By Laura Smith
Love it or hate it, why do we do it? We hate it, moan about it, cut it short or even avoid it. Which begs the question, why?
Firstly, let’s look at the benefits of cardio, and there is no better place to start than the heart. One of the first adaptations to occur is a reduction in resting heart rate, which enables the heart to pump more blood with each single beat, allowing more oxygenated blood to reach your brain and muscles with less effort. What it really means is more oxygen is available and more calories can be burnt.
Leading on to fat burning… Firstly, you get an increase in fat burning enzymes, then there is an increase in blood flow to muscles, allowing them to use stored fat for energy and lastly, you make your body more sensitive to hormones that increase fat burning.
Let’s look at a some more benefits of cardio.
For the love of it
Truth is some people really love it, it’s that simple. You know the people, the ones that go for a 10k run to relax. Why for me, it’s not my preferred way to relax, however I get it, I truly do. In this crazy, non-stop world that we live in, people love to use cardio to de-stress and wind down.
How many times have you been in a gym and seen a group on the treadmill incline walking, or sat on a bike talking? Let’s be honest, it’s highly likely they aren’t putting the world to rights, but more likely to be discussing a new diet, training program or the latest cinema release. It is during these times that “gym buddy” friendships strike up. Therefore making you more sociable, improving your mood. However, make sure you still get the work done, don’t stop exercising.
Walk it off
Steady state cardio gets the blood pumping again, driving oxygen around the body as well as nutrients. We have all heard the phrase, “walk it out”, well this literally means that. Walking after intense bouts of weight training has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness.
But there are some disadvantages too…
Some people think that all exercise, no matter what the form it takes, will increase lean mass. I am sorry to burst the bubble but this is sadly not the case. Over a long period of time, if cardio is your sole form of exercise, lean muscle mass will be depleted and used for energy. This loss of muscle mass therefore reduces the amount of calories burned by the body which can lead to an increase in body fat percentage, as well as conditions such as diabetes.
Makes you Fat
Ok ok, this is not directly true, but an increase in appetite has been known to happen after cardio, this is due to a trigger caused by cardio that increases hormones that make you hungry. So if you are running all day long to lose weight, but making yourself more and more hungry, the purpose has been defeated, resulting in no results, sadly. So, not only can individuals become hungry after cardio, they can also become disheartened.
Well, we are funny creatures after all, and the truth is, we like to reward ourselves. So, we run 5k, which equals the reward of 1 chocolate bar. Not only does this result in no body fat reduction but more often than not, an increase in body fat.
So what is my advice and take home message on cardio? Yes include it, fasted steady state cardio, or even high intensity intervals, but use it as an additional tool for fat loss and body composition changes alongside weight training. Prioritize diet, weight lifting, and stress management for fat loss. Added cardio will help, but don’t rely solely on cardio to achieve the body you want.