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Cardio for Weight Loss: Why it Isn’t Enough

You’re missing one key component in the process

Date February 19, 2021
Author Patrick Wong
Tags Fitness
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Now, don’t get us wrong.

Working up a sweat on a stationary bike or treadmill is far from a bad thing. In fact, you’ll reap a host of benefits from consistent steady-state cardio. You’ll likely shed some fat, improve your endurance, and have better mental health, too.

However, will a routine of solely indoor biking classes and hours on the elliptical be enough to get you stronger or achieve the aesthetic results of exercise many of us crave? Probably not.

The Myth About Cardio for Weight Loss

Let’s face it: Many, if not most, of us would likely say that a big reason we work out is to make our bodies look a certain way or improve “problem areas.” We may say things like we want to “lose weight” or “get rid of my love handles.” All of this is to say that we want to make our bodies look different and improve body composition. And there’s nothing wrong with that! We all have different goals for what we want our bodies to be.

However, for most people, simply doing hours of relentless cardio probably won’t get you there.

You’ll torch calories and you’ll build endurance from spinning, but one key thing that you’re not doing is building strength.

You’ll torch calories and you’ll build endurance from spinning (and any aerobic exercise, really), but one key thing that you’re not doing is building strength. Most cardio doesn't target all of your muscle groups and it isn't a total body workout.

Sure, upping the resistance on your bike will test your legs. Peddling faster on the elliptical will feel like a serious burn. But will you build meaningful muscle mass or power or push your upper body? Likely not.

To have a more well-rounded picture of your fitness, you should incorporate strength training and mobility work, particularly if you are relying on stationary biking and other steady state aerobics as your main mode of exercise.

Incorporating strength training means you’ll…

This is why cardio for weight loss isn’t enough. Plain and simple, it can’t accomplish things that strength training can — things that are vital for shedding body fat.

Still not convinced? Think about this: Strength training is so important to those who rely on indoor bikes that even elite cyclists make sure to incorporate cross-training into their regimens.

Yes! Pro cyclists who compete on their bikes for a living still do strength training.

“High level cyclists incorporate strength training to improve their cycling watts, times and to prevent some of the common aches and pains (low back, neck, etc.) that come from high-volume cycling.” Dr Joel French, Tempo’s Head of Exercise Science said.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with your stationary bike. However, there is more that you can do to better serve your body.

How to Add Strength Training to Your Cardio for Weight Loss

If you’re new to strength training, the recommendation here isn’t to go out and start pumping as much iron as possible, but to slowly (and smartly) incorporate it into your fitness routine to make more of a total body workout.

Instead of biking six days a week, swap a bike ride out for a high-intensity interval workout or a strength training class, or shorten a ride and add on a session of mobility work. You have options!

“For the typical person, 30 minutes of cycling will burn about the same number of calories and pounds of fat as a good Tempo HIIT workout,” Dr. French explained.

Strength training can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before, so Tempo provides members access to a total gym experience with several beginner programs and classes to onboard weightlifting newbies with just as much content to challenge experienced lifters.

And while strength training is important for any athlete, it becomes especially important for older athletes who may find that they’re losing or finding it hard to maintain muscle mass.

The Bottom Line

There is absolutely nothing wrong with sticking with your stationary bike. However, there is more that you can do to better serve your body.

If you’re light on equipment, bodyweight exercises are still a great way to get some strength training in — and whether you have equipment or not, Tempo has you covered with a library of muscle-popping bodyweight exercises, and a suite of competition grade equipment to get you (literally) pumped up for your upcoming rides.

Author Patrick Wong
Tags Fitness
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