Sorry, but I’m afraid the answer to this is no. Over the last few years, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on low-level, slow, steady-state aerobic exercise for health and weight loss. Exercise programmes have been devised for people to work in their ‘fat-burning zone’ for optimal weight loss, and low-intensity aerobic training has become very popular for this reason.
The truth is that the ‘fat-burning zone’ exercise is like the Emperor’s new clothes. For most of us, the idea of a magical exercise level that sheds fat with little effort simply doesn’t exist, and training at low-level heart rates to try to keep yourself in your ‘fat-burning zone’ is unlikely to get you the results you want.
While it is true that we use fat as our main source of fuel when doing low-intensity exercise, the fact remains overdosing on tardio machines’ and avoiding weight training, often for fear of developing too much muscle.
Research has proven that for the best results in weight loss, as well as general health improvement, aerobic training is most effective when combined with resistance training. Remember, it is muscle that burns fat. So, if we can maintain or improve our muscle, we will be burning more fat, 24 hours a day. Not only that, but when we have greater variety in what we do, there’s a far better chance that we’ll keep doing it.
One of the first principles you learn about when studying exercise science is that of overload. Just as with resistance training, the cardiovascular system improves by being stimulated with an overload. It then reacts to this by becoming stronger and more efficient. To maintain these changes, we need to keep progression in our exercise.
Without progression, we stop getting results, and often lose motivation and interest. An example of this is going to a weekly exercise class such as aerobics. Many people start classes and get good results, but find that over time they stop seeing improvements in their body. It is not uncommon to find many people who have been going to the same class for months, even years, who are still overweight.
This is because one of the problems with steady-state aerobic work is that the only way to progress is to just go on longer and longer. This can lead to injuries and overtraining (where performance starts to suffer from doing too much), although more often than not, the problem is boredom and lack of motivation.
Even the most hardened of elite athletes will sometimes find it hard to find the motivation to go out and train, so it is no surprise that the thought of an hour on the treadmill at the local gym four or five times a week doesn’t exactly sound either fun or exciting!