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I have read over and over again that you can't target specific areas to lose fat in. Also we know that if we burn more calories than we consume, we lose weight. My question is then: Does it make a difference how you burn the calories? Many "get 6-pack abs" sites talk about the need for cardio. But if I burn 200 calories running or 200 calories walking, don't I burn the same amount of fat?

If so, does it somehow burn "differently"? If not, from a pure weight and fat-loss standpoint, is there any benefit to cardio?

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2 Answers 2

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It does burn 'differently' in that your heart rate is one of the best ways to figure out precisely what is being burned when you burn a calorie. This page has a good basic explanation about the fat-burning basics, while this page has more details about each cardio zone. Basically, if you are doing moderate intensity workouts, you are burning the maximum amount of fat per calorie you burn. After the 'red line' threshold, you will start burning pure sugar, which isn't especially helpful when your goal is eliminating weight.

When you're just starting out, the chief goal of your cardio workout should be to get to the aerobic training zone and stay there as long as you can. That is where you will burn fat most efficiently, and it's a moderate pace so you will be able to keep it up long enough to do a number of other awesome exercise related things - get a nice endorphin buzz, build some confidence that yes, you can in fact do this, get sweaty without killing yourself, and all around have some fun with it. This is something that a lot of people can miss when they're starting to think about exercise - at the end of the day, this is recreation. If you don't look forward to your workouts, it's time to ask questions and try other exercises until you find something you enjoy.

When you get more comfortable and want more of a challenge, you can push yourself into spurts in the higher zones to help build your endurance. You are burning more calories in the higher zones, so you still might burn more fat calories in the same time even though it's not as efficient (first page points that out too).

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There are many benefits to Cardio; some of which are:

  • Strengthens the heart so it doesn't need to work as hard to pump blood
  • Increases lung capacity

http://exercise.about.com/cs/cardioworkouts/a/cardio101.htm

I like to think of it this way: Resistance training strengthens your arms, legs, etc. and Cardio strengthens your heart; which is really more important if you think about it.

If you have a low calorie diet without any exercise you will likely loose muscle mass due to your body burning protien (muscle) as well as fat. If you do at least some moderate exercise it will keep your body from feeding off muscles (which may include the heart!)

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