It’s the Holiday Season. Will Spending Extra Time on the Treadmill Help Keep the Weight Off?



Temptation lurks everywhere you turn. Maybe it’s a caramel brulée, or a peppermint late. What about those Christmas cookies, or pound cake?

Better spend an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill or elliptical machine.

Is that enough? Should you also take the 6 AM butt blaster class?

If you weigh 150 lbs and run a 10 minute mile for 60 minutes, you will burn approximately 660 calories.

A pumpkin spice latte is about 430 calories and a scone 500 calories.

Trying to balance your calories with aerobic exercise to manage your weight is not efficient.

Here’s why

Your body adapts to exercise over time. Once it adapts, it becomes more efficient. That means you burns fewer calories for the same activity. In order to burn more calories, you’ll have to add more time or more intensity.

Aerobic exercisers tend to opt for adding more time.

Despite research showing that resistance training is more effective for fat loss, aerobic exercise seems to take priority for most people.

Aerobic exercise has many health benefits (it’s just not efficient for weight loss).

Some benefits of aerobic exercise include:

  • It decreases blood pressure
  • Helps lower cholesterol levels
  • Improves circulation and heart function
  • Helps with insulin sensitivity and balancing blood sugar

Some negative effects of excess aerobic exercise include:

  • Breaks down muscle, which can adversely affect metabolism
  • Stresses the adrenal glands, which can  increase the hormone cortisol, resulting in  increased belly fat (a risk factor for diabetes), as well as lead to fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and a compromised immune system
  • Stimulates hunger so you tend to eat more which negates any weight loss benefits
  • Can lead to using exercise as a reward (i.e. if I spend more time doing this, I can eat more or have a treat)

Strength training should be emphasized for fat loss

One adaptation of resistance training is hypertrophy (building muscle). Muscle burns calories 24 hours a day. The more lean muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, and the more efficient your body becomes at burning fat.

Resistance training shouldn’t be compared to cardiovascular exercise with respect to the number of calories burned in a session.  Strength training is usually performed at a higher intensity, so it burns more carbohydrates and less fat. While this does not appear to be optimal for fat loss, it is the phenomenon EPOC (Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption), where metabolism increases for an extended amount of time and fat is burned during recovery, that makes resistant training more effective for burning fat.

This increase in metabolism causes extra calories to be burned for up to 48 hours after strength training.

The higher the intensity of the strength training session, the longer the metabolism remains elevated, and the more calories (fat) burned during exercise recovery.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a way to train during your cardio sessions that takes advantage of the EPOC phenomenon. HIIT involves performing your preferred cardiovascular exercise for only 15-20 minutes. using a series of short, high intensity bursts and longer low intensity intervals, e.g. 30 seconds sprint followed by 60 seconds walk for 8 sets.

If you are using weights, exercises are done in a “ super-set fashion” or one after another.

If you implement cardio interval training on the days in between your strength training, you will sustain an elevated metabolism for the majority of the week.

The bottom line

Long aerobic sessions are a healthy form of exercise, however, if your primary goal is fat loss, overall weight loss, and longevity, then lengthy cardio sessions are ineffective and possibly counterproductive.

Resistance training and high intensity interval training are the most effective tools for achieving your ideal body.


About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin