Why Your Cardiovascular Workouts Might Be A Big Waste Of Your Time!

What if I were to tell you that most if not all of the cardiovascular exercise you do was worthless? Over 50% of the people who perform cardio in an attempt to burn fat are wasting their time. Are you one of them? Find out what you need to do.

What if I were to tell you that most if not all of the cardiovascular exercise you do was worthless? Well, guess what... over 50% of the people who perform cardio in an attempt to burn fat are wasting their time... hours and hours of it! Are you one of them?

Before you call me crazy, let me explain. I'm not saying that cardiovascular exercise can't or doesn't burn fat; it's just that most people are not performing the right type of cardio workouts. Before I get into the details, let me first cover some of the basics.

If You Want To Be Successful You Must Do Two Things:

  1. Know what you're doing (or learn); be knowledgeable
  2. Have a plan (detailed/well thought out)

How Cardio Exercise Affects Your Body

Well, I'm going to make sure that after reading this today you will be able to do both. So let's start with your knowledge. It's critical that you understand how your body works and what happens when you exercise.

The human body is constantly burning a mix of fuels or energy sources: fat and glycogen. Glycogen is energy stored in muscle cells that is primarily used during intense muscle contractions. Some examples of these intense muscle contractions would be strength training, running, hard physical work, etc. So basically, during low to moderate activity levels, your body first uses what's in the blood stream and then uses primarily fat.

When you are highly active you use more glycogen and less fat. You are probably wondering what all this has to do with you and your cardio workouts... right? Well, it matters... a lot!

There are different benefits of different level of activity. Let me explain to you the system use, why I use it, and why it's the most effective.

The Three Levels Of Cardio:

    Level 1: Long easy workout (ex. walking 60 minutes
    Level 2: Moderate intensity / moderate time (ex. fast walk 45 minutes)
    Level 3: Short, hard workout (ex. running 20 minutes)

NOTE: It doesn't matter what activity or piece of equipment you choose. All that matters is that you get to the desired level.

Let's talk about what happens at each of the three levels. When exercising at the Level 1 pace, your body burns more colonies from fat, HOWEVER the total number of calories is small. In order for you to burn a lot of body fat at the easy level you would need to do it for hours at a time! Not too practical is it? This is not to say there aren't benefits because there are...it's just not the best choice when it comes to fat loss. The primary benefit is increased blood flow and circulation, which means you'll feel better, you'll recover more quickly, and you'll be healthier in general.

Ok, let's talk about Level 2 now. At this level you burn more calories but less are from fat. Moderate work will result in a larger increase in metabolism than the easy Level 1 and will last 2-6 hours in most cases. You also get the benefits of increased blood flow but you also have to remember that it's a bit more stressful than Level 1. The main benefit, or I should say possible benefit is increased endurance (cardio/respiratory) IF your workouts are progressive (challenge the body's systems to work harder over time nearly each workout if possible).

Last but not least Level 3. At this level you burn the most calories per unit of time. You also burn less fat during the workout, but the plus side is you deplete muscle glycogen which means you'll be les likely to store "new" fat because any excess calories will be stored in the muscles instead. This typed of workout also results in the largest increase in metabolism, which will generally last 4-24 hours or more. The Level 3 workout is by far the most effective when it comes to fat loss for four reasons.

The Four Reasons For Cardio For Fat Loss:

  1. Burn more calories in less time
  2. Largest increase in metabolism that lasts the longest
  3. Helps to add and maintain muscle tissue
  4. Depletes muscle glycogen which means you're less likely to store new fat

So what's your goal? As you can see there are benefits at each level and how often you perform each workout should be based on your goals. You can get the benefits of all three but you must be cautious in how you structure your program. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

Is Your Goal Fat Loss? If So Try This:

  1. 1-3 Level 3 (10-20 mins)
  2. 1-2 Level 2 (20-30 mins)
  3. 1-2 Level 1 (40-60 mins) - Optional

Is Your Goal Endurance? If So Try This:

  1. 1 Level 3 (10-20 mins)
  2. 2-3 Level 2 (20-40 mins)
  3. 1-2 Level 1 (40-60 mins)

Is Your Goal General Fitness? If So Try This:

  1. 1 Level 3 (10-20 mins)
  2. 1-2 Level 2 (20-30 mins)
  3. 1-2 Level 1 (40-60 mins)

So to recap, you really need to know what your goals are, and what levels you need to be at and how often. Below is a chart that gives you the heart rate zones for all 3 of the workouts based on your age.

NOTE: If you are on blood pressure regulating medication you should first consult with your doctor and reduce the numbers by 10 each. If you are not currently exercising or have not exercised at the different levels before I advise you build up your intensity slowly.

If you would like more information on cardiovascular exercise please give me a call. You reach me at 240-731-3724 or by emailing jesse@achieve-fitness.com.

Heart Rate Based Cardiovascular Exercise Guidelines

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
Intensity Long + easy Long + easy Short + hard
Approx. time 30-60 mins 30-45 mins 10-30 mins
Benefits Increased blood flow and circulation, general health benefits Increased cardio and respiratory endurance Largest increase in metabolism, increased cardio and respiratory output
Heart Rate Zones




Calculate Your Heart Rate (The Easy Way)

There are two different ways to calculate your maximum heart rate and your target heart rates. The method I just explained is the simple method. Read the full article here.

Simple Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the 220 - Age formula.

Enter Your Age - Then press Calculate.
Heart Rate
Heart Rate per minute
(75% - 85% of Max)
Heart Rate
15 sec count

The Karvonnen formula is more advanced since it also takes into account your resting heart rate. This is your heart rate at complete rest. To determine this, take your pulse for 60 seconds just before you get out of bed... or take it for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.

Advanced Target Heart Rate Calculator
Using the Karvonen Formula.

  • For your age, use a whole year. (Between 0 and 100)
  • Put your Resting Heart Rate in the next box. (Between 30 and 100)
  • In the % box, use a number between 50 and 85. Do not include the %.
  • Click on the Calculate button, and it will calculate your target heart rate or that percentage.
Your Age in Years
Resting Heart Rate
% of Maximum Effort
Your Target Heart Rate

About The Author

Jesse Cannone is a certified personal trainer and author of the best-selling fitness ebook, Burn Fat FAST. Be sure to sign up for his free email course as it is full of powerful weight loss and fitness tips that are guaranteed to help you get the results you want. http://www.guaranteed-weightloss.com

Check Out Jesse's Books!
For information on Jesse's A Bride's Guide to Fast Fitness + Weight Loss or Burn Fat FAST! books, click here.