Balancing Cardiovascular Training for Better Results

There are lots of ways to do cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise – walking, running, biking, rowing and stair climbing are popular choices. Unless you’re preparing for an event like a 10k road race and have to run, there’s no need to stick with just one type of cardio exercise long term. It’s better to mix up how you train to get the best results and avoid getting stuck in a rut.

Along with choosing which exercise to do, it’s important to consider your effort and intensity. Two commonly used approaches to intensity levels in cardiovascular training are steady state and  high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIT). Steady state is done at a constant pace and (usually lower) level of effort, like walking. HIIT features short bursts of high effort with low effort recovery between them, like sprints.

How much of each you use in your workout program depends on what you want to get from your exercise:

  • Is your main goal primarily fat loss or general health improvement?
  • How much time can you dedicate to exercise?
  • What’s your energy level on a given day?
  • What do you like to do and how comfortable are you exercising at different levels of effort?

High-intensity exercise is highly effective for both fat loss and health improvement, and is tremendously time efficient, but it requires lots of energy and an openness to pushing oneself. Steady state is great for health improvement, good for fat loss and requires less effort, but tends to be less time efficient.

Optimally, the two methods will both be used in a weekly program. Blending the right amount of each into your weekly routine is a decision you have to make, but you should seek the advice of your physician and a trainer to help you with your plan.

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Michael Bento is an Advanced Trainer at the Clubs at Charles River Park. He holds a Masters degree in Human Movement and is certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist.

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