If losing weight for your wedding is of primary concern, your exercise
program should be primarily cardio workouts. While there are lots of different
ways to get a cardio workout, the main thing is not to skip any.
The term cardiovascular (cardio for short) exercise seems relatively straightforward
in its definition. It means exercise that involves the heart and lungs. When
a muscle contracts, it uses energy (calories). When large muscle groups contract
continuously, they require large amounts of energy. Because blood flow is
an integral part of delivering energy and oxygen to the muscles, the heart
and lungs are required to work harder. The heart works harder by beating
faster and pumping more blood with each beat. The lungs work harder by expanding
and contracting at a higher rate. It is the fact that the muscle contractions
happen continuously and rhythmically that the heart and lungs are more involved.
This is why strength training and stretching are not considered cardio exercise.
After approximately ten minutes of exercise, the body starts using more
sustainable forms of energy. As the duration of exercise increases, the body
continues to tap into those sustainable forms of energy. At the completion
of exercise, the body even uses those sustainable forms of energy to bring
the body back to pre-exercise levels of function. This means not only is
the individual using energy while exercising, but they continue to use higher
levels of energy after exercising. In short, cardio exercise uses significant
amounts of energy (calories) compared with non-cardio exercise. By increasing
the amount of energy going out and maintaining the amount of energy coming
in (or decreasing it) over time, overall body fat should be reduced.
A common question from people trying to reduce body fat is which is better:
longer and slower or faster and harder. There is a misconception that the
former burns fat while the latter burns carbohydrates. For the purposes of
body fat reduction, the only consideration should be consistency. No matter
which type of exercise is done, if it is only done a couple of times a week
or only for a few weeks, the progress will be slim to none. Lower intensity
allows a person to do a longer workout and that can burn calories. Doing
a harder, but shorter workout also burns calories. Again, for the purpose
of body fat reduction, the best exercise is the kind that is done consistently,
so finding a mix of high and low intensity workouts that keep you interested
and motivated is the best plan.
Intensity can come in a couple of different forms. Weight bearing, impact
exercises such as running, aerobics and stair climbing machines require more
energy because muscles must absorb the shock of the foot landing on an immovable
surface. If the impact also happens at a greater speed, the intensity will
be even higher. Exercises such as cycling, swimming and rowing do not require
the body to respond to impact and therefore the intensity comes primarily
from muscle contractions. This doesn’t mean running is more intense
than spinning, it just means the body works differently to burn calories.
One way to gauge intensity, without having to invest in a heart rate monitor,
is to use perceived exertion. There are several different scales that can
be used, but a simple way is to use 0-10 with 10 being the hardest. Aim to
do a workout that feels like a 7.5-8 on the internal exertion scale for lower
intensity workouts and above 8 for higher intensities.
Just remember that cardio exercise is the best form of exercise for losing
weight and body fat. Ideally you will be doing at least 45 minutes a day/
at least 4 days per week. No matter what combination of cardio workouts you
do, being consistent with your program (and watching your nutrition) is the
important thing. Find as many different kinds of activities that you can,
so you are less likely to get bored and give up, or enlist a friend to help
you. Make cardio workouts your exercise priority.
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