Do I have to do cardio to lose weight?


You don't have to do cardio to lose weight but, you should. Diets and Strength Training can help you lose weight. You'll burn calories doing resistance training and if you eat fewer calories on a healthy diet you'll lose weight. The truth is you need to do all three (Healthy Diet, Strength Training and Cardio) for a successful weight loss. If you choose to do one without doing the others, it'll take you three times as long to get to where you want to be. Doing one and not doing the others will make your overall fitness incomplete. Strength training will help you build that lean muscle that will burn more calories that will make you lose body fat, which will make tone. Cardio will improve your cardiovascular endurance that will burn those extra calories, which will help you lose weight. A healthy diet will help you lose fat, prevent diabetes, heart disease, build stronger bones and muscle. So, get with your trainer and get going.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT

No, you do not have to do cardio to lose weight; however, research indicates that exercise – resistance training, cardio, or a combination of each – can greatly enhance your weight loss success. Ultimately, to lose weight the body must be put into a position where it is required to use stored energy (fat) as fuel. To do this, a deficit must be created between the amount of calories consumed from food and the amount of calories burned by the body to power itself and physical activity.

While this deficit can be created by reducing calorie intake from food, research indicates that a combination of a reduced-calorie diet and exercise is superior to dieting only. For example, a review published in the International Journal of Obesity found that compared to dieting alone, the combination of exercise and dieting resulted in both 20% more initial weight lost and greater weight-loss sustained after 1 year.

Therefore, based on the research it is extremely important to consistently incorporate some form of physical activity into your weight loss plan. If the thought of cardio exercise doesn’t appeal to you, then give total body resistance training exercises like the Side Step-up, Balance to Overhead Press with 2-Arms (seen below) a try. Exercises like this one are time-efficient, work multiple muscle groups at once, and help you maintain your muscle tissue while you lose weight – helping you stay defined and toned as a result.

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
It helps, but it’s definitely not the only way.  Even walking every day can help you lose weight.  And don’t forget about those resistance/strength exercises. A pound of muscle uses 75 to 150 cals a day whether you consciously use it or not—so building muscle is key to losing weight from exercise.  The bottom line is, if you’re moving and active, you are well on your way to losing weight.  If yoga, wall sits, or a walk around the block is your preferred activities, keep it up and try to up the intensity every once in a while.
You do not have to do cardio per se.  There are many ways to lose fat without doing cardio.  First off you have to burn more than you take in.  By checking your meal planning to make sure you are not over eating on what you burn is a good start.  Second you can make your weight training like a cardio session without having to do cardio.  Working out at a higher intensity with short rest periods can make it feel just like a cardio session.  Just finding other ways to burn more like taking the stairs at work or parking farther away is just little things you can do to help you burn more.
Not necessarily. For weight loss to occur you simply must expend more calories than you consume. You can choose to achieve this by decreasing your daily caloric intake, increasing your physical activity, or a combination of the two. What is important for successful long-term weight loss is that you set yourself realistic goals and time frames. Trying to mimic the Biggest Loser and lose 20 pounds in a week is not a realistic (or safe) approach. A good starting point is aiming to lose one to two pounds per week or 10% of your initial weight in six months. One pound of body fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. Therefore creating a daily caloric deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories should result in a one to two pound weekly weight loss.

Physical activity is an important part of the weight loss equation. If you are not a fan of cardio, then just choose other activities you enjoy doing. Perhaps you like walking your dogs, or maybe you prefer lifting weights, or participating in an exercise class at your local gym. For weight loss, the goal is to burn more calories than you consume. Sitting less and moving more will help you do exactly that. In addition, choose healthier food options, and pay attention to portion sizes.

To be successful at maintaining your weight loss for life - slow and steady wins the race. You must also commit to making small and gradual lifestyle changes that you can maintain for life. The changes you make along the way of your weight loss journey must become your new lifestyle - permanently. Going back to your old lifestyle will simply result in you regaining the weight you worked so hard to lose.
No, you do not. Weight is lost whenever the body consistently brings in fewer calories than it burns. The simple formula needed to lose a pound of fat is to create a calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. This means that you will need to consumer 3,500 calories less than you burn. To make that goal more manageable, think that you need 500 fewer calories eaten than burned per day. How that deficit is achieved is up to you. You can simply eat 500 calories less a day, but you may get hungry. Or burn 500 extra calories a day. Or you can eat 200 less and burn 300 more. It is generally recommended that you reduce your calories consumed to a comfortable level and that you increase your total daily activity. That activity can come from cardio, weight training, yard work, walking the dog, or simply finding little ways to burn more calories all day long. Simple things like parking farther away, taking the stairs, walking to a co-workers office rather than emailing or using the phone, and standing and pacing in your office rather than sitting at the desk can add up to several hundred extra calories burned over the course of a day.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.