Friday, April 1, 2011

How Much Cardio Should I do?

April 2011 – Exercise Q and A!

Should I go for a run or ride the bike? I wonder which one will burn more fat? How many of you have asked yourself this question? Today, I am going to address some commonly asked questions about cardiovascular training. There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding this topic so I will do my best to clarify things for you. By understanding the way this system works, you will know how to make better use of your energy, money and time.    

Which cardio exercise burns the most fat? 

First of all, I would like to tell you something that I tell all my clients, “Nothing, or inactivity is the worst thing you can do.” Therefore, if you are having a difficult time deciding between doing one form of exercise over another, that’s a good problem. Most people struggle to simply get off the couch. Their decisions consist of choosing between which show to watch and which junk food to indulge in first. Therefore, if you are engaging in any form of exercise, you should feel great about yourself. You are giving your body something vital and you are sending your body the message that you care about it. Remember, take care of your body today and it will take care of you in the future.

I believe all types of movement, done correctly, have their benefits – running strengthens the legs; swimming strengthens the core and so on. As far as which cardiovascular exercise burns the most fat, in my expert opinion, it varies from person to person. There are too many factors that play a role in the loss of body fat. For instance, I have discovered that doing the activities you enjoy most, have the best overall effect on your health. When you are in a state of joy, stress is naturally reduced and anytime you reduce stress, fat loss is sure to follow. In my book, One Habit At A Time, I share 9 habits that are guaranteed to reduce negative stress and ultimately, unwanted body fat.  What’s more, most of these habits can be incorporated into your cardio activities, considerably increasing their effectiveness. If you are serious about reducing stress, losing body fat and living life to the fullest, I highly recommend you get a copy of this book at www.habitwatch.ca or by emailing me directly.    

Another important factor in cardiovascular training is periodization. Sooner or later, your body will adapt to whatever form of cardio you choose to do. Therefore, I suggest you alternate the activities you do. You should have at least 2-4 different activities that you can rotate. Personally, I like playing hockey in the winter and both tennis and soccer in the summer. The periodization of activities also has the added benefit of avoiding pattern overload – getting inflamed joints from doing the same activities unremittingly.  

How much cardio training should a person do in one week? 

This depends on your goals and your level of fitness. However, most people are looking to get lean and toned so I will focus on creating an effective program for this purpose.

  • Stress Reducing Habits: Daily  
  • Optimal Nutrition: Daily 
  • Resistance Training: 3 – 4 times per week 
  • Cardiovascular Training: 1 – 2 times per week

How much time is spent on each resistance and cardio training session will depend on fitness level but I suggest no more than 1 hour per session. Now, some of you may be thinking that once or twice per week of cardiovascular exercise is far too little to get lean and toned. However, what many people fail to realize is that you can get a great cardiovascular workout during resistance training as well. I use a variety of resistance training methods such as circuit training, supersets and full body exercises that will challenge anyone’s cardiovascular system. In fact, these methods will challenge (and improve) your cardiovascular system a lot more than your typical treadmill or Stairmaster workouts. Done effectively, resistance training will help you get lean and toned far more than your typical cardio workout.

The main problem with cardio training is that it does not challenge your muscular system enough. In fact, too much cardio will only reduce your muscle tissue. Yes, you will lose weight but a lot of it will be muscle. Many people who have lost a lot of weight will tend to be very flabby, even if they appear to be thinner. Therefore, if you want to be lean AND toned, you will need to incorporate both resistance training and cardio. During my boot camp classes, I usually do a 40/20 minute split – 40 minutes of resistance training and 20 minutes or cardiovascular conditioning. I have found this split to be the most effective for fat loss and toning. Remember, muscle is very important as it helps to burn fat and when it is properly conditioned, will give your body that toned look and feel.            

Conclusion

I believe that with the right type of resistance training one can get a great cardiovascular workout and at the same time, challenge their muscles enough to get them firm, toned and conditioned to burn fat. Therefore, one should focus on doing a combination of resistance training and cardiovascular training. However, if I had to prioritize the two, resistance training (not the typical bodybuilding type but the fat-burning type) is far more important than cardiovascular training for achieving a lean and toned physique. If you would like to experience this type of resistance training, I suggest you try one of my Boot Camp classes. In these classes, I bring together many of the best fat burning methods I have learned over the years. I use a combination of full body exercises, martial arts training, kickboxing, and calisthenics just to name a few. For more information, please visit www.smartpathfitness.com.     

By Sal Crispo
Vaughn Personal Trainer

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