I’m not going to start slating all cardio exercises (well slightly), because I am a big fan of any type of exercise. Whether this is playing sports, performing outdoor boot camps, cross fit, going on a casual run or going for a power walk. Any type of exercise that raises your heart rate above your resting rate produces health benefits that are far more important than looking good on the beach. But don’t get me wrong if you can be healthy and have a great physique then this is a win, win situation!!
Steady state cardio is simply a cardio workout that is a continuous, steady effort performed over a prolonged period of time. This is normally performed at a manageable pass of around 55-70% effort. Some of the health benefits gained from steady state cardio exercises are:
- A reduced resting heart rate
- Decreased blood pressure
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Improved mental health
Low intensity exercise certainly has its place within an exercise regime but if you are relying on this type of exercise to burn fat, it may not be the most efficient tactic. If you have had the chance to read Fat burning zone!? – Part 1, the optimal types of exercises for fat burning are that of higher intensity such as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). After a HIIT workout your metabolic rate remains elevated for up to 48 hours post training, whereas after an exercise such as jogging it stays increased as long as the activity lasts. It is this increase in post exercise metabolism where the fat is truly burnt. This elevated metabolism post HIIT is called EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC is the amount of oxygen required to restore your body to its normal, resting level of metabolic function (called homeostasis). The body uses approximately 5 calories of energy to consume 1-litre of oxygen. Therefore, increasing the amount of oxygen consumed both during and after a workout, can increase the amount of net calories burned.
Many studies have proven HIIT training to be superior than steady state cardio for many health benefits such as:
- Improved insulin sensitivity
- Decreased abdominal fat
- Greater improvements in both aerobic and anaerobic capacity
- Decreased lactate production
- Reduced visceral fat
As well as all these amazing benefits from High Intensity Interval Training, the most appealing advantage is the reduced training time. For busy people, interval training or circuit style workouts are considerably more resourceful to help you burn far more calories in a shorter amount of time, and burn more fat in the process.
You should always bare in mind that the first two letters of HIIT training mean HIGH INTENSITY. Make no bones about it, HIIT is hard.
With all that said, I highly recommend not relying on exercise to “burn fat” to get lean. In the context of a fat loss program, exercise helps you keep your muscle, stay fit, make modest increases to your metabolism, and burn some fat. Nutrition is the key! Nutrition has a much more powerful impression and should be your leading focus when trying to burn fat.