When most people do “cardio” they’re doing cardio for calories. As in, they are doing it to burn calories, typically to lose weight.
Normally it’s a slang term for cardiovascular exercise, but really I think that it’s just about calories.
We’ve simplified the term into this overarching concept for getting our sweat on, checking our smart watch to see if we’re done, and feeling like we’ve burned off that desert from last night.
Sadly, this process is usually only done on 3 specific machines. You know, the ones found in the “cardio area” of any commercial gym. Yup, the Treadmill, Elliptical and Bike.
For this article I want to focus on the idea of burning calories and what else could be a better option for our “cardio” workout.
To keep things simple, calories are units of energy. We measure them in how much energy our food gives us and in how much energy our body uses in exercise. If your goal is to lose weight then you want to have a net loss of calories. Meaning, you want to use more calories than you consume. Calories out > calories in.
So how to do we burn calories? Exercise! But duh, you already knew that.
But I’m talking about exercise in general, not just the classic forms listed above. In the classic versions of treadmill, elliptical the method is simple: you hop on the machine and the longer you go the more calories you burn.
However, what if that’s not the only way? What if there were better options for burning calories and what you may consider “cardio”?
Here are a few ways to get a new perspective on “cardio for calories”:
You may have already heard this one with the popularity of HIIT workout programs. The simple concept is that by increasing your intensity during the workout you will have a sustained calorie burning effect long after the workout is over. The result can be a greater net calories burned when compared to just long duration cardio.
Instead of more time, consider more muscles. Muscles are the body’s “engine” that uses fuel during exercise. If you’re using more muscles in your workout then the demand is higher on your cardiovascular system and in turn you will use more fuel. Sorry, I mean burn more calories. So instead of riding a bike for an hour that only uses your lower body in a limited range of motion, try a circuit with many muscle groups and minimal rest periods. And no, burpees aren’t your only option here.
Yup, you heard me, lift weights. Remember, I’m talking about “cardio” in the simple term of burning calories. Over time, lifting weights is going to help you build muscle. Again, muscle is the bodies engine, so think of it like a truck vs car. The larger engine in a truck burns a lot more fuel than the smaller engine of a car. Now you don’t need to be a body builder and be built like a truck, but an extra 1-5 kilos of muscle on your entire body will help you burn more calories at all times. Emphasis on at all times. When we have more muscle mass we are burning more calories in all activities, not just workouts. So climbing the stairs, carrying your groceries, playing with your kids, and even sleeping, you will burn more calories than someone with less muscle mass.
I hope these examples have helped you look at the concept of burning calories a little differently. If you’re doing cardio for calories, then know that you have other options. These options can create allow for more variety, reduce boredom and also allow you to be more efficient with your workouts.
So the next time you’re going to the gym to do your cardio for calories, consider these words and try something new. When you’re done, let me know your experience in the comments below.