Blog Weight Loss Cardio Versus Fat Burning: Is There Really a Difference?

Cardio Versus Fat Burning: Is There Really a Difference?

Every time you think about embarking on a fitness journey, there’s usually a sea of information to navigate. For most people who are looking to lose weight, cardio and fat-burning workouts emerge as primary contenders. 

The quest for the most effective method to shed those pesky pounds raises questions and sparks debate. Whether you’re able to do so with a cardio routine or a fat-burning workout depends on a myriad of factors. At the crux of it lies the concept of caloric deficit, which we’ve explained in previous articles. 

In simple terms, whether you’re utilizing cardio or fat-burn exercises, the basic requirement of the body for weight loss is to use more calories than you consume. When the requirement of caloric deficit is met, the next step of selecting your route to weight loss will become clearer.

To make your life easier, we’ve compiled all the information to get you started. Let’s delve into the nuances of cardio vs fat-burning exercise, explore the science behind each of them, and decipher their role in achieving weight loss goals.

What is the Best Way to Lose Fat Weight: Cardio or Fat-Burning?

One of the biggest debates in the world of fitness pits cardio workouts against fat-burning workouts. What is the difference between the two? 

Cardiovascular exercises, or cardio for short, engage large muscle groups and are typically sustained for a longer period of time than strength exercises. They promote heart health, calorie burning, and fat burning. This means that cardiovascular exercise and fat-burning exercise are the same thing! 

Let’s take a more detailed view at the different styles of exercise you can utilize to lose fat and how each of them works. 


The main purpose of cardio workouts is to increase the heart rate and it is considered an aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise stimulates burning calories during and post-exercise by pulling from our fat stores for fuel. You can indulge in longer durations of cardio workouts to increase the amount of calories burned from fat. 

Commonly referred to as cardio, this workout format constitutes a dynamic category of exercises that are designed to enhance the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. These workouts encompass a range of activities that are designed to challenge the heart and lungs, which promotes better oxygen circulation throughout the body. 

Let’s understand the key aspects of cardio workouts, their benefits, and the variety of exercises that fall into this category. A more comprehensive view is essential for anyone who’s aiming to improve their overall health and fitness.

See also
How To Slim Thighs: Top Exercises To Give Your Thighs A Better Shape

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What Are Cardio Workouts?

  • At their core, cardio workouts involve repetitive activities that engage large muscle groups and significantly increase your heart rate. 
  • The primary goal is to improve cardiovascular system efficiency, fostering better circulation, and enhancing the body’s ability to transport and utilize oxygen, which results in stored fat being used as fuel. 
  • Characterized by their rhythmic and continuous nature, cardio exercises are distinct from strength training or resistance exercises. 
  • During cardio workouts, you breathe deeper and faster, thereby maximizing the oxygen in your blood. When this happens, there’s an increase in blood flow to the lungs and the heart.

Cardio or aerobic exercises depend on energy creation through increased breathing and oxygen intake. 

What Is the Importance of Cardio Workouts? 

While many swear by the usefulness of cardio, there are many body functions that these workouts help with, including: 

1. Heart Health

   – Cardio exercises strengthen the heart, which makes it more efficient in pumping blood.

   – Regular cardio reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes. (13)

2. Weight Management

   – As the breathing involved in cardio workouts is greater, this form of exercise contributes to higher calorie expenditure directly from stored fat, which helps with weight loss or weight maintenance.

3. Improved Lung Function

   – Due to the nature of the exercises, cardio enhances lung capacity and improves the body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen.

   – It reduces the feeling of breathlessness during physical activities. (8)

4. Boosting the Immune System

   – In addition to improving heart and lung health, these exercises also activate the immune system, which makes you less susceptible to colds or the flu. 

5. Mental Health Benefits

   – It is also argued that cardiovascular exercises stimulate the release of endorphins, which promotes a positive mood.

   – This form of exercise can also help reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. (9)

cardio versus fat burning  

Types of Cardio Exercises

1. Running and Jogging

   – This can be adapted to various fitness levels, from beginners to advanced runners.

2. Cycling

   – Cycling is a low-impact and accessible aerobic exercise, which makes it suitable for those with joint concerns.

