Cardio is a tricky subject. People seem to love it or loathe it. Some will happily listen to Beyonce on repeat for 45 minutes on a treadmill while others complain if they park too far away from the shop.
While each has its place, for maximum results you will need to make sure the cardio style you put into your programming supports your specific goals, age and current fitness level.
The primary goals of most gym goers are increasing health and fitness, reducing body fat, increase definition (tone up) and improve energy. While Strength Training should be the corner stone of your results in the gym, cardio plays a very important role.
There are three main categories of cardiovascular training:
LISS: Low Intensity Steady State.
This is Cardio done at a low effort for a longer period of time. Think walking, gentle cycling, daily activity moving about. LISS is beneficial for heart and circulation health, the burning of fat for fuel and active recovery.
Pros: Low impact on joints and nervous system. Can be done with minimal equipment and done daily. Helps improve health markers and helps with recovery. Increases daily NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis).
Cons: For fat loss benefits, needs to be completed for a longer period of time than other cardio formats (although daily steps do count as LISS).
Everybody should aim to hit the recommended 10000 steps per day, low intensity steady state is highly beneficial. Daily activity actually also has a tremendous effect in overall daily calorie burn. In one study they measured the average daily burn above sedentary individuals was 330 calories, and in some individuals up to 1000 calories. All that walking does a body good.
MISS: Moderate intensity Steady State.
MISS is cardio completed at a constant moderate intensity. For example jogging/running, long distance cycling, cardio machines
Pros: Increases endurance and heart health. Improves health markers such as blood pressure, circulation, insulin sensitivity, improves fitness and lung capacity.
Cons: Requires a larger consistant time commitment which can be hard to fit in regularly. When performed chronically it can increase cortisol (stress hormones), break down muscle tissue, increase fatigue and can negatively effect hormones, particularly in women. High cortisol can also effect the recovery responses in the body and lead to overuse of joints and inflammation of tissues. Overuse injuries are common such as shin splints, stress fractures, ITB syndrome.
MISS has its place in athletic circles such as those training for sport or endurance competition, however for the average gym goer I would recommend only incorporating MISS if it is something you truly enjoy and was sustainable in your lifestyle.
HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training.
Cardio intervals performed in a period of work at 80-100% max effort combined with a period of rest. Usually repeated for the duration of the workout. The workout can only be sustained for 20-30 minutes maximum. Think sprint intervals, timed circuits, stair runs, high intensity classes.
Pros: Short time commitment, evidence of improved health makers such as blood pressure, circulation, insulin sensitivity, lung capacity and oxygen uptake, high EPOC (after-burn effect) resulting in increased fat loss, maintains muscle mass, improves plyometric power and explosiveness.
Cons: Requires maximal effort, which can be difficult for beginners, increased chance of injury if working at maximum capacity.
HIIT has a large support from scientific research demonstrating the benefits of short burst of work at high intensity paired with periods of rest. If you have been training regularly HIIT is the best bang for your buck way to train. They allow you to make the best use of you time when it is in short supply and can be done with or without equipment in a wide variety of ways.
Our cardiovascular recommendation is hitting 10000 steps daily, and incorporating 1-3 sessions of HIIT at your own capacity. Cardio is necessary in your daily life for optimal health but always note that Strength Training takes priority in improving health, body composition change and increasing energy levels.
Simple 10 minute Bodyweight HIIT
You will need an app or interval timer set to 30 sec work 15 sec rest.
The exercises are completed back to back, 3 rounds through.
Sprint in Place
After a quick dynamic warm-up this can be a stand alone workout when pressed for time or a finisher to a strength workout.