We all know that we're supposed to do cardio.
We know it helps burn fat and increase our cardiovascular health.
But how well do you understand the importance and fundamentals of cardiovascular exercise?
Cardiovascular, or 'cardio' exercises aim to use large muscle movements over a sustained period of time with the goal of inducing your heart rate to reach a rate at least 50% of its maximum level.
Easier said than done, right?
As a health and fitness professional with an extensive background in exercise and sports performance, I can appreciate that there's plenty of confusion on how cardio training.
Let's look at the common questions.
How long should I train for? What intensity is best? How many sessions do I go for? What type of cardio is best for me? And is there a specific time of day that will give me the best results?
Let's clarify and simplify what it means to perform effective cardio Training.
How often should I do cardio?
The amount or 'frequency' of cardio that you should perform per week ultimately comes down to your goal. If your priority were to lose weight, the number of cardiovascular exercise session that you should perform each week will come down to how much weight you would like to lose. Simply put, with keeping our nutrition consistent, the more we move the more we will lose.
With that being said, if you can't remember the last time you exercised, launching yourself into a daily cardio routine may result in injury. My advice here would be to know your body, factor in your limitations and tailor a program to your goals and training experience.
What intensity should my cardio be?
As a general guide, for weight loss 25% of your cardio training should be hard and 75% should be low to moderate. For fitness, however, the correct balance is event specific.
So, what is hard cardio?
The intensity at which you may perceive cardio as 'hard' is dependent upon your current fitness levels. Therefore, a way to measure hard cardio is through Heart Rate Reserve or a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. For now, we will use the RPE scale, which rates intensities from 1-10. From this scale, hard cardio is identified from 8 (very difficult) where conversation requires maximum effort and breathing is quick; to 9-10 (Maximum effort) where you are unable to talk and focused solely on the exercise.
This type of hard cardio causes you to burn more energy long after the session has finished, while the metabolism returns to resting conditions. This 'after-burn-effect' of energy is commonly known as 'excess post-exercise oxygen consumption' or 'EPOC'.
What this means is that it is possible for you to not only burn energy during your workout but also when you are sitting down doing absolutely nothing. Which is what we really want isn't it?
High intensity exercise not only burns more energy, it also improves your fitness levels, which leads to more efficient fat burning during future workouts and throughout the day.
Low intensity cardio can also be measured through a HRR formula, but more easily again using our RPE scale. Using this scale, Low-moderate cardio can be described from our scale as 1-2 (very easy), where we can talk without effort, up to 6 (moderate), which requires effort to talk and you are sweating and flushed in the face. During Low-moderate exercise, more fat is burned during the workout when compared to hard sessions yet there is a significantly reduced EPOC effect after Low-Mod workout. One of the benefits of low-moderate exercise is that you are not left tired and hungry after the session. Which means you are less likely to grab a high carb meal to recover from the punishment you just put your body through.
How long should I be doing my cardio for?
The body's potential to burn fat during exercise increases as the workout time progresses, otherwise known as glycogen sparing. What this means is that after 30 minutes of continuous exercise, fat becomes far more available to use, as the body attempts to preserve its carbohydrate stores. What this means to you is that exercising at a Low-Mod intensity for 30-90 minutes will maximise your fat burning potential!
In contrast, high-vigorous intensity cardio should be performed for at least 20-25 minutes. The effect this has on the body in regards to weight loss is to elicit an after burn or EPOC effect as previously mentioned.
What type of cardio is best for me?
What type of cardio is best for you? In short, the best type of cardio is the one you enjoy doing the most.
What time of the day is best for cardio?
Lastly when is the best time of the day to perform cardio? Performing our cardio training first thing in the morning helps to burn more fat during the workout, as our bodies blood glucose levels are low from our overnight fast. Some additional benefits for exercising first thing in the morning include an increase in release of mood-enhancing endorphins (which make you feel uplifted and more energised), increase in metabolic rate (so you burn more energy throughout the day) and an improvement in exercise adherence (as interruptions are less likely first thing in the morning)
Your exercise program should be tailored to you and the results you want and split into short-term achievable goals to make it easy for you to get instant success.
Vision Personal Training is recognised as among the best Personal Trainers in the industry. We hold internationally recognised certifications, and are constantly updating our skills to ensure our clients receive the latest and best advice. Your Trainer will be committed to inspiring you to achieve your own personal bests along your journey. You will truly amaze yourself with what you are capable of doing and achieving in your sessions and with your results.
Ryan Bartlett - Vision Personal Training Surrey Hills
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.