   – Outdoor cycling or stationary biking offers versatility and different degrees of intensity, depending on your fitness levels.

See also
Weight Loss Workout Plan At Home: How To Get Fit From The Comfort Of Your Home

3. Swimming

   – Indulging in swimming can provide you with a full-body workout that is gentle on the joints.

   – It also enhances cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

4. Jump Rope

    – Inexpensive, portable, and easily accessible, jumping rope provides an effective cardiovascular workout.

   – It also improves coordination, balance, and agility.

If you’re looking for fun cardio workouts that break the monotony, you can opt for boxing, dancing, hiking, jumping on a trampoline, hula-hooping, or rowing. (4)

Read more: Cardio Calisthenics: Why & How To Combine These Two Forms Of Exercise

How Often and How Long Should You Indulge in Cardio Workouts? 

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week, spread throughout the week. (11)

While cardio exercises are ultimately excellent for your health, you should keep the following in mind: 

Gradual Progression

   – Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration to avoid overexertion.

   – Listen to your body and adjust the intensity based on your fitness level.

Incorporating Variety:

   – Incorporate a variety of cardio exercises to engage different muscle groups to prevent monotony and reduce the risk of overuse injuries.

Now, let’s take a look at another type of exercise that focuses on creating a caloric deficit by burning glycogen, or glucose. 


Glucose-burning exercises, which are also known as anaerobic exercises, represent a category of specially designed workouts that target and reduce stored glucose, which is known as glycogen, that is stored in the muscles. They contribute to weight loss and are incredibly effective for shaping and toning the body. 

Understanding the key aspects, benefits, and examples of anaerobic exercises is essential for those who are looking to optimize their fitness routines. Let’s take a closer look at what these exercises entail. 

What Are Glucose-Burning Exercises?

  • Anaerobic exercises, often synonymous with high-intensity and resistance training, focus on depleting the body’s glucose stores. 
  • Unlike cardio, which emphasizes overall calorie burn, these exercises aim to directly utilize stored glucose as a source of energy. 
  • Also known as anaerobic exercise, this format of workout is solely reliant on glucose for fuel as it operates without oxygen.
  • Glucose, which is readily available in muscles, serves for quick bursts of movement.

During intense aerobic exercise, glucose becomes the primary fuel through glycolysis when oxygen supply is temporarily limited. (14

  • Glycolysis, which occurs without oxygen, produces quick energy but also results in the formation of lactic acid, which causes muscle fatigue. Therefore, it can only be done in spurts and not continuously. 
  • Regular engagement in anaerobic exercise enhances the body’s ability to tolerate and eliminate lactic acid effectively.
  • Improved tolerance to lactic acid means delayed onset of fatigue during high-intensity workouts.
  • Building anaerobic capacity contributes to increased stamina and reduced exhaustion during vigorous exercise.
  • They typically involve both cardiovascular and strength components, which creates a potent combination for effective fat loss as the main importance in both fat-burning and glucose-burning exercise is the overall calorie deficit it creates.
See also
Hot Yoga: Calories Burned, Pros, Cons and Frequently Asked Questions

cardio versus fat burning  

What Is the Importance of Anaerobic Exercises? 

1. Toning 

   – These exercises focus on specific muscle groups, which creates an environment for increased muscle strength and size in an area. They are used for targeting areas such as the abdomen, thighs, and arms for a sculpted appearance. (10)

2. Metabolic Boost

   – High-intensity and resistance training elevate metabolic rate. The body continues burning calories post-exercise, which contributes to fat loss. (5)

3. Increases Bone Strength and Density

– As with resistance training, anaerobic activity can increase the strength and density of your bones. This can also decrease the risk of osteoporosis. 

– As a result, your joints are also well protected (14

Examples of Anaerobic Exercises

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This involves alternating between short bursts of intense activity and rest periods. It is effective for burning calories and improving cardiovascular health.

Resistance Training

 For this, you need to utilize weights or resistance bands and this helps build muscle and burn fat. It includes compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts that engage multiple muscle groups.

