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Family Sports & Fitness

Fat-burning vs. Cardio: Setting
Your Pace

The high-tech displays on treadmills and other fitness machines give us a choice between workouts. So if you want to burn calories and control your weight, like most people, should you select the “fat-burning” workout or the “cardio” workout?

Most of us would logically choose “fat-burning” mode on our treadmill or elliptical trainers if our goal was to lose weight. While burning calories is an important element of a weight loss plan, you actually burn more calories in a shorter time when you work harder in “cardio” mode.

Mode models:

The fat-burning mode works you at a pace that allows more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles – about 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate. Your body will burn a higher percentage of fat, compared to carbohydrates, at this lower level of exertion. Lower intensity workouts are great for building endurance, but it will take longer to burn 100 calories in this mode.

When you choose the cardio mode – about 70%-90% of your maximum heart rate – you work out at a higher intensity and less oxygen is delivered to your muscles. You will burn a lower percentage of fat and a higher percentage of carbs to give you the energy you need for the burst of activity. A cardio workout also helps strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, lowers blood pressure, and improves cholesterol levels.

Mixing the modes:

An interval workout blends both options, burning calories AND building endurance. If losing weight is your goal, continue to focus on the amount of calories you take in and the number you burn in a workout, not the percentage of body fat you burn during exercise. The sooner you’re done with your cardio work, the sooner you can get to your strength training.

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