Conventional Wisdom Vs Fitness Contrarian: Cardio for Weight Loss

Conventional wisdom will tell us that the only way to lose weight and keep it off is with long hard cardio sessions. The longer and harder the cardio for weight loss the better. A minimum of 30 minutes of cardio per day in the higher end of your target zone is recommended but more is considered better.

At Fitness Contrarian we think differently. We believe you should control your weight with your diet and not with long intense cardio sessions. It is true that you will burn a lot of calories doing hard aerobics every day for long periods of time but this will be at the expense of your health. Daily medium to intense long aerobic workouts breaks the body down and leads to burnout, fatigue, injury, a suppressed immune system and extreme hunger. It takes much longer to recover from these harder workouts then people think. It is healthier for you to eat in a low-calorie high-nutritious manner and do cardio to make your heart, body and mind stronger instead of training overly hard to burn as many calories as possible.


We recommend two types of cardio workouts. Short and hard cardio to increase your Vo2max and long and easy cardio to build a nice aerobic base (just enjoying a relaxing workout while burning a few extra calories). With this approach you get the best of both worlds which is maximum aerobic fitness without breaking the body down by overtraining.

Limit your hard aerobic workouts to 20 minutes with a few high intensity intervals twice per week. You can do your long easy aerobic workouts as often as you like as long as you keep them easy because they don’t require any recovery.

There are so many different ways to lose weight or stay thin. The ultimate goal is to do it in a way that is healthy and safe, and can be sustained for the rest of your life. The approach I outlined above can be effective whether you’re a teenager, baby boomer or in your 80’s. It’s a sensible way  to do cardio for weight loss.

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Best – Mike Cola

Fitness Contrarian – Fitness Blog

About Mike Cola

Mike Cola has well over 50,000 hours of hands-on personal training experience. He started his own personal training studio in1989, Mike Cola Fitness, which is located in New York.Connect with Mike @ Google+

6 Responses to “Conventional Wisdom Vs Fitness Contrarian: Cardio for Weight Loss”

  1. Good points Mike. I am a physical therapist and have treated many would be “fat loss runners”.
    Most of the people who I have seen are interested in losing weight and haven’t had any coaching at all and so end up injured in one or more areas.
    Most people can handle a short distance run or sprint. But, as you mention above, pushing the body beyond what its prepared to/has the capacity to do.
    Excellent advice.

  2. My cardio training never lasts longer than 20 to 25 minutes. I love interval training, especially with kettlebells. This really gets my heart pumping and it never gets boring.

    Really make your cardio sessions effective by increasing the intensity. Step outside of your comfort zone and you’ll see some great results!

  3. Another benefit to shorter intense cardio sessions is that you learn to run faster. You can use a 5-K race as an objective to keep things interesting.

  4. @ Bryan, Srdjan and Darren

    I think most people should control their weight with diet and limit the amount of cardio they do to prevent injury and burnout.

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. I tried controlling my weight mainly by diet for 25 years. It did not work very well- it never got me below 200 this way and my highest weight was 255. Once I started to ride my bike everyday, the weight peeled off of me. I did count my calories, but I did find I could lose weight even when I consumed close to 3000 calories. I continue to ride my bike everyday and count calories and find that I maintain my weight of 160 at 6 foot on about 3500 calories a day. My HDL when I mainly tried to control my weight by diet was 20 and now it is 75- clearly this cardio was great for my health. Another thing to be considered is that the low calorie diets that are often necessary to lose weight without exercise will be deficient in many nutrients. A person cannot consume healthy foods such as nuts, seeds and sweet potatoes on a low calorie diet. Therefore it is better to lose weight by exercise, if one eats more healthy foods, instead of more processed foods with the extra calories that exercising affords- I use a lot of my extra calories on nuts and seeds.

  6. @ Dan

    Dan… I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I’m a personal trainer…I own a gym and I’m a big believer in exercise. The combination of exercise and a healthy diet makes the most sense. I just don’t like when people overtraining. It’s not healthy to work out hard for over an hour every day…it’s actually toxic on the body. If you’re biking moderately everyday that sounds great.

    What I consider over training is a person who takes a spin class and then lifts weight for an hour. I see this all the time and it will eventually lead to burnout and injury.

    Keep biking…… Best- Mike