If you want to lose weight, don’t bother with cardio machines. As I’ve shown in past issues of ETR, long-duration cardio exercise is not only overrated for fat loss, it just plain doesn’t work.
The best way to sculpt your body is to focus on your diet and do a short resistance training and interval training workout three times a week. That doesn’t mean you do nothing the other four days. You need to stay active with what I call “off-day exercise.”
The main goal of off-day activity is to do something enjoyable that keeps your butt off a chair for at least 30 minutes. You don’t want to exercise so hard that you impair recovery from your previous “real” workout or get sore, which could end up ruining your next “real” workout.
Be conservative. When in doubt, do less than you think you should.
Beginners and intermediates could do 30 minutes of light cardio, walking, house/yard work, or a combination of bodyweight exercises (easy ones) and light cardio. Even dancing is fine. Dog walks are good. Do a little exploring! Playing sports would probably be too much.
The heavier you are, the more you should focus on non-weight-bearing activities – like swimming, the elliptical trainer, and the stationary bike – until you lose a significant amount of weight.
Yoga, Pilates, and other methods of “mobility training” are acceptable off-day forms of exercise. Plus, they are highly beneficial for stress reduction.
If you insist on “machine cardio” for your off-day exercise, it’s best to do “cross-training.” That means doing a different exercise with each 30-minute workout or doing 10 minutes each of three different exercises in the same workout. This will help avoid overuse injuries, which is one of the main downfalls of cardio (along with its inefficiency).[Ed. Note: As fitness expert Craig Ballantyne points out, you don’t need to do hard-core exercise every day to see real results. Learn how you can get fit with three 45-minute workouts a week with Craig’s Turbulence Training program right here.]