Beginner Cardio – Everything you need to know to lose weight

Knowing how to burn belly fat, thighs and butt seems to be a major concern if we believe everything on the Internet.

In fact, there hasn't been anything new under the sun for centuries, since the main culprit of weight gain is calorie surplus.

This excess food can be fought in 2 ways:

  1. Swallow fewer calories to create a calorie deficit;
  2. Do exercise to burn calories additional.

And it is precisely on point 2 that a cardio-training session is interesting. It can help you lose weight faster, but also improve your health and fitness.

This article is intended for beginners as well as untrained practitioners. This is why we are talking here about beginner cardio. Because you have to start somewhere, and preferably gently...

Cardio training and weight loss

If it is obvious that nutrition plays a key role in losing or gaining weight, the regular practice of cardiovascular activity will be a formidable ally!

The problem is that to burn fat, many people think you need to run for at least 45 minutes at a moderate pace. This myth actually comes from physiological analyzes of the use of energy substrates or macronutrients. 

Indeed, we see that during the first minutes of a cardio activity, it is the muscle glycogen that is mainly used, in other words the glucose reserve in the muscles. Then, as the minutes go by, the lipids take over. 

Depending on the level of the athlete, their start is more or less long, it is said that they have an important part after 30 min for a good athlete, and 45 min for someone more sedentary. 

As a result, people think that you have to exercise for at least 45 minutes to burn fat, but this is not the case. In reality, it all depends on how you do your session.

How to burn fat faster?

beginner cardio
Beginner cardio – It takes more to lose weight

If you haven't exercised for a long time, it's normal to try to improve your breath and endurance with quiet cardio. And it's true that you may have to eat a few tedious sessions at first.

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But I insist, the goal of this phase is not really to burn fat. It is rather the fitness or the preparation that will allow you to hit harder afterwards. As Johnny would have said, it's just to light the fire.

But for someone who has the physical capacity to do more, the interest of quiet cardio is almost nil.

Some people even complain of belly fat while jogging several times a week. A peak!

In fact, this type of activity not burning enough calories, and especially the metabolism does nothing after the session, apart from restocking glycogen and fat.

It will therefore be necessary to take the next step to obtain real results. And it all boils down to one acronym: HIIT.

Add HIIT to really lose weight

The best way to optimize the elimination of fat is to alternate intense phases with moments of recovery. It's not really a question of resting, but of reducing the intensity of the exercise for a few seconds before putting the package back on.

This is called split training or high intensity interval training. It is the famous HIIT , from its acronym in English (High-Intensity Interval Training).

This way of proceeding, so as not to go into physiological details, is quite simply to optimize the stimulation of hormones called catecholamines.

With this technique, your metabolism continues to burn calories for 48 to 72 hours after the session. It thus becomes a real body fat destroying machine.

How to lose weight with exercise

Just because you want to lose weight doesn't mean you have to do anything and take risks. Here are some rules to follow to be successful:

  • Be regular, but not crazy. Do leisurely cardio 3 times a week at first to prepare your body for future efforts. The chosen sport is not as important as regularity. The important thing is that your heart rate is increased during the effort and that you sweat a little. You need to stay aerobically, that is, be able to talk during exercise.
  • Take the time to warm up gently for 5 to 10 minutes. In general, this warm-up will be longer in winter than in summer. 
  • After 2 or 3 weeks of leisurely cardio at 30 to 45 minutes per session, begin to look for intensity. Add bursts of 20 to 30 seconds from time to time. If you have a elliptical or other such equipment, program it to add an effort phase every minute or more.
  • Adapt them recovery time based on your current abilities. If after an effort phase, you have trouble catching your breath, increase the duration of the rest phases.
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Your goal should be to gradually intersperse intense phases with slow recovery phrases. Accelerate, recover, accelerate, recover...

Adapt the duration, number of sets and recovery times to your level. At the beginning of your tests, you may only be able to accelerate 10 seconds every 3 minutes. But little by little, your intense phases will be longer and longer, until you represent 2/3 of your session, or even more.

Now I invite you to try this method of cardio interval training. That's how cardio will really make you lose weight.


How to follow your heart rate?

If you have a newer elliptical or other cardio machine, it may have a heart rate monitor. 

Otherwise, equip yourself with a connected fitness watch.

How do I know what my maximum heart rate is?

For healthy people, this frequency is calculated by subtracting their age from 220 for a man and 226 for a woman.

For example, if you're a 40-year-old man, that's 220 – 40 = 180 beats per minute. For a woman, it will be 226 – 40 = 186.

So if the HR max percentage for an exercise is 50 % (HRmax 50 %), that means a 40-year-old man will be around 90 heartbeats per minute, and a woman around 93 heartbeats.

Hope this is clear to you...

Cardio session to lose weight at medium intensity

Of course, this is just one sample cardio program that you can put in place when you have accustomed your body to the effort. I insist on this point, do not attack this type of program if you are not already used to do some cardio quiet (HRmax 50 %) for several weeks.

The type of exercise and the equipment used do not matter, since the most important thing is the heart rate. You must therefore follow it using the equipment that I mentioned in the previous part.


DurationPhaseIntensity (% of HRmax)
5 minutesWarming up50 %
4 minutesGradual acceleration60 %
30 secondsInterval70 %
1 minuteRecovery60 %
30 secondsInterval80 %
1 minuteRecovery60 %
30 secondsInterval80 %
1 minuteRecovery60 %
30 secondsInterval80 %
1 minuteRecovery60 %
30 secondsInterval80 %
1 minuteRecovery60 %
30 secondsInterval80 %
3 minutesRecovery60 %
5 minutesReturn to calm50 %

This session will not exceed 25 minutes in total, including the warm-up.

As you progress, increase the duration of intense intervals and reduce recovery time. For example, alternate 45 seconds intense with 45 seconds of recovery, or 1 minute intense with 30 seconds of recovery.

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Finally, I think you will have understood the principle…

Conclusion on beginner cardio

As you can now understand, cardio is great for losing weight if you do it right.

Walking for hours on a treadmill or doing an elliptical without effort won't get you far in terms of weight loss. It's a good starting point if you don't have the physical condition, but it will take gradually move on to get real results.

As soon as you pass the beginner cardio phase, move on to a interval training at high intensity to destock your fat as quickly as possible.

And don't forget that your diet plays the main role in your success. If you don't have it yet, try my weight loss program. You will be surprised at the results!

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