Helen O’Leary, physiotherapist and clinical director of Complete Pilates, considers training in zone 2 a very good complement to more intense training phases: “Training at a heart rate in zone 2 has the advantage of s ‘adapt to recovery after higher intensity exercise – you put less strain on your musculoskeletal system at this level of training,’ says Helen O’Leary. “The risk of overextending your physical abilities is reduced if you incorporate Zone 2 exercises into more demanding workouts.”
While higher intensity exercises have many benefits, lower intensity workouts have multiple benefits to offer: “This is aerobic rather than anaerobic training. This strengthens the cardiovascular system and improves its efficiency,” continues Helen O’Leary, “and is crucial for metabolic health, i.e. for reducing sedentary lifestyle diseases such as obesity, heart disease and type II diabetes.”
“Training in zone 2 has a large number of advantages: it increases the cardiac output, it lowers the heart rate at rest and it improves its values of VO2 max,” says Mitch Raynsford, strength and conditioning trainer at Game Changer Performance. “Scientifically, this lower intensity also improves the process of mitochondrial growth. You burn fat better during exercise and allow the body to preserve glycogen for later use during the more intense periods of a race.”
Beyond the physical level, low-intensity exercises are also good for morale: “They help reduce stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins, the feel-good hormone,” says Sam Shaw , personal trainer at Lemon Studios, “which allows you to feel a certain pleasure during training”. When swimming or cycling, the impact is also less violent on the body, which consequently reduces stress.”
Is zone 2 cardio good for fat loss?
Absolutely, but only if integrated into a larger fitness and nutrition program. In zone 2, the body mobilizes fat as its main source of fuel, rather than carbohydrates. This means that more of the calories you burn will come from fat stored in your body, which can help slim down your waistline. However, training in zone 2 is not enough, it must be combined with other ranges of exercises: “To obtain a more toned physique, people often tend to start with cardio training in zone 2. It’s great for burning fat, but resistance band exercises are an important addition if you want to achieve a more sculpted physique,” says Legezynski. “The more muscle mass you have, the faster the results of your Zone 2 cardio will be visible.”
“You should know that losing weight and losing fat are not the same thing,” adds Jacqui Ward, personal trainer: “If cardio in zone 2 can help you burn calories and fat, but if you want to lose weight, it is important to create a caloric deficit by combining your training with a suitable diet. Strength training plays a vital role in any weight loss program because it helps build lean muscle mass. This helps you burn more calories at rest. For optimal fat loss results, try to incorporate both cardio exercises and Zone 2 muscle-strengthening exercises into your fitness regimen.