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To begin with, one has to state, that this is one of those misconceptions that should be put to rest once and for all. The "fat-burning zone" idea erupted about 15 years ago, when scientists reported that during high-intensity aerobic exercises, the body prefers burning mostly stored carbohydrates for fuel, as opposed to burning stored fat during lower-intensity activity.


Exercise instructors took the gossip without further investigating it and ran, leading the charge for low-intensity "fat-burning" exercise classes. At the end they did not end up very successful. And here is the scientific explanation:


It’s true that the body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat during more smooth exercise routines like walking and non-vigorous cycling. Unfortunately for the fat burning zone myth advocates, when one picks up the pace for a higher-intensity cardio workout, the number of overall calories (which should be the one and main focus in order to achieve weight loss) will be much higher. The following example visualizes the above-mentioned point of view:


A 64 kg woman performs either a fairly easy walk or a high-intensity jog. After 1 hour, she would have burned the following in total calories in general and fat calories in specific:

Busting the Fat-Burning Zone Myth


Moderate Intensity
(60-70% max heart rate)

High Intensity
(70-80% max heart rate)

Total calories burned:



Percentage of fat calories burned:



Total fat calories burned:







As shown in the aforementioned example, one would burn just as much fat and significantly more calories by working out at a higher intensity, than by sticking to the conventional training routine. What’s more, is the fact that high-intensity aerobic exercises shift the metabolism much more into high gear when compared to their low-intensity counterparts.


There is also another important fact namely that the metabolism also stays revved up five times longer after a vigorous workout than after an almost effortless one. Over time, this can add up to burning an additional 100 to more than 200 calories a day.


The catch is that high-intensity aerobic exercises are often difficult to maintain for an extended period of time, especially if the person in question has just started working out. Obviously, if one can walk easily for an hour but can only jog for 5 minutes, then walking will be the better option for the time being. But what many women forget is that exercise doesn’t have to be done all in one dull, rigid and monotonous manner. In fact, for many women, it’s more fun and effective to create a high intensity interval program to avoid boring, repetitive and de-motivating workouts.


The easiest way to infuse intensity into an existing routine is to slip some intervals into the aerobic workouts already done. For example: If the client walks now, then the personal trainer should start t by warming up for 5 to 10 minutes, then try to increase the pace and running (so the breathing becomes heavy, but no signs gasping for breath) for 1 or 2 minutes, then going back to walk for 3 minutes, and so on. After a period of time, the running segments will feel easier, and the client will be a faster walker, too, which increases the amount of calories burned every time exercise is performed.



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