This is an extremely difficult question to answer because there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach when it comes to a weight loss program. Every one of us is a unique individual with our own strengths and weaknesses.
The man who has weak knees may not be able to run, but he would have no problem swimming. The lady who is only 10 pounds overweight could start off with high intensity cardio sessions 3 times a week, whereas the obese lady who is 50 pounds overweight will not be able to handle such high intensity training. She’d be better off walking for 30 minutes, twice a day – daily.
Tailoring your cardio to suit your fitness level is crucial to seeing benefits. If you’re obese or overweight to the point that high intensity interval training is too much for you to handle, that’s perfectly fine. You can stick to slow, conventional cardio and still burn fat.
- Intensity and volume
It’s important to note that the higher the intensity of your cardio sessions, the shorter the workout needs to be and the fewer times you need to work out a week.
For example, a man who engages in Tabata protocol, only needs to do it for 4 minutes. Yes, only 4 minutes. Basically, that’s sprinting for 20 seconds followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is done 8 times for a total of 4 minutes.
It may not seem like much, but it’s an excruciatingly difficult workout because of the level of intensity involved. It will put your body in fat burning mode for hours! Here’s the best part – you only need to do it twice or three times a week. It’s that potent.
- Do what you can manage
If you can’t handle such hard workouts, you can always just walk on the treadmill for 45 minutes to an hour daily. You’ll need to do it 5 or 6 times a week, if possible. As you get fitter, you could do 45 minutes in the morning, followed by 45 minutes in the evening.
Because the intensity is low, you’ll need volume in your workout regimen. Ultimately, the goal is to slowly lose the weight and get fitter so that you can take on the more challenging workouts.
Going slow does not mean that you can’t make it challenging. If you’re using a treadmill, set it at an incline. If you’re walking outside, head for the hills. You can even wear ankle weights or carry a backpack with a phone book or some other weight in it to add resistance to your workout and make it more challenging.
At the end of the day, the goal is to make measurable progress in reasonable time. Do not engage in more than 60 minutes of cardio at a time. It’s better to do two 45-minutes sessions spread over the day rather than 1 long 90-minute walk.
Long cardio sessions tax the body and can create injuries, cramps, etc. Training to lose weight is very different from training like an athlete. Most people’s goals are to go from flab to fab… and you can only do that in stages.
Take the slow approach until you can go fast, and by the time you’re fast, you’ll find the determination to go hard… and then you’ll be ready to train like an athlete so that you look like one. Give it time and always remember, “Slow, steady progress is better than fast, daily excuses.” Stay strong.