Is your cardio routine doing more harm than good?

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Before you start wasting hours upon hours on those monotonous treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines, consider whether low-moderate intensity, extended duration cardio exercise is actually beneficial to your body or a waste of time. I hope that after reading this post, you would agree that there is a better approach to be in terrific condition that does not involve spending endless hours on dull cardio machines.

It is typical for fitness professionals and medical specialists to recommend low to moderate intensity aerobic training (cardio) to those attempting to prevent heart disease or lose weight. Most of the time, the advice is something along the lines of “do 30-60 minutes of steady-pace cardio 3-5 times a week while keeping your heart rate at a modest level.” Before you succumb to popular opinion and become the “hamster on the wheel” doing long hours of dull cardio, examine some new scientific study that suggests that steady pace endurance cardio practise may not be all that it’s built up to be.

To begin, understand that our bodies are intended to undertake physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery, or stop-and-go movement, rather than steady state movement. According to recent studies, physical variety is one of the most significant factors to consider when training. This propensity may be observed throughout nature, since all creatures exhibit stop-and-go movements rather than steady state motion. Humans are the only creatures in nature that try “endurance” type physical activity.

With the exception of endurance running or cycling, most competitive sports are likewise built on stop-and-go action or short bursts of exertion followed by recovery. Consider the physiques of marathoners against sprinters to see how they differ in terms of the benefits of endurance or steady state training versus stop-and-go training. Most sprinters have an extremely thin, muscular, and powerful appearing physique, but the average dedicated marathoner is more typically malnourished and sickly looking. Which of the two do you most resemble?

Another thing to consider when it comes to the benefits of physical variation is the internal effect of various sorts of exercise on our bodies. Excessive steady-state endurance exercise (different for everyone, but sometimes defined as more than 60 minutes per session most days of the week) increases free radical production in the body, can degenerate joints, reduces immune function, causes muscle wasting, and can cause a pro-inflammatory response in the body, which can potentially lead to chronic diseases, according to scientists. Highly variable cyclic training, on the other hand, has been related to enhanced anti-oxidant production and an anti-inflammatory reaction, a more effective nitric oxide response (which helps promote a healthy cardiovascular system), and an increased metabolic rate response (which can assist with weight loss).

Furthermore, steady state endurance exercise only trains the heart at a single heart rate range and does not prepare it to respond to a variety of everyday stimuli. Highly variable cycle exercise, on the other hand, educates the heart to adapt to and recover from a variety of pressures, making it less likely to fail when you need it. Consider this: Exercise that teaches your heart to swiftly surge and fast reduce will make your heart better capable of dealing with daily stress. Stress can induce a rise in blood pressure and heart rate. Continuous running and other endurance training do not prepare your heart to tolerate quick fluctuations in heart rate or blood pressure.

Let’s assume you’re jogging and aiming to keep the same pace for a 45-minute run. Assuming you didn’t meet any major hills along the route, you probably kept the same heart rate the entire time — let’s say 135 beats per minute. Let’s compare that to a considerably more effective workout of 20 minutes of alternating all-out wind sprints with a minute or two of walking in between sprints to recuperate. With this more effective workout, you rapidly change your heart rate up and down on a much bigger scale, causing it to get stronger to handle a variety of demands. Your heart rate would most likely range from 110-115 bpm during the recovery walks to 160 bpm or more during the sprints. This isn’t to say that sprints are the only way to benefit from this type of training. Any training approach that combines significantly varying intensity will provide you with these increased benefits.

The recovery interval in between bursts of exercise is an important component of varied cycle training that distinguishes it from steady state cardio. That recuperation interval is critical for the body to respond to an exercise stimulus in a healthy manner. Another advantage of varied cycle training is that it is more exciting and has a lower drop-out rate than long, dull steady-state cardio programmes.

To summarise, some of the potential benefits of variable cyclic training over steady state endurance training include: improved cardiovascular health, increased anti-oxidant protection, improved immune function, decreased risk of joint wear and tear, decreased muscle wasting, increased residual metabolic rate following exercise, and an increased capacity for the heart to handle life’s everyday stressors. Stop-and-go or varied intensity physical training can be beneficial in a variety of ways.

Aside from the previously mentioned wind sprints, most competitive sports, such as football, basketball, racquetball, tennis, hockey, and so on, are naturally composed of highly variable stop-and-go motion. Furthermore, weight training comprises short bursts of work followed by rest intervals. Another training strategy that makes use of exertion and recuperation times is high intensity interval training (alternating between high and low intensity intervals on any piece of cardio equipment). An interval training session on the treadmill, for example, would look like this:

Warm up for 3-4 minutes at a quick walk or light jog;

Interval 1: Run for 1 minute at 8.0 miles per hour.

Interval 2: walk for 1.5 minutes at 4.0 miles per hour.

Interval 3 – run for 1 minute at 10.0 miles per hour.

Interval 4 – walk for 1.5 minutes at 4.0 miles per hour.

Repeat those four intervals four times for a 20-minute intensive exercise.

The take-away message from this article is to exercise your body at highly varying intensity rates for the majority of your workouts to obtain the best results in terms of heart health, fat reduction, and a strong, lean body.

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