Friday, October 21, 2011

Cardio Workouts With Heart Rate Shifts Are Most Beneficial by Robert D. Franklin

Are you a cardio fanatic? Seems everyone thinks that "cardio" is the ultimate way to get in shape and lose body fat. With previous research and experience, I have to disagree.

It's more often than not to hear fitness pros, doctors, and other health professionals prescribe low to moderate intensity aerobic training (cardio) to those trying to prevent heart disease or lose weight. Sometimes they may suggest something like:

"Perform 30-60 minutes of steady pace cardio 3-5 times/week maintaining your heart rate at a moderate level"

Before you cave in to this popular belief, you may want to consider some recent scientific research that indicates that steady pace endurance cardio work may not be the greatest solution.

Know that our bodies are designed to perform physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery, or stop-and-go movement instead of steady state movement. This is one of the most important aspects to implement in your training program.

Another idea to keep in mind regarding the benefits of physical variability is the internal effect of various forms of exercise on our body. Scientists have known that excessive steady state endurance exercise (everyone's different, but sometimes defined as greater than 60 minutes per session most days of the week) increases free radical production in the body, can degenerate joints, reduces immune function, causes muscle wasting, and can cause a pro-inflammatory response in the body that can potentially lead to chronic diseases.

On the other hand, highly variable cyclic training teaches the heart to respond to and recover from a variety of demands making it less likely to fail when you need it. Let's think on this... exercise that trains your heart to rapidly increase and rapidly decrease will make your heart more capable of handling everyday stress, which can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase rapidly. Steady endurance training does not help your heart handle rapid changes in heart rate or blood pressure.

To summarize, some of the potential benefits of variable cyclic training compared to steady state endurance training are as follows: improved cardiovascular health, increased anti-oxidant protection, improved immune function, reduced risk for joint wear and tear, increased muscularity (versus decreased muscularity with endurance training), increased residual metabolic rate following exercise, and an increased capacity for the heart to handle life’s every day stress factors.

Doing swimming workouts in a variable intensity fashion may also be more beneficial than just swimming for a long duration at the same speed. Same goes for bicycling -- that is why mountain biking, which involves extreme ups and downs at various intensity levels may also be more beneficial than just a long flat steady pace bike ride.

One of the most effective forms of variable intensity training to really reduce body fat and bring out serious muscular definition is performing wind sprints. Wind sprints can be done by sprinting for 10-30 seconds, and then taking 60 seconds to walk for recovery before your next sprint. 6-12 total sprint intervals is quite a challenging workout for most.

In addition, weight training incorporates short bursts of exertion followed by recovery periods. High intensity interval training (varying between high and low intensity intervals on any piece of cardio equipment) is yet another training method that utilizes exertion and recovery periods. For example, an interval training session on the treadmill could look something like this:

Warm-up for 3-4 minutes at a fast walk or light jog

Interval 1 - run at 8.0 mi/hr for 1 minute

Interval 2 - walk at 4.0 mi/hr for 1.5 minutes

Interval 3 - run at 10.0 mi/hr for 1 minute

Interval 4 - walk at 4.0 mi/hr for 1.5 minutes

Repeat those 4 intervals 4 times for a very intense 20-minute workout.

You may also find great ways to incorporate variable intensity cardio training using a jump rope, a rowing machine, or even outdoor hill running.

Make sure you try to train your body at highly variable intensity rates for the majority of your workouts to get the most beneficial response in terms of heart health, fat loss, and muscle maintenance.