Circuit Training

This workout involves sequentially performing a series of exercises with minimal rest. It elevates the heart rate while incorporating strength elements.

How Often and How Long Should You Indulge in Anaerobic Strength Exercises? 

As with strength training, anaerobic exercises can be integrated into a workout routine 3 to 5 times per week. Sessions typically range from 30 to 60 minutes and focus on maintaining intensity throughout the workout. (13)

Despite their ability to decrease body fat percentage, you should consider the following guidelines. 

Maintaining Proper Form

   – Emphasize proper form to prevent injuries and maximize effectiveness.

   – Seek guidance from fitness professionals for correct technique.

Progressive Overload

   – Gradually increase the intensity and resistance to promote ongoing fat loss and muscle development.

See also
How Many Calories Should I Burn A Day?

   – Avoid plateauing by incorporating new exercises and challenges.

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 Is Cardio a Good Fat Burner?

Cardio is renowned for calorie torching, so it’s a potent fat burner. It promotes a negative energy balance, which forces the body to tap into fat stores for fuel. However, the efficiency of any cardio workout varies among individuals, emphasizing the need for personalized workout plans.

To understand whether cardio is a good fat-burning exercise for you, it’s important to understand the science behind this form of exercise and the impact it has on the body’s energy metabolism.

During cardio, elevated heart rate prompts the body to expend energy. This fuel is primarily drawn from fat, but also some carbohydrates. This fat oxidation process intensifies with prolonged, moderate-intensity activities. The benefits extend beyond the workout, as high-intensity cardio induces an afterburn effect, which promotes additional fat-burning during the post-exercise period. (1)

Genetic factors also play a role in the effectiveness of cardio as a fat burner, which influences different metabolic responses among different individuals.

  • Targeting Abdominal Fat: Studies have highlighted the efficacy of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, a component of cardio fat-burning exercises, in reducing abdominal fat—a significant contributor to overall body fat loss. (6)
  • Holistic approach: Whether you’re engaging in the best cardio to burn belly fat or incorporating cardio fat burning at home, a holistic approach that includes diverse workouts and dietary mindfulness will enhance the potential for achieving and maintaining a healthy body composition.

Here are some cardio fat-burning exercises that can be beneficial for your workout routine (3): 

     – Running or brisk walking

     – Cycling at varying intensities

     – High-intensity interval training (HIIT)

     – Engaging in group classes for motivation

You can also try cardio to burn fat by using the treadmill. 

cardio versus fat burning  

Is Cardio Better than Diet for Fat Loss?

No exercise is better if it isn’t properly combined with a change in your diet. A balanced diet while undertaking cardio is paramount for success. We’ve all heard the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”, and this underscores the importance of this relationship. 

When you combine a good nutrition plan with regular exercise, you will see results. The key points of this synergy include: 

  • A well-balanced diet ensures adequate nutrient intake, preserves lean muscle mass, and complements the caloric burn from cardio.
  • A rounded diet also increases the ability to preserve lean muscle mass.
  • Hydration is another important aspect of weight loss, and must be taken seriously for the body to function properly
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Calories Burned Playing Golf: Driving Calorie Burns to Meet Your Weight Loss Par

It’s not a matter of cardio versus diet, it’s about recognizing their collective power in forging a path toward a healthier and leaner physique.  

What Burns Fat More than Cardio?

To maximize fat burning, integrating low-intensity cardio with resistance training and high-intensity workouts will prove more beneficial than doing them individually. These exercises are often overlooked and elevate the metabolism, ensuring continued calorie-burning post-workout.

Effective fat-burning strategies include: 

  • Strength training with weights or body weight
  • Circuit training
  • Incorporating compound exercises
  • Implementing interval training for variety

The holistic way of approaching fat burning includes: 

  • Engaging in diverse workout routines
  • Exploring various exercise modalities, i.e.variations of the exercises you’re doing
  • Incorporating activities such as wall Pilates for overall strength

Is Too Much Cardio Bad for Fat Loss?

While it’s always advisable to do some form of cardio regularly, it’s also important to understand where to stop. Excessive cardio can potentially impede fat loss, which can lead to muscle loss and increased stress on the body. Striking a balance is essential and you should include adequate recovery periods to prevent burnout. (12)

So, how can you balance cardio to observe optimal results? The following hacks can provide improved results. 

