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Cardio is king--or so you would believe from its hundreds of thousands of devotees in gyms across America. Stationary bicycles and stairmasters are in constant use by members who spend countless hours every day pumping away, trying to lose excess weight which has crept on through the years.
This almost obsessive devotion to aerobics is shared by the John and Jane Does across America as well. You see them everyday jogging along the streets and in parks.
Aerobics or cardio is an integral part of today's bodybuilding scene too. While preparing for my last amateur show in 2001, my then training partner had a fit because I didn't want to do cardio. You see, we've been taught that in order to lose bodyfat successfully, you have to combine cardio with a sound nutritional plan.
I almost never did cardio not because I didn't think it was effective, but because I was afraid I would lose too much weight. I have always had a rather fast metabolism.
But today I have come upon an article which is making me rethink the whole cardio program. The science, studies, and logic behind it are hard to ignore.
Cardio is used as a method to: (1) drop excess weight and (2) build heart endurance/strength. But, isn't the heart performing its endurance task without a special exercise program? What is your age? Whatever it is means that your heart has been constantly pumping blood for those number of years--all without any stoppage!
Cardio will cause your heart, lungs, and muscles to physically shrink. It also destroys your lung and heart's reserve capacity.
Reserve capacity is necessary in times of a medical emergency such as an injury or physical trauma. It also is critical for severe emotional stress, or intense sex in the bedroom.
Reserve capacity means your heart has the ability to pump more blood, faster in times of stress. Reserve capacity for your lungs allows them to deal with high exertion like lifting, carrying, running or going up stairs.
Reserve capacity for your heart and lungs gives the following benefits:
Many studies show that a specialized type of training -- interval training--is what is needed for not only effective weight loss, but heart strength.
Did you know that long-distance runners, marathoners for instance, suffer a higher risk of sudden cardiac death than any other athlete?
Harvard researchers performed a study of exercise and cardiovascular health among middle-aged men. They looked at the health of those who performed cardio which is comprised of long duration exercise versus interval training which is a short but intense exercise program. The table below documents the results:
|Long-Duration Exercisers||Short-Duration Interval Exercisers|
|10% reduction of heart disease risk||20% reduction of heart disease risk|
|showed signs of heart distress||improved cholesterol levels|
|increased blood & oxidation levels of LDL & triglycerides||maintain healthy testosterone levels|
|had elevated clotting levels & inflammatory factors||had maximal cardio output|
|frequently discontinued exercise program due to boredom||eager to continue exercising|
The results are astounding. Progressively Accelerating Cardiopulmonary Exertion (PACE) or interval training or high intensity training (HIT), whatever you want to call it, excels in all categories. The men who exercised using interval training doubled their reduction of heart disease risk factors over the men who used the standard exercise protocol.
Endurance training or cardio does not prepare your body to respond efficiently to any sudden stress which may be placed upon it. This is the reason why heart attacks can happen when an intense effort is placed upon it.
Exercising for long periods of time reduces the capacity of your heart, lungs, and muscles so that they can go longer using less energy. Your cardiovascular system becomes trained at handling a 30 or 45 minute jog or stationary bike ride. But it has no capacity to provide you with short, intense bursts of energy in an emergency. This actually makes your heart that much more vulnerable to a heart attack.
Your body is a very efficient and adaptable marvel of creation. When you constantly train your body with endurance exercises, your body adapts and becomes more efficient. This efficiency manifests itself by shrinking your heart and lung capacity. This results in less fuel being used for the same amount of effort.
In addition to shrinking heart and lungs, aging naturally shrink the capacities of these organs.
The essence of interval training is the application of short, intense bursts of exercise followed by a period of rest. The exercise program provides short bursts of challenges with rests in between to restore and preserve heart capacity. Years of declining heart and lung capacity can be reversed with the application of progressively greater effort for these short bursts.
Interval training will provide the following:
During long-duration exercise such as cardio, fat is burned. This actually teaches your body to keep a supply of fat in reserve for the next exercise session. You're locked in a catch-22 situation. You do an hour's session of cardio to lose fat and your body makes more fat for your next cardio period.
The following table shows how your body burns fuel under various levels of exercise intensity.
|Resting rate||1 - 5%||35%||60%|
|Low intensity||5 - 8%||70%||15%|
|Moderate intensity||2 - 5%||40%||55%|
The table is based on information derived from the book Sports and Exercise Nutrition. According to the numbers, the most fat is burned, 60 percent, when your body is at rest! How can this be?
This amount of fat is burned after a session of interval training. This is the after-burn experienced by bodybuilders, sprinters, and other similar athletes. After-burn does not occur after a cardio session. The after-burn continues for up to 24 hours after interval training. Your body learns that it doesn't need this fat, so it stops making it.
'As your body adapts to the demands placed upon it when you exercise, it replenishes your fat the next time you eat in preparation for the next endurance workout. In doing so, it sacrifices muscle to preserve fat. And high-intensity aerobic exercise won't keep your heart healthy the way many doctors and fitness "experts" say it will...' (The Stretching Handbook)
Interval training and fast twitch muscle fibersHealthy living > Exercise > Interval training