Most people who exercise are trying to lose weight in one way or another. Most people believe that, if they don't "smash it" or get a real good sweat on, then they are not going to lose any weight or burn any fat. That is strictly speaking not true!
Fat burning can only occur during aerobic activity. Aerobic activity means doing some sort of continuous activity while maintaining a steady and only slightly elevated heart rate. Most people consider cardio or namely; running, cycling, walking or swimming to be the most effective forms of fat burning exercise. Strictly speaking this is not true.
Most people consider weight lifting or resistance exercise to be muscle building. Strictly speaking this is not true either.
The reason this is not true is multifaceted. If you elevate your heat rate too high while you walk, run, swim or cycle then you are still doing cardio but you are not burning fat. If you lift or push light weights with minimal rest and a steady heart rate, you won't build any muscle mass. You will however, burn a lot of fat.
My point is, doing cardio does not mean you are burning fat and lifting weights does not mean you are growing bulging muscles. These are probably the biggest misconception in the world of fitness.
Too many people get hung up on misnomer when discussing or planning an adequate exercise regime to lose weight or get in shape. The most common misconception is the thought that hard heavy cardio means big fat loss!
What is cardio?
Cardio is a misnomer for exercise that burns fat. Cardio or cardiovascular exercise is a activity that is designed to stress the cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) system with the desired outcome being increased or improved function. Most notably measured by blood pressure or heart rate. As your cardiovascular strength improves your heart rate and blood pressure will decrease. Thus making you more healthy.
Strictly speaking cardio has nothing to do with burning fat. However, doing cardiovascular exercise in a manner to improve the cardiovascular system will burn a lot of fat.
How do you get the cardiovascular system to improve and therefore burn fat?
The most effective way to improve cardiovascular function is to exercise in an aerobic zone. Aerobic zone means most of the fuel you are using to perform that exercise is fat. This type of exercise should feel very comfortable and you should not be 'killing yourself' or 'smashing it', remember sweat does not equate to fat burnt.
Your efforts need to be consistent. You should only increase either distance or intensity week on week if you are a beginner. The importance of consistency can be seen here.
For a runner you should be aiming to run in what is called Zone 2! If you are unfamiliar about Zone training see here.
Is that it?
Unfortunately No! You absolutely must reduce your calorific intake of fats if you want this fat loss and cardiovascular improvement to be sustained. This does not mean a diet that curbs calories or puts you into calorific deficit which will cause ketosis.
The ONLY diet which has been scientifically proven to improve cardiovascular function is a plant based or vegan diet. That's right! A high carb diet is the best way to moderate your weight while staying healthy. Sure there are thousands of diets which will help you lose weight fast but you can also be sure your health will decline fast too.
Run far, run fast but most of all RunSensible!