  1. Incorporating rest days
  2. Monitoring the intensity and duration of your workouts
  3. Listening to your body’s signals and slowing down when necessary
  4. Considering low-impact cardio options such as walking or Pilates (2)

Read more: Low-Impact Cardio Workout Plans for Beginners and Seniors at Home or the Gym

cardio versus fat burning  


  • What happens if you only lift weights and do no cardio?

When you lift weights and incorporate no form of cardio, the benefits are immediately restricted, particularly when it comes to cardiovascular benefits. We’ve explained the science behind these workouts and how they improve blood circulation, heart and lung health, and overall body function. 

In addition, favoring weight training without cardio can potentially slow the fat loss process, which creates stagnation in your weight loss journey (7). As well as integrating both forms of workout, a balanced diet, proper hydration, and sufficient rest are required to achieve weight loss.

  • What is the laziest way to burn fat?

If you’re someone who’s looking for the best lazy routine to burn fat, you should consider the following workouts: 

  • Low-impact cardio workouts such as Pilates, cardio calisthenics, swimming, consistent walking, or light cycling.
  • Incorporating daily activities for calorie expenditure such as desk exercises or in-bed exercises. 
  • Smart snacking such as opting for nutritious snacks like fruits, vegetables, or nuts to satisfy your hunger. 
  • Reduce and manage stress by indulging in activities such as meditation or deep breathing, as stress hormones can contribute to weight gain.
  • How can you burn 1,000 calories a day?

If you’re looking to burn 1,000 calories in a day, you need to make a specialized routine that includes a variety of workouts and nutrition changes. 

Some of the best strategies include: 

  1. High-Intensity Cardio Workouts: Engage in vigorous cardio such as running, cycling, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Aim for at least 60-90 minutes of intense cardio, which will burn approximately 600-800 calories per hour. (14)
  2. Strength Training: Incorporate weight lifting or resistance training to build muscle, as muscles contribute to calorie burning, even when you’re at rest.
  3. Daily Activities: Increase non-exercise everyday physical activity, such as taking the stairs or walking briskly. 
  4. Balanced Diet: Consume a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet as this is essential to support energy levels. Focus on lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and remove processed foods and refined carbs for optimal results. 

Consistency: Ultimately, you should aim for consistency in both exercise and dietary habits to see the difference you’re looking for. Try to break down the 1,000 calories into manageable increments throughout the day to avoid excessive strain.

The Bottom Line

In the quest for weight loss, understanding the harmony between cardio and fat-burning workouts is essential. Both are one and the same, and the most effective approach involves a personalized combination that is tailored to individual preferences and fitness levels. Striking a balance between cardio, strength training exercises, and a wholesome diet will create a sustainable path toward achieving fitness goals.

As you embark on your fitness journey, you should consider exploring Wall Pilates by BetterMe, a holistic approach to wellness that complements both cardio and strength exercises. It’s important to remember that the key lies in finding an approach that is in alignment with your goals and feels sustainable for the long term.


This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. 5 Workouts That Give You the Afterburn Effect (2016,
  2. 6 Low-Impact Cardio Exercises That Won’t Hurt Your Joints (2022,
  3. 20 cardio exercises to do at home with minimal equipment (2023,
  4. A List of 14 Types of Cardio Exercises to Get You Moving (2019,
  5. Anaerobic metabolism induces greater total energy expenditure (2018,
  6. Benefits of different intensity of aerobic exercise (2017,
  7. Cardio vs. Weight Lifting: Which Is Better for Weight Loss? (2017,
  8. Exercise and Lung Health (n.d.,
  9. Exercise for Mental Health (2006,
  10. High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise and Fat Loss (2010,
  11. Trending Topic | Physical Activity Guidelines (n.d., 
  12. Too Much HIIT? Know the Risks of Excessive High-Intensity Exercise (2021,
  13. What’s the Difference Between Aerobic and Anaerobic? (2018,
  14. What You Need to Know About Anaerobic Exercise (2019,
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