Written by Fahiza Danjuma
Image by @loriharvey
Cardiovascular exercise, more commonly referred to as cardio describes any activity that raises the heart rate and increases blood flow throughout the entire body. Cardio has many benefits for every type of goal, but I often hear people discuss an intense cardio regime when they want to lose weight fast or in general. Let’s discuss further so you understand, no matter your goal, cardio should only be a sprinkle in your training schedule.
Although cardio is a great way to start a fitness journey, it isn’t the most efficient, especially if you want to lose a lot of weight. Contrary to popular belief, the fastest way to burn fat whilst gaining muscle is by focusing more on strength training complemented with cardio; endurance and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). If your goal is weight loss, I recommend no more than 3 days of cardio in your schedule.
Cardio is not the be-all and end-all to fat loss. Please also note, too much cardio and not enough strength training can make your skin even looser, so if you’re worried about loose skin postpartum or you have a lot of weight to lose, this is something for you to be aware of.
If you want to gain weight or maintain; too much cardio, whether it’s endurance or HIIT, can decrease your total caloric intake, which is not what you need to get the results you want. I recommend incorporating no more than 2 days of HIIT such as bike sprints or incline sprints, to burn excess fat and still contribute to your gains, if your goal is weight gain.
Do cardio the smart way
There are still a lot of benefits that are associated with cardio, when done right. Cardio can help you feel and look better, while allowing you to push your physical limits. HIIT can be described as cardio that alternates high intensity work intervals with either an active recovery (low intensity intervals) or passive recovery intervals (complete rest). This is very effective and time efficient for burning fat. Endurance refers to the ability to exert your muscles over a longer period of time. This includes anything from, skipping, swimming, cycling, walking.
Train smart, not hard; burning fat, gaining strength and your body definition has MORE to do with strength training, eating clean, recovery and sleep than just adding more cardio. Here are my top three smarter, more effective forms of cardio to add to your training schedule, so you can make the most of your goals…
1) Incline treadmill sprints (HIIT)
Speed: 7.5 to 10.0 (or start at your fastest speed)
Incline: 3 to 8
Sprint Time: 15 to 25 seconds
Rest: 30 to 45 seconds
Sets: 5 to 8 (add 1-2 sets weekly)
2) Incline, treadmill hands-free walking (endurance)
Speed: 2.5 to 3.5
Incline: 5 to 10
Time: 25 to 45 minutes
3) Assault air bike (HIIT)
Resistance: As fast as you can
Sprint Time: 15 to 30 seconds
Rest: 40 to 50 seconds (or slower pace)
Sets: 6 to 10 (add 1-2 sets weekly)