I went to a commercial gym recently and noticed a lot of people are still doing this kind of workout – Walk on the treadmill to warm up, break into a jog or an uphill walk, keep going for 20-40 minutes. Get sweaty, maybe include weight machines or free weights, then go home. Feel good that you have ‘done an hour’ at the gym. I think the main reason why people do this type of exercise is the assumption that the role of exercise is to burn calories, and this will help them lose weight.
The idea that you can burn enough calories through exercise to lose weight is possible, but it’s a highly inefficient way of doing so. So inefficient that it would actually be a waste of time to do these activities for that reason. If you tried to burn enough calories by doing this kind of exercise, you would have to train at a moderate to high intensity for several hours everyday. The calories burnt through exercise is grossly exaggerated, and probably comes from companies selling cardio machines.
Obviously there are other reasons to increase your exercise if you feel like it. There are clearly big psychological benefits / stress relieving benefits to getting out there and doing something. I personally enjoy playing basketball and the feeling it gives me. The point is – I do this for enjoyment, not for calorie burning. This kind of exercise substantially increases your appetite. If you are someone who wants to trim up and lose some fat, don’t worry about having to do more cardio exercises during the week. Do it for fun if you enjoy those activities, but forget the ‘burning calories’ myths that are out there.
The only efficient way to create a calorie deficit is to focus on the quality and amount of food you are eating. This is not easy and takes time / effort. You may have to spend a few minutes a day writing out a food diary, or even weigh / measure your consumption (just for a few days, not forever). You may benefit from skipping the odd breakfast or including a fasting day. Using an app like My Fitness Pal can come in really handy as well. This kind of focus will get better results. More effort on controlling food intake will go a long way. More effort understanding the ratio of macronutrients you will benefit from (the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate) will go even further. But – It is much less hassle doing this relative to burning off calories through the kind of cardio many people feel they need to do.
Training is for strength and fitness, not calorie burning. Here is a useful tip for anyone keen to get better results over the next 10 days. Use all your energy reserves on resistance training, then focus on planning and eating high quality food that gives you slightly less calories than you currently consume. Try it for the next month and you will see results.