01 Jun Cardio 101: Are You Doing it All Wrong?
Our bodies are a fine piece of engineering and with its work cut out each day, it’s important that we not only supply it with the right nutrients but carry out the correct “system maintenance” from time to time.
In most gyms and health circles today, you’ll generally find folks who are skewed toward one end of the spectrum: “You must engage in cardiovascular training, do lots of it and do it religiously every day” – while on the other end you have folks that live by: “Bro, you’ve got to stay away from cardio if you want to build muscle and strength”.
In this piece, we’re going to dispel common myths associated with cardiovascular exercise and shed light on why it’s important for individuals of all ages, and how to do it the right way.
Furthermore, we’ll also briefly discuss what kind of cardio workout is ideal according to your body type and age.
I’m Fit: Why Even Do Cardio?
Good question – just like you train individual muscles in the body to improve their overall tone, structure and peak working capacity, you need to train the heart muscle as well from time to time.
After all, this is what we might call our central energy centre.
An efficient and well-tuned circulatory system will not only help you lower stress levels, but also help you reap greater benefits from the exercise you do and the nutrition-rich food you consume.
Let’s get something straight early on: swimming in intermittent bursts or, say, weight training is not the same as cardiovascular training.
In the former two examples, you are training your body’s anaerobic capacity – that is, its ability to release energy in bursts with short rest periods (as in, zero physical activity) in between.
While this is certainly beneficial for the heart, it certainly isn’t the only, or for that matter, the most ideal way to conditional and strengthen specifically the heart muscle.
To train the cardiovascular and circulatory system, you need to engage in exercise which continuously taxes the heart and keeps it in a set range in terms of heart rate or beats per minute.
Picture working the elliptical or rowing machine for 15-25 minutes non-stop – either keeping the intensity uniform or varying it at fixed/random intervals.
This is where many fitness experts, avid gym goers and health enthusiasts tend to lock horns – what kind of cardio is best?
Steady state or HIIT-style (high-intensity interval training)?
Is it even necessary with all the anaerobic training you’re doing?
The number one thing that helps us age better and stay strong in our golden years is good heart health.
It’s inevitable you’re going to lose muscle and a bit of strength with age, but if you keep the heart conditioned, you are effectively turning the clock back on ageing.
And there’s plenty of studies and scientific evidence backing this.
So we’re now left with: the best type of cardio for your age and body type.
To be honest, there are far too many parameters to consider here.
Engage in both and see how your body responds.
In any case, don’t overdo it and integrate your cardio workouts either within your weight training regimen (low-moderate intensity), or ideally, on separate days (higher intensity).