All of our clients do some form of cardiovascular training. The health benefits are endless, however we are often asked;
“What sort of ‘cardio’ should I be doing?”
Exercise, or exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT) as it’s termed from an energy output standpoint accounts for on average about 10-20% of our overall daily/weekly energy output (less than NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, IE, walking, gardening and anything else that burns calories which isn’t classified as exercise)
What this means is that it is important, but on average it doesn’t stand for a large amount of our energy output (being active on a day-to-day basis IS MORE IMPORTANT), which most people don’t realise. It’s important, but it isn’t the be all, end all.
When it comes to cardio, it’s important, I feel, to see it as fuel burning. With the aim being to burn as much fuel (calories) as possible in the time you’ve dedicated in your working week to cardio. So, when it comes to cardio, there are two options LISS & HIIT.
LISS = Low Intensity Steady State, which is any form of exercise or training that is performed for a prolonged period of time (20 minutes or more) that keeps your heart rate working at 50-80% of your maximum heart rate (hence the steady state). Going over 80% will mean you start working anaerobically (too hard basically), meaning you are likely to fatigue quite quickly and have to stop (defeats the object), and under 50% will mean you are not working hard enough and or burning enough calories/fuel to call it exercise (it would be seen as NEAT more likely). Types of LISS could be running, jogging, uphill walking, power walking, cycling, rowing, corset-trainer, step machine, swimming, all which can be done in or out of the gym. This could also include some types of exercises classes, such as spinning for example.
My favourite LISS sessions are:
Uphill Walk on the Treadmill
HIIT = High Intensity Interval Training is the in thing! Joe Wicks has certainly put it on the map. However, don’t be drawn to something because of the trend. HIIT involves periods of very hard work (80%+ of you maximum – I’m going to be honest, I don’t feel most people work hard enough during HIIT sessions – If you can talk during the rest periods, you’re not working hard enough), followed by periods of rest or active recovery. HIIT sessions (with a warm up and cool down) shouldn’t be any longer than 20-30 minutes, therefore it’s great for busy people who haven’t got much time to spare to exercise/training (a lot of us! Hence why it has become so popular!). HIIT could be done when running/jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing using various piece of equipment such as ropes, power bags, sleds, etc or most commonly by utilising your own bodyweight using exercises such as mountain climbers, burpees, squats, high knees, etc. You may do 20 seconds of work followed by 10 seconds of rest for four rounds and do this on four different exercises for example.
My favourite HIIT sessions are:
Sprinting: 30 seconds sprinting, followed by 30 seconds of rest x 10
Cycling: 20 seconds of sprinting, followed by 10 seconds of rest x 20
HIIT Circuit: 3 of the following exercises: Box Jumps/Sled Push/Air Bike/Kettlebell Swings/Powerbag Clean & Press/Burpees: 30 seconds of work, followed by 15 seconds of rest x 4-6 on each exercise
Generally, you will burn more calories during LISS than HIIT, however you will burn more calories following HIIT than LISS, due to EPOC. This stands for ‘Exercise Post Oxygen Consumption’, and is the amount of additional calories burnt following the session due to your body being in an ‘oxygen dept’. It was thought that HIIT was more effective than LISS due to this EPOC, however after much research it is now apparent that the end amount of calories burnt is often the same.
The pros of LISS are that you can keep it low impact (power walking, cross-trainer, stepper, cycling, rowing) or non-impact (swimming), which will ensure less damage to the knee, ankle and hip joints. LISS can be done whilst listening to a podcast, watching a movie, reading, doing emails, etc, due to the low-medium intensity. LISS doesn’t require much thought, which may mean it’s easier to complete after a busy day when compared to HIIT.
The cons of LISS are that it can be time consuming. Generally you need to do between 20-60 minutes. It can be very tedious, depending on an individual’s preferences. I find running clears my mind, however I find rowing monogamous (we are all different, remember).
The pros of HIIT are that it is time efficient. You can nail a HIIT session in 10 minutes if required and be totally fatigued. It can easily be made interesting. Take our Fitness Camps for example. A lot of what we do is HIIT, and we change our sessions every one-two weeks and have never duplicated our sessions in over 3.5 years!
The cons of HIIT are that it is very high-impact, meaning that it puts a lot of stress on the joints. More than certain individuals’ bodies can handle. HIIT requires 80-100% work rate during the work intervals, which I feel most people struggle to do. If done correctly it requires A LOT of effort. Too much HIIT (especially in relation to people over 40) can become a negative, as it places a lot of stress on the body’s systems (meaning it will become counterproductive).
My final point is really important. Cardio is degenerative, meaning that it will break down a certain amount of muscle tissue (not good), hence why it should not be abused. Weight/resistance training is regenerative, meaning it regenerates tissue.
Favour weight/resistance training over cardio. If you are over 35 you’re slowly losing muscle tissue, so if you then do heaps of cardio, you are actually increasing the ageing process! NEAT is more important than cardio.
For general health and wellbeing, I would advise 1-3 cardio sessions a week. A mix of HIIT and LISS ideal, however do what you ENJOY!
Please reply with any questions you have and one of the team will be happy to answer.