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Best Cardio For Weight Loss: 5 Effective Workouts In 2024


Reviewed by Sarah Glinski, RD
best cardio for weight loss
The best cardio exercises for effective weight loss. Photo: ViDI Studio/Shutterstock

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You may have heard that cardio is the best type of exercise for weight loss. We’ve unpacked the top 5 exercises that are the best cardio for weight loss.

We think you’ll be happy to know that the top picks are not only effective but also incredibly versatile. No matter your workout preference, you have lots of great options to choose from.

Because there are so many different cardio exercises, it can feel overwhelming to know what is the best option. This is why we are going to break it down for you here, so you can get the most out of your cardio workouts.

In this article, we break down the best weight-loss exercises for cardiovascular health so you can get the most out of your workouts.

5 Best Cardio Workouts For Weight Loss

Here are five effective cardio workouts for weight loss:

  • Jogging.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training.
  • Incline Treadmill.
  • Stair Climber. 
  • Cycling.

Best Cardio For Weight Loss

Cardiovascular fitness is one of the best ways to not only lose weight but also maintain a healthy lifestyle. Regardless of your fitness level or where you are in your weight loss journey, there’s a cardio exercise for you.

Here are the top cardio exercises for fat loss:


best cardio for weight loss
Jogging is one of the best cardio exercises. Photo: muse studio/Shutterstock

When you think of cardio, running or jogging usually comes to mind. This type of physical activity is a great option because it’s free. Plus, you only need a good pair of running shoes and some upbeat tunes to get started.

Running and jogging are also some of the best cardio for weight loss to use at home. But if you prefer a treadmill, that’s totally fine.

Research[1] shows jogging is an effective exercise for weight loss without a calorie-deficit diet. If you don’t enjoy running, walking is also an effective way to get your steps in and keep your heart healthy.
If you don’t enjoy running, jogging, or walking, many other effective weight-loss exercises exist.

High-Intensity Interval Training, HIIT

If you prefer to get in a high-calorie burning workout while not having to dedicate hours of your day, HIIT workouts are for you. These workouts can be as short as 30 minutes, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s easy.

HIIT workouts vary based on the types of exercises picked, but they usually involve a combination of cardio and bodyweight exercise. One example of a popular HIIT-style workout is called EMOM. This stands for “every minute of the minute”.

With EMOM, you complete a specified number of reps, then use whatever time is left in the minute to rest. EMOM[2] is an effective type of interval training for burning fat.

Research[3] shows that you can burn significantly more calories with high-intensity exercise, even when exercising less than other forms of cardio exercise.

Incline Treadmill

best cardio for weight loss
The 12-3-30 trend may actually work. Photo: Microgen/Shutterstock

The treadmill may easily be the best cardio machine for weight loss.

You may have heard of the current treadmill workout called “12-3-30”. For this workout, you walk at a speed of 3 miles per hour at an incline of 12 for a total of 30 minutes.

While there isn’t much research specifically on this technique, it has gained massive popularity in recent years. While it may sound simple, it’s much harder than expected. Plus, it’s easy to remember and a great way to burn calories while elevating your heart rate.

If you take in the activity guidelines from the American Heart Association[4] (150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity), you can quickly reach this target by doing this workout three to four times a week. Combining this exercise with other forms of physical activity, such as body weight training, is recommended.

Stair Climber

The stair climber is a great cardio choice that activates your glute muscles, aka your butt muscles. While it’s not possible to spot and reduce fat, cardio exercises such as the stair climber machine could help reduce overall body fat, including butt fat.

If you’ve ever used the stair climber machine at your local gym, you know it’s no walk in the park. After 10 minutes at a moderate pace, you can easily find yourself drenched in sweat.

There’s no doubt that the stair climber is a great way to burn calories fast. If you have stairs at your local park, it can be an equally effective cardio workout with the added benefit of getting some Vitamin D on a sunny day.


Cycling is another example of effective cardio for weight loss. A 2018 study[5] showed that cycling more than 1.5 hours per week was associated with lower weight, decreased weight circumference, and lower body fat percentage.

Indoor cycling classes can be a fun option if you want an effective workout workout with great tunes to keep you motivated during the class. If you prefer to workout in the comfort of your own home, stationary bikes, such as the Peloton, are an excellent choice.

Benefits Of Cardio Exercises

Now that we’ve reviewed the best cardio workouts for weight loss, let’s review the benefits of cardio workouts.

