Cardiovascular exercise shows up in most fitness plans. It is especially important to plans involving weight loss. It is no wonder there are so many misconceptions surrounding the best means and methods for cardio. Here are the top three myths and truths about cardiovascular exercise:
This myth varies for everybody, some people swear cardio needs to be done after weights. The truth is that research pulls this argument in opposite directions. There are clearly pros and cons to getting your cardio in before or after, however the differences and the end result are marginal. You know what really matters? Doing your damn cardio! The biggest issue here is the tendency for people to over emphasize cardio or on the other hand skip it all together. Know yourself. If you tend to skip cardio and go straight for the resistance training, make the treadmill your first stop when you come to the gym. If you tend to spend all your time doing cardio and take off without hitting the weights, flip flop the two to ensure you are saving time and motivation for both.
No! Stop! A routine consisting solely of cardio is a great way to ensure your weight loss is temporary and to achieve the “skinny fat” look of a slim yet squishy body. Nutrition is key, proper lifestyle choices like sleep and limiting alcohol are important and resistance training is essential. No matter how you choose to tone up: body weight exercises, resistance bands, free weights, etc., know that having some muscle is going to give you long term results. Muscle is hungry. Even at rest muscle mass is burning through calories at a high rate. Strength training will lead to a boost in resting metabolic rate that sets us up for long term success.
Let me save you hours, possibly days and weeks that you could waste cranking out super long cardio sessions over your lifetime. Like all aspects of fitness, variety is key. So while the occasional long session of cardio is okay, your body will quickly adapt to the slower steadier pace. Once your body adapts, which usually occurs relatively fast with steady state cardio, it becomes less effective in terms of weight loss. Avoid the lure of frequent cardio sessions at 45+ minutes. Along with adapting to this routine you are likely to lose muscle mass along the way impeding our basil metabolic rate.
We know that the body is highly adaptable. Mix up machines, cut back your time and increase your incline or speed. Try doing intervals and even non-traditional cardio sessions with light weights done at a fast pace. Try adding jumping jacks, squat jumps, mountain climbers or other exercises to elevate heart rate in between sets of your regular workout. Keep mixing it up, challenge yourself, get results.
The upside: a morning workout on an empty stomach will allow your body to tap into fat stores more readily. This can promote fat loss at a faster rate. Cortisol levels are usually higher in the morning and can also aid in metabolizing fat into energy. That said, the drawbacks are that this method is not as effective for those with a normal body mass index and long sessions can lead to the body metabolizing amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle mass. We want to hang on to that muscle mass for long term health benefits. If you choose to do fasted morning cardio, keep the sessions short (between 20 to 30 minutes) and at a moderate intensity.
It’s worth it to take the time to build a foundation for cardiovascular exercise. This has to be one of the most common mistakes made by enthusiastic individuals with their eyes on the prize. Love the motivation, but please- lose the eagerness to jump full blown into 3 mile runs or staircase sprinting. In the long term, having a solid base in cardiovascular endurance will pay off in all aspects of fitness. Time lost due to injury cannot be recouped and the potential running injuries both acute and chronic are numerous. Save yourself the precious time of a set back and move forward with a surefire plan for success by starting off with 10-20 minutes of cardio a day depending on your current fitness level. Increase time and duration by no more than 5% each week as you progress your program.
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