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Is Cardio the Best Way to Get Fit?

To determine the best way to get fit and healthy, you must first determine what fit and healthy means to you.

By Kyle Sewell, Master Trainer at Camberwell

Is Cardio the Best Way to Get Fit?

‘Fit’ by definition is the ability to carry out a task. It means being as active as possible and training for your goals. Therefore; ‘fit’ depends on context. To determine the best way to get fit and healthy, you must first determine what fit and healthy means to you.

The best way to get fit?

When it comes to the best way to get fit; what works for you within the parameters of your goal and lifestyle is best. Doing ‘something’ will be better than doing nothing. When it comes to exercising for fat loss, any type of exercise will work, providing your eating is in line with your goals. That is where a tailored training plan incorporating strength training, cardio and the right nutrition will foster the best results. Enlisting the help of a qualified Personal Trainer will help make those results more achievable.

The best way to get fit and lose weight 

The foundation of weight management is control of energy balance by decreasing intake and increasing expenditure. “Eat better and move more” as Vision Personal Training founder Andrew Simmons says.  

It is said that approximately 70% of your weight loss results will be attributed to eating habits. Therefore, the best way to lose weight is through nutrition: eating the right amount of food to promote fat loss.  However, when weight loss occurs in the absence of exercise, particularly strength training, you lose weight from fat, from muscle, and from bone.  All aspects of body composition are lost. You essentially become a smaller version of yourself. This is an unfavourable outcome and certainly the opposite of anyone wanting to get fit & healthy. 

The best way to get fit and healthy 

Exercise combined with a healthy diet and generally being active helps to prevent muscle loss and by extension, bone degradation. Muscles are metabolically active; they require a lot of energy to maintain. If you are not using your muscles, your body will work to preserve energy, atrophying muscle tissue not being used.  This contributes to osteoarthritis and other degenerative conditions. Strength training is one of the best ways to help counter act these conditions; use it or lose it. Strength training, with the right nutrition to support, increases muscle mass which also means less fat.

Strength training also increases bone density and improves balance & coordination. It makes us more mentally resilient, physically robust, and better supports a fit and healthy life. Going up and down stairs, playing with your kids or grandkids and getting on and off the toilet will all become easier despite aging. These things are all fundamental to living a fit and healthy life. It could even be said that strength training is the fountain of youth. 

A structured, strength training program, focussed on progressive overload and compound exercise is going to be most time-efficient and effective.  Think multiple joints and muscle groups, lifting more weight for more reps. The more stress placed on a muscle, the more it is challenged and the more metabolic adaptations occur making you fitter and healthier. Arguably free weight exercises such as squats, deadlifts, pressing and row variations, push ups and chin ups will serve you best.

Cardio for fitness

What about cardio? There is a belief that cardio, in particular running, is an optimum method to get fit and lose weight. Cardio can absolutely help increase your weight loss potential. Cardio burns energy, and burning energy promotes fat loss. Low intensity cardio allows for a longer fat-burning session, with fat becoming a more available fuel source after 30 minutes and up to 90 minutes of continuous exercise.  Fat loss aside, low to moderate cardio promotes recovery and has been shown to have positive impact on health and wellbeing and better conditions the cardiovascular system. 

As we know, the heart is a muscle and, like all muscles, it can be strengthened. Cardio strengthens the heart, increasing blood volume per heartbeat.  Your heart has to work harder, in turn becoming stronger.  The stronger your heart, the healthier and fitter you become, reducing stress on the cardiovascular system.  This allows you to perform better, for longer periods of time. 

Not a runner? Not a problem. There are plenty of other modalities to choose from.  Cycling or swimming provides similar cardiovascular response to running, and can be gentler on your joints.  Walking, be it a stroll around the block, a rugged bush walk, or even hiking has also been shown to have a positive impact on the cardiovascular system and improving one’s fitness. Commonly referred to as HIT or HIIT, high intensity interval training, not only improves fitness levels, it also saves time.

So, is cardio the best way to get fit?

Whether through cardio or strength training, high intensity exercise not only burns more energy at rest, it greatly improves your fitness levels. A 20 to 30 minute session can increase your metabolic rate by ~8% allowing a greater fat burning potential for up to 36 hours post-workout (known as the EPOC or Afterburn effect). This is similar to the metabolic adaptations seen during and after strength training workouts. It seems that intensity could be the key to improving fitness and weight loss potential. The higher the demands placed on the body, the more your body has to adapt, causing you to get fitter.

As much as cardio is an important aspect of fitness, a holistic program, incorporating strength training, cardio and the right nutrition will foster the best results.

There is seemingly no ‘best way’ to get fit. The effectiveness of an exercise will depend on what works for you, within the parameters of your goal and lifestyle. Again, doing ‘something’ will be better than doing nothing; and with the right action plan, you too could determine what fit and healthy means to you.

Contact us today for your complimentary consultation so we can help you get started on your health and fitness journey and be the healthiest and happiest version of you!

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