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High or low intensity cardio to burn fat?

Question: I have heard that to burn fat I should work at a low heart rate for a long period of time. Is this true?

Answer: Although working out at a lower intensity will burn a higher percentage of calories from fat, when you work out at a higher intensity for the same amount of time, you burn far more calories.

This means that while higher intensity cardio burns less fat per single calorie, you burn more fat overall because you burn more calories. Total calorie expenditure is what is important for weight loss.

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You are what you eat has become a cliché for good reason. If your goal is to lose weight, start paying attention to what you put in your mouth and try to participate in at least 30 minutes of any cardiovascular activity that gets your heart rate up most of days of the week.

Trainer's Tip: For certain people, in certain situations, low-intensity training is beneficial. If you are new to exercise or overweight, for example, exercising within a lower heart-rate zone lets your body get used to regular activity safely. Or, if you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, your doctor may advise you to work out in a lower heart-rate zone. And if you are an athlete or someone who exercises frequently at an intense level, it is important to schedule "active-recovery" workouts. "Active-recovery" workouts are done within a lower heart-rate zone to allow the body to recover.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Click here to see Q&As from all of our health experts.

The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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