There are a number of reasons why people embark on a fitness regime. Maybe it’s to tone up the muscles, improve athletic performance, lose some of that excess weight, or just for the general health benefits. Many people just do the same type of cardiovascular exercise and at the same intensity each day, whether it be walking, running, swimming, cycling or any other form of activity. They might see some improvement for a while but eventually they reach a certain level and just seem to stay there. At this point, their enthusiasm may start to wane a little.
But what’s wrong with hitting the road or the water and exercising for an hour each day? Isn’t that supposed to be the best way to burn fat? That’s true to a certain extent; long, low intensity workouts do train your body to burn fat while you’re exercising but they don’t really help you to burn all that much fat over a 24 hour period. The end result is that people who exercise only at low intensities will find that their cardiovascular endurance is good but that they may still have more fat than they would like and not a great deal of muscle tone. In an effort to overcome this, they might increase the length of time they exercise for but they’re still unlikely to see much improvement.
At the other end of the scale are the people who decide that, to continue to improve, they have to exercise flat out all the time. Maybe they’ll run or swim faster, or go to the gym and work out until they’re almost exhausted. The end result with these people is similar to the low intensity exercisers; they have great cardiovascular endurance but will often still have fat they’d like to lose. They feel like they’ve been pushing themselves as hard they’re able to and end up getting frustrated with the whole thing and feel like giving up.
The reason that so many people don’t continue to see gains in their health and fitness is that, for optimal results, you need to vary your cardio exercise routine and work at three different intensities from day to day. This is where using a personal trainer can be beneficial. They can work with you each day, providing advice and designing a fitness and diet plan specifically for you.
You still need to continue to do your low intensity run/swim/cycle sometimes. Your body can maintain low intensity work for longer periods. Around an hour of this type of exercise in a session is good. Don’t be worried though if you can’t keep going for this long when you start out. Just work for a length of time that you’re comfortable with and build the time up from there. As mentioned earlier, low intensity workouts are a good way to train your body to burn fat. When you’re working at low intensity, your body prefers to use fat as an energy source but it is only a part of the fuel that your body will use.
You also need to include some medium intensity work in your exercise program. This is where you exercise at just below your anaerobic threshold, which is where your anaerobic metabolism kicks in to enable you to continue exercising for just that little bit longer. When you’re working just below this threshold, it is your aerobic metabolism that’s keeping you going. This means that you are still using oxygen to get energy to your muscles. If you work at this intensity for a 15 to 30 minute session, your cardiovascular system will be working at its maximum level. You probably won’t be feeling very comfortable but your heart and lungs will be learning to work more efficiently to transfer the blood and oxygen to your muscles while still enabling you to continue exercising. The benefit of this type of exercise is that your body learns to use oxygen efficiently right throughout the day and it also helps the body’s ability to burn fat.
The third exercise intensity level is high intensity. This is also called interval training. It involves working at a level above the anaerobic threshold for a few minutes and then working at a lower intensity, or resting completely, for a short period. For example, you might sprint for a short time and then walk for a few minutes. In the sprint phase, you are forcing your body to go over the anaerobic threshold. During this time lactic acid will start to build up in your muscles. The rest periods allow your body to clear this lactic acid from the bloodstream so that you don’t start to cramp. This type of exercise will increase your body’s metabolism 24 hours a day. You actually don’t burn a lot of fat during these workouts but studies have shown that they actually result in your body burning more fat over the entire day than other cardiovascular exercise because they cause your metabolism to remain elevated after the workout.
Combining all three of these exercise intensities is the key to a good, fat-burning cardiovascular exercise program. Interval training, though, should only be undertaken after you’ve been doing at least three days a week of low intensity exercise for a minimum of one month, as you need to develop a fitness base first. The online personal trainers at Live Lean Today can design a training program to help you meet your individual goals. Before commencing any exercise program, it’s advisable to see your doctor.