Over the past few weeks we’ve discussed the importance of nutrition. Nutrition alone can help you lose weight, especially if you have limited time for exercise or don’t enjoy exercising in general. But a combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercising will help decrease body fat, increase your overall health and change your body composition in ways nutrition alone can’t.
For this article, we will focus on aerobic exercising. Aerobic exercise (also known as cardio) involves muscle movement that uses oxygen to burn both carbohydrates and fats to produce energy. I will discuss the types of aerobic exercises, the amount recommended per week, and the importance of adding cardiovascular exercises into your weekly regiment.
Types of Cardio
- Slow and Steady- LISS
- LISS stands for low intensity steady state cardio, which consists of purely low-moderate intensity work. You’ll often hear people state that LISS is not as effective as HIIT (below) in terms of burning more calories. For me, anything that gets you moving is “A-OK”!! Especially if you’re physically limited to perform any other type of exercises. If you’re beginning your fitness routine, have injuries, or are older in age, I’d suggest you start here. An example of this would be walking on the treadmill or riding a bike while being able to hold a conversation. Other low impact aerobics include water sports, step, dance, bicycling, and rollerblading at low intensity.
- HIIT stands for high intensity interval training, which includes short sprint intervals followed by low-moderate intensity work. An example of this would be a 30 second sprint followed by a 1-4 minute steady pace walk to cool down and bring your heart rate back to normal and then repeating HIIT. I would agree that HIIT is more efficient for fat loss, because of the burn effect (continue to burn calories after HIIT workout is completed) and aid in higher metabolic change. Myself and my clients only do HIIT workouts for cardio. If you’re slightly active, or need a change in cardio regiment, I would start incorporating HIIT workouts to help shred a little faster. Burn more calories in less time. No need to be on a machine for longer than 30 minutes. This doesn’t mean you have to sprint only; you can incorporate HIIT on any machine, bike, walk, and swim exercises as long as you follow the high-to-low intensity training. It’s just a matter the endurance, intensity and effort put into the workout.
Where does one start?
First determine if you’re healthy enough to perform any physical activity. If you have any pains or aches in your body, select low impact aerobic exercises that don’t cause additional strain or pain. Always consult with your doctor of course.
Based on the American Heart Association, the recommendation is 30 minutes a day 5 times a week or 75 minutes a week. This doesn’t mean you have to sprint 5 times a week or solely live on the treadmill. It can also include LISS workouts (see list below). This recommendation encourages you to be active for your overall health!
If your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, the American College of Sports Medicine advises you must exercise for 60 to 90 minutes per day, five days a week.
Personally, I always start my clients with 2-4x cardio a week and no longer than 20-30 minutes (pending their age, weight, exercise history and health). This is changed up with LISS and HIIT workouts until I figure out what works best for their body and what they’re able to maintain for weightloss or keeping the weight off. If you’re new to exercising, or haven’t been consistent. I would start with LISS and eventually incorporate HIIT workouts. If you’re slightly active, I would mix more HITT days then LISS. If your active, consistent and need some change, HIIT is the way to go. Again, this is base on personal experiences as results seen from my clients. HIIT is the most effective and doesnt take much of your time to complete.
Most people question if they should do cardio early am or perform on an empty/full stomach. The everyday person should focus on sticking to a cardio regiment that works best for them based on time, health, while ensuring their body has enough fuel to perform any type of exercise. Don’t overcomplicate cardio. Keep it simple, unless you’re engaging in cardio for sports performance. Then refer to your coach.
I never recommend countless hours of cardio for any of my clients. My recommendation is small amounts per week. Too much cardio will leave you skinny fat. It’s not needed in high doses unless you’re an endurance athlete training for an endurance sport.
Also, never start a cardio program you know you can’t maintain to achieve your desired look.
What should my heart-rate be? What about the Fat Burning Zone?
You’ll often hear people talk about working in the fat burning zone, which occurs when you stay within 55-65% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). In order to keep these articles short and simple, as not to over complicate by adding to much math or science, I will briefly touch on this. You’ll have to figure out your resting heart rate first before you can figure out your max/min heart, refer to the calculations below:
- Resting heart rate or pulse rate (the number of heart beats per minute) should be taken after a few minutes upon waking whilst still lying in bed (this can change over time pending how fit you become)
- 220 – Your age = maximum heart rate
maximum heart rate – resting heart rate = heart rate
heart rate reserve x 50% = training range %
training range % + resting heart rate = low end of target heart rate zone
Knowing your max/min heart rate will allow you to know your fitness level and how your body will respond to different exercises. Most cardio exercises online will instruct you to stay within a specific heart rate to get maximum results.
Some elliptical machines are equipped with fat burning charts indicating what percentage your heart rate should fall under to hit 30-55% or 60-80% of your MHR by age. These machines also help provide you with calories burned and your heart rate. If you don’t have a heart-rate monitor, I would use the numbers provided lightly as they are not 100% accurate. If you’re looking for a heart-rate monitor, I’d recommend purchasing a polar watch.
Benefits of Cardio
Adding aerobic exercising can improve overall cardiovascular health, help enhance respiratory and circulatory efficiency, helps avoid diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, promotes restful sleep, while improving energy and mood. Cardio exercises also release feel-good chemical called endorphins that help alleviate stress and make you feel better! Now, who doesn’t want more of that!
Examples of aerobic exercising
- Stair Climbing
- Elliptical trainer
- Indoor rower
- Circuit Training
- Jumping Jacks
- Plyometrics when done with little rest can be a form of aerobic exercising (mid-to low impact)
- Jump Roping
- Rock Climbing
Remember to have fun, mix it up and always explore new cardio exercises. Trust me, if you’re on the cardio machine day in and day out you will get BORED, your body will adapt, most likely hate cardio and give up. Try challenging yourself to a new cardio regiment every few weeks or add two different types of cardio a week so you learn to enjoy the process. Always remember to warm up and cool down at least 5 minutes and stretch to help prevent injuries.
Don’t expect to keep the weight off or maintain your weight if you are on and off or enaging in an unhealthy cardio regiment. Practice being consistent and you should see the results you want. If you miss a day or two, or a week don’t worry. Get right back to it. If a specific cardio regiment is not working, don’t get discouraged. We all get different results from different workouts. Find one that works for your body.
Keep track of your progress before beginning your cardio regiment. Begin with measuring your waist, arms, neck, and hips. Take a before picture and also focus on visible changes. Do not hop on a scale daily, hourly etc, as our bodies fluctuate in weight for many reasons. I always remind my clients that they can be the same weight and fit in smaller cloths. I know that personally even though it took me a while to understand. Pictures are a perfect way to showcase changes week over week. Sometimes we can be so hard on ourselves, thinking we are not changing when we in fact are.
Cardio alone can improve your cardiovascular health, while helping decrease body fat. Yet, not all cardio is created equal, meaning you wont shape you body entirely. In next week’s article we will go over the different types of anaerobic exercising, an example of a weight lifting program and why it’s important for overall change in your body composition. Are both really needed? I’ll explain more next week!
Next Up – Shape your body – Add Anaerobic exercising