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The Best Type of Cardio

It’s no secret that many of us struggle with sticking to an exercise routine and making smart food choices. Did you know that heart disease is one of the number one causes of death in the United States? What a lot of people probably don’t realize is that studies have shown one of the most effective methods to prevent heart disease is through exercise prescription. Exercise is also involved in the prevention and treatment of other health problems. To name a few, cardiovascular exercise reduces blood pressure and decreases your chance of developing diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

We are made to move, that’s why people say, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. By incorporating cardio and maintaining a healthy weight we also make things a lot easier on our joints because excess weight causes joint pain and can lead to osteoarthritis. Physical activity does not have to mean that you spend hours of your day on the treadmill. It’s just not practical.

Types of Cardio Routines

Our bodies’ possess 2 different types of energy systems that operate when we preform our cardio routines, the aerobic and anaerobic system. Aerobic activity is typically thought of as just running or biking, but it’s what happens inside the body that defines the term.  Aerobic literally means requiring oxygen; more specifically our muscles require oxygen. Think about a marathon runner. He runs for a long period of time, at a steady pace, breathing consistently.  His heart rate rises as he begins running, and his lungs have to work harder to keep up.  During his steady running pace his heart is circulating fresh oxygen to all of the muscles assisting his run.  So what is the other energy system we use and how is it different? Our aerobic system may seem the exact opposite of the next type of cardio, but both systems actually work together.

Run like you stole something. This is a great example of anaerobic exercise because you most likely cannot run at your max speed for a long period of time. Unlike your aerobic system, which can provide you energy longer, your anaerobic system provides energy very quickly, but only for a short while. During anaerobic exercises your muscles do not require oxygen, but eventually they will. Our tissue would die without oxygen. We would die without oxygen! We are never 100% aerobic or anaerobic because the anaerobic system only provides energy for about 60 seconds to 2 minutes before the aerobic system kicks into gear. Sprinters and marathon runners utilize each of these systems. It has to do with their pace. Both are runners, but a sprinter’s race is over well before a marathoner reaches a quarter mile. Anaerobic exercise increases your anaerobic threshold, which means you can work more intensely as you condition yourself. A win!

Moderate steady state cardio, also known as LISS or MISS, can be done over a longer period of time. This aerobic activity is beneficial for anyone because you can build a fitness foundation and maintain it. You could go on a bike ride, swim laps in a pool, go running or push a stroller. During this type of activity you should still be able to carry on conversation. This aerobic activity may seem simple but there is some science behind it. Ideally, when you execute your moderate steady-state routine you should be exercising within 50-60 % of your max heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the upper range of limit your body can withstand. To calculate your max heart rate, simply subtract 220 minus your age. If you are 24 years old, subtract 220-24 and multiple that time 50 and 60%. The max heart rate of a 24 year old is 196 beats per minute (bpm). An ideal steady state cardio range for this individual would be about 98-118 bpm. You can use any heart rate monitor device or check your own manually if you know how. Or just start walking/jogging while being able to speak sentences.

It may seem daunting to walk and/or jog for 20-30 minutes, but your muscles are happy because your heart is circulating fresh oxygen to them while they work. Consistently building upon your aerobic fitness increases the threshold of what your body can tolerate. No matter who you are, or what your personal workout preference is, everyone needs a solid foundation. If your heart is not conditioned to efficiently circulate oxygen, your anaerobic exercises will feel much more difficult.

A lot of workouts will incorporate a moderately intense exercise into interval circuits. Tabata rounds and HIIT are popular workouts that challenge both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. Interval training is a great to increase your fitness threshold while keeping your workout considerably shorter. Another win!

Full body circuit training can also be done with lightweights or body weight. Try preforming a circuit of multiple exercises. It might look like this, 20 seconds of squats, 10 seconds rest, then straight into pushups for 20 seconds. Rest again. You can incorporate 4-6 exercises and add weight if able. This is a great way to work up a sweat and hit up the cardio aspect!

You might be asking which cardio format is better for weight loss?  The answer is training with both moderate steady-state cardio and the more intense training like Tabata or HIIT. You can’t train your abs in one format and expect them to change.  Same goes for your heart, training it in a few different ways is best!

No matter what your cup of tea is, running or interval training, physical activity is beneficial to your health in so many ways.  Our body is our most permanent home.

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