Walking and running are great fat burning exercises. To optimise fat utilisation, we need to incorporate two tempos – long and slow combined with intervals.

Fat burning workout - Women's Health & Fitness

We often bang on about how you can’t defy biology, and the sentiment still holds. The human body is an ingenious feat of engineering more tamper-proof than an iPhone 4S. But you can give nature a gentle nudge towards, say, burning more fat.

The key lies not in resisting your body’s survival-oriented mechanics, or dudding it out of energy, but leveraging and optimising its energy pathways to effect desired results. Body says cling to fat in case of famine, you say kick that flab to the kerb. While one school of thought swears by weights as the best way to burn fat – and there are certainly sound arguments there – not everyone wants to, or is able to, lift.

Enter energy manipulation method two, which employs strategic cardio activity to put your body squarely in fat burning mode.

But is max fat burning found in long sessions or micro bursts? Low or high intensity? While there is all sorts of impressive-sounding science tracking the intricacies of fat oxidation during and after exercise at various intensities, PT Natalie Carter has taken the legwork out of translating the lab work into killer workouts.


1. For the long and slow walk, you need to work at between 50 and 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) for between 45 and 90 minutes (fat oxidation kicks in after 20 minutes). To establish this range, calculate your MHR  by subtracting your age from 220. Multiply the answer by 0.5 and 0.7 respectively to find your lower and upper heart rate targets. For example, a 25-year-old female’s target range is 97.5–136.5bpm (220 – 25, x 0.5 and 0.7).

2. For the run/jog intervals, you need to vary your intensity, between 50 and 70 per cent of your MHR, established above, for your jog interval. Then switch to 85 per cent MHR. A good program dictates working at 50 to 70 per cent MHR for three minutes, then stepping it up to 85 per cent for one minute, to total 30 minutes. If you don’t have access to a heart rate monitor, you can use the PER (perceived exertion rate scale), with which you rate your own intensity level against a scale of six to 20. Using this yardstick, your three-minute jog should be a 10 to 12 and the run, 15 to 17.

Diary tip: Aim for at least three to four times per week of cardio based exercise.

Timing tip: Exercising on an empty stomach has been shown to further increase the body’s fat utilisation, so try performing this workout first thing in the morning.

Gym tip: Try this on the cross trainer or rower to mix up muscle groups and keep your body guessing.

Beginner option: If you are a beginner, you can jog the 85 per cent sections and hill walk the 50–70 per cent, but make sure you can sustain this intensity past the 20 minutes. Your body will soon become an efficient fat burning, fit machine.

Food diary: You can team this with a lower carbohydrate diet, as you will burn a higher proportion of energy as fat. Your body will adjust to the carb restriction but endurance is generally compromised during this phase. For the carbs you do take in, go for wholegrain bread with peanut butter and honey versus lollies.

Want to lose weight? Use our handy online calculator to find out your BMI and ideal weight, then choose a workout plan.

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