Aerobic exercise is the real secret to losing body fat. Except for the genetically gifted people who appear to have been “born ripped,” it’s extremely difficult – if not impossible – to lose fat losspermanently with diet alone. Dieting without exercising is one of the major reasons for the 95% failure rate of weight loss programs today. The reason is simple: A decrease in calorie intake, if extreme and or prolonged, slows down the metabolism while an increase in activity can actually speed up your metabolism. Eating (and eating often) boosts your metabolic rate. So by doing regular aerobic exercise and eating more often, you get a double boost in metabolic rate! Most people are afraid to increase calories and increase cardio simultaneously because they figure the two will somehow “cancel each other out.” Surprisingly, the opposite is true; they enhance each other.

What types of exercises are considered aerobic?

When I say “aerobics” I’m not talking about dance music, fancy choreography and jumping up and down in the latest trendy classes. By definition, aerobic means “with oxygen.” For fat to be burned, oxygen must be used. For oxygen to be used, the activity must be sustained for a prolonged period. If an activity is intermittent in nature it’s not aerobic – it’s anaerobic or sugar burning.

For the purposes of this program, “aerobics” is any cardiovascular activity that’s rhythmical in nature, involves large muscle groups (namely your legs), and, here’s the kicker – can be sustained continuously for long periods of time (at least 20 – 30 minutes and up to as much as 60 minutes). Walking, jogging, bicycling, stair climbing, rowing, cross-country skiing and elliptical exercise all fit the bill perfectly.

Some people prefer to call it “cardio” instead of “aerobics,” but whatever you call it, you have to do it if you want to burn the fat.

The difference between effective fat burning exercise and recreation

Certain types of exercise are far more effective than others when it comes to measurable “real-world” fat loss. Tennis, golf, basketball, racquetball, house or yard work, or any other intermittent activities or sports are not efficient for fat burning because they are anaerobic. I’m not saying they don’t help at all, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t do them. What I’m saying is that these types of start/stop activities should not be your first choice when your goal is maximal fat loss – they should be considered recreation first and fat burning exercise second.

Short bursts of activity burn primarily carbohydrate for fuel. Fat can only be used for fuel in the presence of oxygen and oxygen is only used in longer duration aerobic activities. The question is; does it matter if you’re burning fat or carbohydrate for fuel? The answer is yes and no. Any increase in your activity level, regardless of whether it burns fat or carbohydrate predominantly, will have some impact on fat loss. However, it’s been my experience that to achieve low body fat levels, you need to burn as many calories from fat as possible by performing longer duration exercise at a moderate to moderately high intensity level.

Choosing the proper type of aerobic exercise will help you burn the most of fat calories and achieve maximum fat burning in the shortest time possible. So let’s talk now about how to design a maximum fat burning aerobic workout.

The myth of the fat-burning zone: “Long duration and low intensity to burn fat”

One myth that has pervaded the fitness world for a long time is that low intensity aerobic exercise burns more body fat than high intensity aerobic exercise. This theory suggests that once your heart rate rises out of the “target fat-burning zone,” you cease to burn fat and you burn mostly carbohydrates. Therefore, the theory goes, the best way to lose fat is low intensity aerobic exercise.

This myth prompted many personal trainers and exercise organizations to promote low intensity aerobic training as the ideal way to lose fat. Their advice: “Exercise at a low intensity for a long duration for fat loss.” Unfortunately, they are dead wrong. If this were true, we could extend the low intensity fat-burning zone theory to it’s logical conclusion and say that sleeping for twelve hours a day is the ultimate fat burner because when you’re sleeping (a very low intensity activity indeed) you’re burning the greatest proportion of fat to carbohydrate. The problem is, because sleeping is so “low in intensity,” it hardly burns any calories! If the intensity of an activity is too low, you don’t burn enough total calories to have any impact on fat loss.

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