Most people consummate weight loss with spending extended periods at the gym heedlessly running on a treadmill or elliptical or sweating through a spin class. Is this really the key to weight loss and weight management? Better yet is this enjoyable? Personally I don’t want to think that getting up early and running on a treadmill for 30 minutes plus is what I need to do for the rest of my life to “be fit”. Yet that’s what most people think is good. This article is about low-aerobic cardio training, but research shows that interval training (which we’ll talk about next week) is better than running forever on a treadmill. Besides being rough on your joints persistent cardio:
- requires lots of carbohydrates to sustain
- promotes hyperinsulinemia (overproduction of insulin)
- increases oxidative damage
- generates high levels cortisol (which makes you more susceptible to infection, injury, bone loss, and depletion muscle, while encouraging fat deposit)
So now that we see that persistent, intense cardio is not the way to go, let’s see what works. A balance between short bursts (sprinting) and low-aerobic cardio is key to weight loss.
From an evolutionary standpoint low aerobic cardio makes sense! Our ancestors didn’t just run around chasing prey all day, that would be counter-productive. They would spend their days moving around doing what was necessary (like gathering berries), but they weren’t exerting greats amount of energy. When the time came for them to hunt then they would be able to expend a short burst of energy to take down their target. Running all day would make them tired, so conserving would save energy and was key to survival. So what can we do today? Engage in some form of low-aerobic cardio at 55-75% of your max heart rate. This is a comfortable level, you can still engage in talking (which makes it more enjoyable if you’re exercising with others, rather than panting and gasping to talk). This kind of cardio is foundational for other exercise. It tones muscles, joints and connective tissues so that you have a better base for strength training and sprinting.
Now let’s look at all the benefits that studies have demonstrated. They’ve shown:
- reduce risk for metabolic syndrome
- reduce risk breast cancer,
- reduce risk vascular dementia
- reduce risk of overall systemic inflammation
- increases capillary network
- increases muscle mitochondria
- increases production of fat-burning and fat-transporting enzymes.
In addition it helps counter stress, which results in improved mood and well-being. This stress relief is especially great because it can lead to so many health problems (and tomorrow we’re going to address cortisol and stress even more).
So in today’s blog we’ve learned that we don’t need to spend countless hours on a treadmill each week (exhausting ourselves), but we can get better results in a more enjoyable fashion. I’ve been doing this for the last few months and I really like it. On Sundays and Thursday I go for an hour hike behind my house, and the remaining days I do some barefoot walking (we’ve discussed the benefits of barefoot before). The options are endless though, and you can incorporate this into your play as well (check last Sunday’s article)! Here are some great options to try though: dancing, hiking, bike rides, gardening, brisk walks, playing, mowing the lawn, a light swim (great since it’s summer), rollerblading, or yoga (which incorporates yesterday’s yoga as well). Find something you like and enjoy!