Traditionally, the general opinion within the fitness industry was, to burn fat you needed to do long steady cardio i.e. running, walking, cycling etc. There was also the theory that in order to 'tone up' you had to do high repetitions of a light weight. Cardio equipment and posters in the gym all showed you your target heart rate zone for fat burning of 60-65% of your theoretical maximum heart rate, and aerobic classes introduced very lightweight dumbbells for added toning.
This approach does work for some people, however, it is not the most effective or efficient way to go about changing your body shape.
Strength training in conjunction with some form of higher intensity cardio is proven to be the best approach for the majority of people.
Interval training on your treadmill, bike or rower can provide some great results and has the added benefit of being time efficient. Starting off with a steady, easy pace and adding a few short, fast or hard intervals will not only help you get fitter, it will get your body working harder and therefore expend more energy during as well as after the training. As you get fitter you can either increase the number of intervals or shorten the time between working and resting.
Beginner example using a treadmill:
- Walk/jog intervals
- Start off at a steady walking pace (slightly faster than your usual walk)
- Every minute, increase the pace to a jog for 15-20 seconds then slow back to your walking pace for another minute
- Continue this for 30 minutes
As you progress, you can start to extend the duration of your jog to 25-30 seconds but retain the 1 minute steady interval. After 30 minutes, you have worked harder than previously but in the same time frame.
As you improve your fitness, you can go longer or harder depending on your personal goals or preferences. Each option will work so do what is best for you and your situation.
If you follow this up with a few strength exercises (using either body weight or gym equipment) in conjunction with a healthy eating plan, you will really start to get that body into gear.
Weight/fat loss is a byproduct of fitness, strength and health. You do not have to be a fanatic but you do have to be consistent. I always say that being fit and healthy allows me to be unhealthy whenever I hve the desire.
Be kind to your body. We were designed to move, and our body thanks us in so many ways when we use it properly.