Does Cardio Burn Fat? (Is It Good For Weight-Loss)

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Published by Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer
Last updated: March 29, 2024
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As a personal fitness trainer, I often deal with clients who just want to lose some unwanted fat cells or athletes who are going through a targeted cutting phase.

And the question always comes up whether a cardio exercise routine actually works to burn fat effectively. Some people point out that the calorie expenditure might not be high enough.

Others argue that it’s an effective way to achieve a calorie deficit.

So, our team at Total Shape decided to do some more research.

Quick Summary

  • Cardio exercises, particularly when combined with a balanced diet, are effective for burning fat.
  • Various forms of cardio, including HIIT, steady-state cardio, and CrossFit, offer distinct benefits for fat burning and overall fitness.
  • According to Harvard research, a 185-pound person can burn up to 440 calories in 30 minutes on a stationary rowing machine.
  • In my opinion, combining different types of cardio exercises offers the best approach for overall health and effective fat loss.

Is Cardio Good For Burning Fat?

Using a treadmill for cardio

Yes, cardio is good for burning fat and achieving a healthy diet.

However, it’s important to understand that there are different types of aerobic exercise, and they will impact your body and metabolism in different ways.

In my training experience, I've seen how effectively cardio, especially on machines like treadmills and ellipticals, complements a balanced diet for fat burning.

It’s also important to understand that scientific research published in Journal of Applied Physiology indicates that cardio is more effective in getting rid of fat than strength training [1]. What does that mean?

Essentially, you need to up the intensity levels regularly to avoid hitting a plateau or even weight gain.

The more intense you push your cardio sessions, the better the effect will be on fat reserves [2].

Diversifying your cardio routine with various intensities and incorporating strength exercises, along with essential rest days, not only aids in weight loss but also helps in preventing injuries and enhancing overall fitness performance, offering a more balanced approach to your workout regimen.

What Type Of Cardio Burns Fat?

Cardio workouts using stationary machines

According to the International Journal of Obesity, highly intense cardio workout sessions will burn more fatty tissue, and there are a few ways to approach this [3].

Cardio Machines

If you regularly head to the gym, then the easiest thing you can do is to try out a few different cardiovascular exercise machines.

The typical ones you’ll find are:

  • Treadmill
  • Elliptical
  • Rower
  • Stationary bike
  • Stair climber

Now, there is cardio that you do to improve heart health and general endurance. But the cardio you need to do has to be a bit more intense especially if you plan to lose weight in your 30s.

And the last thing you want to do is a leisurely jog on a treadmill for 15 minutes, thinking that this will make a big difference.

Related Articles:

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT burns as many calories as a cardio machine, but it does this in a much shorter time frame [4].

From my own routine, I've found HIIT to be a time-saver, burning calories rapidly, which is ideal for my clients with tight schedules.

A typical HIIT session will combine cardio machines and resistance training, with the idea being that you push your body as hard as possible for 30 seconds and then take a short rest.

The more you push through different heart rates at intervals, the more calories you could burn to lose weight.

Steady-State Cardio

Using a rowing machine for cardio

This is typically a moderate-intensity or low-intensity cardio. For example, you might go for a run and never change your speed.

In my runs, I've noticed steady-state cardio, like a consistent pace jog, is great for beginners or for active recovery days.

One problem with this approach is that people often go for multiple short runs.

This is less likely to help you lose fat as your body will first use glycogen and glucose reserves, according to the Nutrition Reviews [5]. Only when those reserves are gone you will start metabolizing fat.

With just a few short runs, you won’t impact all that fatty stuff as you’ll burn fewer calories.


This is a form of HIIT that involves cardio and weight training to build up muscle mass and burn fat [6].

In my CrossFit sessions, I emphasize strength training not for bulk but for enhancing fat burn, which helps my clients get leaner.

CrossFit provides intensive cardio workouts guided by instructors, ensuring effective and targeted exercise sessions.

Related Article: Is CrossFit Worth It?

How Does It Burn Body Fat?

Pinching body fats on belly

Cardio burns fat by first reducing the available energy stored in blood glucose and then forcing the body to burn more calories from other sources. Through my observations, cardio effectively depletes glucose energy, leading the body to burn more calories, primarily from fat.

Dr. Kellie K. Middleton, physician and orthopedic surgeon, explains that cardio burns fat by increasing your heart rate and respiration rate, causing the body to burn more calories. This increased caloric expenditure leads to fat loss over time.

And the most readily available source when blood glucose drops is fatty tissue in muscles and around the thighs and the belly.

According to Harvard research, a 185-pound person could burn up to 440 calories in 30 minutes on a stationary rowing machine [7].

That’s more than you have in glucose reserves, and when you row at a higher intensity, it will help to lose weight.

Understanding the calorie expenditure of different physical activities, such as how a one-hour walk or swim can burn a specific number of calories, can provide practical guidance for those looking to tailor their cardio routine to their personal weight loss goals.

And to speed up your weight loss journey, you should consider adding a fat burner designed for runners to your daily routine as well.

Is It Essential For Losing Fat?

No, cardio isn’t essential for losing fat, but it’s one of the more efficient ways to achieve consistent weight loss.

From my training experience. I've seen clients make remarkable progress in fat loss by incorporating regular, heart-pumping cardio into their routines.

Regularly pushing your body to a stage where your breathing and heart rate speed up a lot will impact your base metabolic rate.

You’ll certainly also need a healthy diet, but it’s amazing how your body will adapt.

“The increase in metabolic activity from exercise can outlast your workout. In fact, excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) can last for more than a day after you stop exercising, depending on the duration and intensity of your physical activity.”

- Kamal Patel, Editor & Co-Founder of


Is Too Much Cardio Bad for Burning off Fat?

Yes, doing too much cardio can be bad for burning off fat. As you add more strain to muscles, it can reduce metabolic rates making your body less effective at burning calories.

Is Fasted Cardio Better for Burning off Fat?

Fasted cardio can be better for burning off fat mass. However, for most people, it will be better to focus on increasing cardio training intensity to burn calories more effectively.

Does Drumming Burn Calories?

Yes, drumming burns calories, and the intensity of hitting the drum impacts the calorie expenditure. It can burn around 200-450 calories per hour, averaging 252 calories.


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About The Author

Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Kristy June Dayanan, BS, MD is an author with a BS degree from University of the Philippines and an MD from University of Perpetual Help System. Her ability to simplify medical science complexities and dietary supplement jargon for the average reader makes her a valued medical fact checker and reviewer.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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