs, grains, and alcohol.

          Pros & Cons With The Alkaline Diet

          The benefits that come from this way of eating is that reduction in inferior quality foods, processed items and alcohol. You may feel improved energy levels, mental clarity and even better joint health.

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          People also report weight loss but again this may come from the reduction in calories from junk and processed foods but this is not a bad thing at all.

          One con with this diet is that the pH value of the food you eat might not have an impact on blood pH, as your body is able to balance this pretty well on a day-to-day basis.

          Follow These Fads for Better Health and Wellness

          There can be a danger in categorizing things as a fad diet because fads come and go. People are always looking for the next big thing or a quick fix.

          The four examples above buck that status quo. These diets, though mainstream, actually can give you benefits and aren’t going to go away anytime soon because they work.

          What makes these diets special is that they boast real whole foods and the eliminate processed and manufactured junk.

          The Big Takeaway:

          Whatever way you choose to eat, the focus needs to be on whole unprocessed foods. Look for the cleanest, local and most natural things you can find for the benefit of your overall health and wellness. Your body and mind will thank you.

          Featured photo credit: Dan Gold via unsplash.com

          Reference

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