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Written by Master Coach Kim Leggett

When you hear the word ‘cardio’, you most likely envision pacing on the treadmill or cycling on the elliptical for hours on end, which rarely produces any excitement. Studies have shown that getting lasting results from excessive amounts of cardio and little to no resistance training, is not likely.

However, this does not mean that you are not reaping the benefits towards your aerobic energy system or improving your health and performance. As little as 5 to 10 mins of low intensity aerobic activity can lower insulin rapidly! Cardio is used as a tool to increase fat loss, create a larger energy deficit and aids in mobilizing, transporting and oxidizing fatty acids out of fat cells. When it comes to cardio, there are primarily two types we look at: steady state (LISS) and high intensity interval training (HIIT). 

Low Intensity Steady State cardio (LISS)

This type of cardio is performed at a low-intensity & steady pace, with the heart rate maintained at 65-75%. LISS is usually performed for 30-45 minutes (or longer). Steady state has also been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and improve recovery, by tapping into the aerobic system, thus creating more blood, oxygen & nutrients flowing to the muscle; this can help facilitate faster recover from intense weight training. 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HITT comprises of short, sharp bursts of cardio broken up with periods of short recovery (at a ratio of 1:5), which trumps traditional cardio when it comes to reducing body fat. For example, after approximately 5 minutes of HIIT, there is a large influx of fatty acids into the bloodstream, which would otherwise be stored again if not mobilized or burnt off. Interval cardio is a time saver which can aid in optimizing fat loss, as it triggers protein synthesis and creates a greater EPOC or post-exercise oxygen consumption. When comparing different lengths of interval training, short duration (10-20 secs) HIIT intervals at 90% + effort are more effective for fat loss whilst long duration (40-60 secs) HIIT intervals deplete more glycogen and increase EPOC to a greater degree.

Whether your client prefers steady state or interval training, both share the benefits of improving cardiovascular efficiency, meaning the heart can circulate more oxygenated blood to the brain and muscles with less effort. This also increases the mitochondria energy stores, so that the body is more equipped to burn calories when active.

Both forms of cardio will also build the base aerobic fitness level and increase fat burning, however this will be with greater efficiency when done through interval training. Choosing the optimal type of cardio for your client will ultimately depend on your client’s goal and preference. If a client is given HIIT cardio, but only performing this at 50% max capacity, they will not achieve the benefits that this high intensity cardio offers. If your client has a busy schedule, and has been prescribed lengthy steady state, they will likely find this challenging to complete. 

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Foster et al. (2015). The effects of high intensity interval training vs steady state training on aerobic and anaerobic capacity. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4657417/Boutcher, S. (2011). High-intensity intermittent exercise and fat loss. Journal of Obesity. Bouchard, C, et. al. (2012). Adverse metabolic response to regular exercise: is it rare or common occurrence? PLOS One. 7(5). Poliquin Group. (2016) The Pros ad Cons of Cardio vs Intervals. The Poliquin Group.  

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