The word cardio is often linked to weight loss. And that’s understandable, it is true that cardio can help you burn some extra calories. Although we often forget that weight loss really is just an additional side effect of cardio and the correct diet.
Cardio can be defined in many ways, you can be doing resistance training in a cardio fashion, such as lighter weights with high repetitions, or you can be dancing, gardening or cleaning the house. Essentially, anything that increases the heart rate for a certain period of time could be “cardio”.
Cardiovascular exercise is an essential component of a balanced fitness routine and has a variety of health benefits. There are three primary types of cardio: high-intensity interval training (HIIT), lowiintensity steady-state cardio (SS), and moderate-intensity steady-state (MISS). You can probably already guess which exercise would be HIIT — examples include jumping jacks, burpees, and sprinting. SS cardio can include running, cycling, and swimming. And MISS cardio includes jogging, cycling, and rowing.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for America recommend 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity paired with twice a week resistance training to help improve muscle strength. The resistance training might be with bands, bodyweight or weights. That’s really not much, only around 30 minutes of activity each day, yet the return will be improvements to your mood, your overall health, your weight management and even your overall life quality.
High intensity cardio (HIIT) involves short bursts of intense activity followed by periods of lower intensity recovery or complete rest. The recovery periods allow you to catch your breath and reduce your heart rate before the next high-intensity interval begins, and so the length and type of recovery very much depends on your exercise choices and intensity. HIIT is a very effective tool for improving cardiovascular fitness and reducing body fat. Studies have shown that it can increase cardiovascular fitness, improve insulin sensitivity, and decrease body fat more effectively than steady-state cardio. Additionally, HIIT can be done in less time.
Some specific examples of HIIT include a Tabata protocol, with 20 seconds of all-out effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 8 rounds. Or hill sprints, where you sprint up a hill as fast as you can, then walk back down to recover, repeating 4 to 6 times. Or jump rope, as fast as you can for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds, repeating a few times. Of course, HIIT can be very tiring so ideally you won’t do it more than once or twice a week to give your body enough time to recover. Also, you can always modify and do your best to increase the intensity with whichever exercise you choose.
Steady-state cardio (SS) involves exercising at a consistent intensity for an extended period, typically between 30 to 60 minutes. Examples include activities like running, cycling or swimming at a consistent pace. It is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance and also to burn some extra calories. Additionally, SS cardio is low-impact and can be done for an extended period. Personally I love doing steady-state cardio while listening to an audiobook.
Moderate-intensity steady-state cardio (MISS) involves exercising at a moderate intensity, typically between 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate, for an extended period, typically between 30 to 60 minutes. Examples include jogging, cycling, and rowing. MISS can not only improve cardiovascular fitness but also improve your endurance too.
The main difference between these three types is the intensity of the exercise. You can do whichever you prefer, but most importantly do whichever one you enjoy because consistency is the key to getting the results that you want. My personal favorite is HIIT, however they all offer different types of benefits so I suggest that you choose one or maybe two of them and give them a try. Your body will appreciate it.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much physical activity do adults need? https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
ScienceDaily. Moderate Exercise Yields Big Benefits. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080104123421.htm
Mayo Clinic. Exercise intensity: How to measure it. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887
National Library of Medicine. The Effects of High Intensity Interval Training vs Steady State Training on Aerobic and Anaerobic Capacity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657417/