Here are some of the best benefits of cardio: 

  • Keep off excess weight: Exercise helps keep you healthy, but studies[6] show better results if you combine cardio exercise with a healthy diet with a calorie deficit. Exercising with walking or running not only helps with losing weight but you develop greater leg endurance.
  • Increase stamina & fitness: Cardio is a great way to stay healthy and fit, especially if you stick to a routine and remain consistent.
  • Mental health: Studies[7] have shown cardio exercise to be associated with decreased stress. It’s also been associated with improving symptoms of certain neurological disorders such as anxiety and depression.
  • Immune system: Engaging in regular physical activity has been linked to an improved immune response to certain infections. Studies[8] show this helps lower the likelihood of getting sick, as well as helping decrease the severity of symptoms of certain viral infections such as COVID-19.
  • Cardiovascular health: Cardio exercise keeps your heart healthy and strong. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute,[9] engaging regularly in moderate to vigorous physical activity strengthens your heart muscle. This helps your body pump blood to your lungs and body, which increases the oxygen levels in your blood.
  • Reduce your health risks: By remaining active and keeping your heart strong, you can reduce the risk of certain health diseases such as coronary artery disease.[10] This is when you have a buildup of plaque inside your coronary arteries, which can cause a blockage of blood flow. If blocked, a clot can form, which could lead to a heart attack.

How Much Cardio Should You Do Each Day For Weight Loss?

Regarding how much cardio you should get each day, the American Heart Association[11] recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week. This is around 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week.

Luckily, you can break it up to fit into your daily routine. For example, you can go for a 15-minute walk in the morning and then a 15-minute walk (or jog) in the evening. The important part is ensuring you’re getting in 30 minutes daily.

For weight loss, your body must be in a calorie deficit. This means you will need to burn more calories than you consume through your diet. How long it takes to lose weight will depend on factors such as your gender, current weight, diet, and exercise routine.

Is Cardio Best For Weight Loss?

While cardio is one of the most effective ways to lose weight, it’s important to consider other factors, such as your diet. Having a healthy, balanced diet can help with your weight loss goals.

Additionally, studies[12] have shown it’s important to include resistance training in addition to cardio to help you maintain and build muscle. It can also help prevent your metabolism from slowing down when you start to lose fat.

This is important because a higher metabolism can lead to more calories burned. Even when you are at rest or not physically active, your body can still burn calories.

Supplements With Cardio For Weight Loss

There’s a lot of unreliable information that points to diet pills as “quick fixes” for weight loss. It’s important to remember that your health is not a single destination point. It ebbs and flows as you grow, and ultimately, it is a journey.

When aiming for weight loss, it can be easy to only see your goal weight. If you’re just starting it out, it may feel very far away. It’s natural to be intrigued with the idea of a quick fix that requires little to no effort.

While supplemental diet pills can be helpful, they should be used in addition to a balanced diet and exercise routine, not as a replacement. You may incorporate weight loss supplements based on your needs and goals.

Many weight loss supplements are fat burners and come as diet pills. However, it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional before taking any of the supplements.

Studies have shown that certain teas are effective appetite suppressants if you don’t like the idea of a diet pill for fat loss. This can be a more natural way to use supplements for weight loss in addition to a cardio exercise routine.


So, what is the best cardio for weight loss?

Some of the best weight-loss cardio exercises include jogging, HIIT workouts, using the stair climber machine, and cycling. Additionally, the treadmill may be the best cardio for weight loss at the gym.

The versatility of cardio exercises makes them easy to implement in your day-to-day life. It’s also important to consider other factors that contribute to weight loss, such as your current diet and daily calorie intake.

Whether you prefer to be in the comfort of your own home or want to be outside or in a gym, cardio offers endless options. You should aim to get around 150 minutes (or 30 minutes per day, five days a week) based on current guidelines by the American Heart Association.[13]

By implementing cardio into your lifestyle, you’ll not only be able to achieve weight loss, but you’ll also reap many other benefits. Some of these benefits include improved mood, increased immunity, and decreased risk of certain diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke.

There’s no doubt that cardio is one of the best ways to not only improve your health but also maintain a healthy lifestyle in a way that can meet your individual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 30 minutes of cardio enough to lose weight?

Following the AHA guidelines,[14] you should aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, five days a week, to lose weight and remain healthy.

Should I do all cardio to lose weight?

Studies have shown combining cardio with resistance training is better to help keep your metabolism higher.

Does 12 30 3 work?

Currently, not enough research has been done on 12-30-3 to see its effectiveness. However, it is a great way to get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous cardio exercise while burning many calories.

Can I skip cardio and just lift weights?

Yes, it depends on your individual goals. If you want to lose weight fast, studies[15] have shown cardio to be more effective than lifting weights.

Where do you lose fat first?

Studies[16] have shown that males tend to lose fat around their stomach area first, while women notice it more around their hips.

+ 16 Sources

EHproject has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We work mostly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure accurate information. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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