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Ideal length of cardio work outs for fat loss

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Hi everyone,

Just wondering what the ideal length of a cardio workout should be for fat loss. At the moment im doing 30minuts on the bike or elliptical trainer and seeing not much results. I am going to start doing 20 on the bike 20 on the elliptical trainer to break things up a bit, but is 40 minutes the ideal time?

Also with my age apparently the ideal heart rate to burn fat is between 129-145 - is this correct?

thanks everyone
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Hey Katherine,

    My trainer said you should try to work up to 1 hour, and I try to break it into 30 minutes of cardio (on the elliptical), then circuit/strength training, then 30 more minutes of cardio.  I will be honest though and say I'm working up to the full hour and usually do 45-50 minutes in all of cardio.  My trainer also said that the whole "ideal heart rate" thing on machines can mess you up in the long run--he said just work as hard as you can and try to get your heart rate up as high as it will go.  I've noticed more results personally since I started doing that (I used to set it to "fat burn," but now I set it to manual and just go with it, and I find I'm able to do more than the fat burn limited me to.)  I'm not an expert by any means, but this is some info that helped me.  Good luck!:)

Hi katherine,

First of all, here's the deal on that "fat burning" cardio zone...forget about it.  You don't want to burn a high PERCENTAGE of fat, you want to burn a high NUMBER OF CALORIES.  It's true that at the lower end of your target heart rate zone, you're burning a *slightly* higher percentage of calories from fat, but two things...1)if you kick up the intensity even though you'll burn a lower *percentage* from fat, you'll burn MORE fat calories because the numbers are higher.  Here's a link with a chart that shows mathematically what I'm talking about. /aa022601a.htm

and 2) calories burned are calories burned, from fat or from carbs, you want to burn calories. So up that intensity (you should be breathing hard but still able to talk) and up those minutes!  For an intensity (and calorie burning) boost I like doing interval training, mixing 1 or 2 minutes of high intensity with a minute of two of recovery.  Shape Magazine has lots of different variations of interval training which will burn more calories than a steady state cardio workout. 

Make sure you're warming up and cooling down, too, it's important for injury prevention and to prepare you mentally for your work out.  I do a 10 minute gradual warm up, stretch my hams and quads, then do 40-45 minutes of cardio, and then a 5 minute cool down.

Also don't forget strength training, it's important for losing fat too.  I had a great trainer back in Chicago and when I decided to get lean and mean, he put me on circuit training for strength training.  Again, 1 or 2 minutes of high intensity cardio, then a set of strength training, usually doing 2 sets of one exercise for each body part.  So cardio followed immediately by chest press, as many as I could do in 30 seconds (so lighter weights than usual), then cardio, a second set of chest, cardio, rows, (repeat) cardio, shoulders, (repeat) cardio, biceps, (repeat) cardio, triceps (repeat).  Again, variations are endless.  Yesterday I did super-sets of 2 or 3 strength training exercises (one exercise followed immediately by another for the same body part, for instance chest press and then flyes) with 5 minutes of cardio between each body part.  I find circuit training too intense for lower body work, but man, when it's upper body day it'll wipe you out!  Very efficient, though, you keep your heart rate elevated and get your strength work in all at the same time.

Lastly, give it time Katherine.  Consistency is the key.  4-5 days a week of 45 minutes, plus strength training 2-3 days a week, week in and week out.  Sometimes it can take a few weeks for your body to gear up to the new demands placed on it. 
Wow, awesome post Tracy! That's exactly what I would have said.
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The best way to promote fat loss is to get your metabolism reved up. And one of the best ways to do this is through Interval Cardio Training, short periods of high intensity sprints followed by moderate intensity jogs. This type of training will keep your metabolism up long after your work out.

Go to this link for a detailed look at Interval Training: 4

I currently use the IBUR method while on the Elliptical Machine.

If you want to use a machine to do the Interval training just make sure you up the resistance during the sprint interval.

If you have questions feel free to ask.

Good luck
I try to do interval training also on the treadmill.  I up the speed for two minutes and recover for 3.  The problem is though that after a while I start to get a headache which leads into a migraine.  Does that mean I am working out too hard???
are you drinking enough water and breathing properly, maria? Maybe your focus on the interval is causing you to lose focus on breathing properly? Just a thought
I do drink a lot of water so dont think that is the problem.  I use to work out first thing in the morning but than the headaches would interfere with my job.  I breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth.  I read in a fitness magazine that was the way to do it years ago.  I just think that maybe I get overheated sometimes with it.  I usually dont get the headaches as bad at when I workout at night though.  Maybe more in my stomach???
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