Does Running Late Count as Cardio??

There is a lot of confusion and many questions about the types of cardiovascular exercise, when to do it and how much “counts.”   Cardiovascular Exercise – better known as “Cardio”, is defined by NASM (National Academy of Sport Medicine) asThe ability of the circulatory and respiratory systems to supply oxygen rich blood to skeletal muscles during sustained physical activity.”

There are several reasons why including cardiorespiratory exercise in your exercise routine is important.  First and foremost, heart health.   Aerobic exercise is recommended by the American Heart Association and by most doctors to people with, or at risk for, heart disease. That’s because exercise strengthens your heart and helps it more efficiently pump blood throughout the body.

There are several other reasons to keep cardiovascular exercise in your life: weight regulation, lowers blood pressure, regulates blood sugars, aids in restful sleep, boosts immune system… among others.  Despite the obvious health benefits though, one thing the majority of us are most concerned with, is the role of cardio when trying to burn fat.

As the saying goes “there is more than one way to skin a cat” and the same applies to burning fat. The two most common forms of cardio in relation to burning fat to improve overall body composition is LISS (Low Intensity Steady State) & HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

LISS is a popular method used by many recreational gym goers in an attempt to lose fat. It involves working at a low to moderate intensity, and maintaining a steady heart rate over a prolonged period of time, to allow the body to use its fat stores as its main fuel source for providing energy. Because of its low intensity nature and low energy demand, LISS sessions can last from 30 to 90mins. Due to its low intensity and therefore low energy demand, once you have performed a LISS cardio session, the calorie burn and benefits of that workout stop almost instantly.

HIIT is fast becoming the preferred method of training for burning fat. HIIT consists of working out close to maximum heart rate for a short periods of work followed by an even shorter rest period. Due to the high energy demand, and the overall stress placed on the body, HIIT sessions should last between 10-30mins. As a result of the high intensity nature of these sessions; HIIT continues to burn calories for a long time after the work out as ended. Some reports suggest that the increased calorie burn can last for as long as 24-48 hours after. This differs from LISS cardio, where the calorie burn stops almost instantly after the workout has finished. Despite its short duration and excess calorie burn, HIIT doesn’t have to be performed on a cardio machine or outside running. Instead it can be incorporated alongside resistance training. This unique blend of training will allow you to get the benefits of both cardio and resistance training in one workout.

As a certified personal fitness expert, I believe the best is to weave both into your weekly regime alongside one’s strength training program.  I have seen results from clients and personally from incorporating both in an organized, programmed fashion.  As you can see, there is more than one way to get the results that you want through cardiovascular exercise.  One isn’t necessarily better than the other.  What’s great about cardiovascular exercise is that it’s generally free and easily accessible.   Walking, hiking, riding a bike are several ways to get out and get moving.

 Most people should aim to get around 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity at least five days each week. This works out to around 150 minutes or 2 1/2 hours per week. You can mix up intensities and activities to keep it interesting. If you’re new to activity, start short and slow. You can always build as your fitness level improves. Remember: Any movement is better than no movement. If you’re pressed for time, consider breaking up your exercise throughout the day into several 10 minute chunks. Even short sessions of aerobic exercise are enough to reap the benefits.