GOOD CARDIO EXERCISE FOR WEIGHT LOSS, HEALTH, AND FITNESS
Cardio Exercise is for Overall Fitness, Health, and Weight Loss
By Donovan Baldwin
There is a lot of discussion about exercise, fitness, weight loss, and health.
Anyone who has ever wanted to know how to get physically fit, or, how to lose weight, has also, at some time, wondered which cardio exercise is the best.
And, of course, there are many who are new to the subject who are just not sure what cardio exercise is.
Cardio is Just a Shorthand Term for Cardiovascular Exercise
Simply stated, the cardiovascular system is the heart, together with all its connected miles of veins, arteries and capillaries.
While we tend to assign a very high value to "heart health", it is important to remember the blood vessels are an important part of the system as well. When you consider that it has been estimated that there could be as much as 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the average human body, you can see the importance of the vessels which carry the blood once the heart has pumped it. Since they are tasked with carrying oxygen, nutrients, and other substances to every area of the body, and with removing wastes from all areas, it makes sense to think of them when considering cardiovascular health and exercise.
In fact, it can be doubly important to consider the blood vessels when discussing heart health, as the heart itself depends on those same supply lines for its own health and continued function. In fact, what we often call a "heart attack" is actually not so much a failure of the heart as a failure in the blood vessels.
Since the heart is essentially a muscle, like other muscles it reacts to exercise by becoming stronger, more fit and more efficient. A well trained heart also becomes less prone to failure, which is usually the result heart disease or a heart attack. A fit heart also recovers more rapidly should such an event occur. An additional benefit is that the exercises which are good for the heart are generally good for the other parts of the cardiovascular system, and many other organs, glands, and functions of the body as well!
In general, becoming heart healthy means becoming....well....healthy!
However, not all exercises are created equal when it comes to their potential cardiovascular benefit, and this is primarily for one reason.
Some exercises, such as weight lifting, require such brief moments of exertion, followed by resting periods, that the heart is generally not going to be sufficiently affected to get much strengthening and training benefit. More recently, people wanting the best of all worlds, strength, cardiovascular health, and weight management, are checking out programs such as the Metabolic Surge - Rapid Fat Loss Program by well known fitness trainer, Nick Nilsson.
To really be effective, a good cardio workout must be one in which the exercise, or series of exercises, can be continually sustained over a long enough period of time...such as 30 minutes, for example...to actually achieve what Kenneth Cooper referred to as the "training benefit" in "Aerobics". Some of the best examples of good cardio exercises are walking, running, and trying to keep up with a Richard Simmons video. If you want to get an excellent overview of the effects of a good cardio workout, get a copy of "Aerobics" by Kenneth Cooper. It is simply written yet provides a great
explanation of the value of cardio exercise and how to most effectively achieve the maximum benefits.
I don't want you to think that resistance exercises such as weight lifting or push ups have no place in a fitness program. It is just that, while they also produce certain significant health benefits as well, they have little to offer in the way of improving the strength and efficiency of the cardiovascular system. Keep in mind that almost any complete exercise program, whether for fitness, health, or weight loss, should include both types of exercise, cardio and strength training, to provide the most health benefits.
However, one way to use strength training to achieve cardiovascular health is to use it together with cardio in a form known as interval training.
High Intensity and Low Intensity Cardio
Cardiovascular exercises themselves generally come in two styles...high intensity and low intensity.
If you are new to exercising in general, and to cardio in particular, you will almost certainly want to start with low intensity. The line separating the two can be a little blurry. After all, that which is "low" intensity to one might seem like "high" intensity to another, and one person may find another's "high intensity" too low to do them much good. To put it in simple terms, both low and high intensity exercises will help you to burn off body fat...but low intensity will probably require more time.
An easy-to-understand example of low intensity cardio versus high intensity cardio is walking versus running. The very small, and slightly blurry region between the two can be illustrated by realizing that some people are doing pretty good if they walk a few blocks and are getting exercise benefits, while others, in better condition, may need to walk several miles at a very rapid pace to continue to improve their cardiovascular fitness.
Someone who is trying to stay in the low intensity area, to protect arthritic joints (like me), for example, may also choose to stay with low intensity, low impact cardio, but are still able to get excellent results simply by extending the time they exercise and staying with it.
Let's Not Turn Up Our Noses at Low Intensity Cardio for Weight Loss, Either
I guess the question for many people is: Which is the most effective to burn off more body fat, high intensity or low intensity cardio?
Scientists who have researched this very question first discovered that, during intensive exercises, your body burns a fuel called "glycogen". This is simply a type of carbohydrate which has been stored in your liver and muscles for quick release of energy.
During low intensity exercises done over a longer period, on the other hand, your body will tend to burn a lot of fat, rather than the energy rich glycogen.
If you're wondering whether or not this theoretical discussion actually works in the real world, the answer is "maybe". Each of us is different, and a particular cardio exercise routine which works well for our neighbor may not work for us. We can see there are so many obese people still around, even though they may be working out with low intensity cardio routines. The good news is that, even though they might not get "skinny", they DO lose fat and get fit and healthy, but they just don't seem to lose THAT MUCH weight while people on high intensity cardio routines do.
It can make you wonder: How can this be?
The scientists were absolutely right when they said the human body burns more fat, i.e. "body fat" during low intensity exercises like walking or swimming. During a high intensity exercise such as running, the body will burn a lot more calories. Even though some of the calories burnt are from glycogen, there are still a great many fat calories burned as well.
To put the icing on the cake (just look, don't eat the cake), when your store of glycogen begins to get low, carbohydrates from food that you eat will later get converted into glycogen to fill up the store and will not be converted to body fat as they are left unused to provide energy when needed later.
While low intensity exercise can have great benefits and should not be ignored, the goal is, if possible, to achieve a level of high intensity cardio exercise as it will juice up your basic metabolism even after you have completed your workout. This means, that, with high intensity cardio, your body will continue to burn body fat hours after you have left the gym.
This effect is nearly non-existent in low intensity cardio or aerobic workouts.
Cumulatively, your body wil burn up more calories during and after you have finished a high intensity cardio exercise than it will with low intensity...even though you can still burn a great many calories DURING a low intensity workout.
You can easily add high intensity exercises to your cardio workout by introducing some form of interval training. For example, you could walk for 5 minutes or so, then break into some jogging for another 5 minutes or so. Then, begin to walk briskly again until you have caught your breath and then sprint, or at least run or jog, for a minute before you walk again. From this point, simply alternate your running and walking for the next 15 or 20 minutes until you are finished.
One of the best things about any kind of cardio exercise is that the more you do it, the more energy you'll have in the long run (pun intended).
Cardio will help you to burn fat, burn calories, and lose weight although it is more useful for keeping your energy levels high and your heart strong and healthy.
If you've never tried cardio before, high intensity or low, you should give it a shot. If you like to exercise, you'll find cardiovascular exercise the best way to boost your energy and keep in top shape.
If you are just starting out, you'll want to go slow and keep your cardio exercise in track - as it is very easy to overexert yourself. Also, avoid combining smoking or alcohol consumption and exercise as this will get in the way of your health, fitness, and weight loss goals.
Walking and running are excellent fat burning activities, but weather, and sometimes pride get in the way of doing cardio exercises regularly. Many do not wish to exercise in public, sometimes traffic, and the daily schedule are issues in having a place or time to exercise. This is when treadmills, steppers, and elliptical exercise machines can fill a need and help you have a regular, progressive, and beneficial cardio exercise program.
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