Fitness Tips: 4 Ways You’re Doing Cardio Wrong

At RunningWorks, we believe in promoting healthy communities. Exercising regularly is a key component in leading a healthy lifestyle. However, many of us often fail to exercise the right way, and when done improperly it’s impossible to maximize the benefits, particularly when it comes to cardio.

“It seems an awful lot of people walk, jog, run and cycle on a regular basis, hoping the time spent on the treadmill, bike or trail will equate to drastic weight loss results,” says Paul Kriegler, registered dietitian and nutrition program manager for Life Time Fitness. “There’s a fair amount of research on how much cardio is best for realizing health benefits, but there are a few factors that could be compromising those benefits for you.”

THE PROBLEM: You’re doing cardio, but moving less throughout the rest of the day. Think about this: you wake up early, get to your health club and work hard for a solid hour, spinning your legs until they feel like jelly. A puddle of sweat surrounds your bike and your heart rate monitor says you burned 950 calories. That’s great, until later on, you forgo your normal walking break because you feel too worn out. And later that evening, you catch a nap before dinner rather than walking the dog or mowing the lawn. People often justify inactivity in the hours after a strenuous workout. THE FIX: Most experts recommend getting the majority of your movement throughout the day instead of condensing it into one particular segment.

THE PROBLEM: You’re doing too much cardio. The health benefits of cardiovascular training appear to begin after around 30 minutes of moderate intensity four to five days per week, totaling around 150 minutes. When it comes to cardio, more isn’t always better, especially if you don’t give your body time to recover. According to an article titled “Effect of the volume and intensity of exercise training on insulin sensitivity,” published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, opting for long, frequent sessions is often less effective than shorter, higher intensity. Doing long sessions of cardio, more than 60 minutes, is rarely necessary unless you’re training for a specific event. THE FIX: You’re better off capping your strict cardio time at 30 minutes and including several days per week of resistance training.

THE PROBLEM: You think you can eat extra calories without consequence. While exercising to burn off some energy may give you a little room for forgiveness, exercising to prepare for or undo poor eating habits doesn’t guarantee you results. In fact, according to a study in PubMed, large amounts of cardio training have been shown to induce compensatory eating patterns, especially in women. It’s easy to get into this mindset, but exercise is far more than just a way to expend calories. THE FIX: Well-planned, properly executed bouts of activate can stimulate your body to go through incredible changes, but not if you’re using food as a reward. Stick to your goals and let success be your reward.

THE PROBLEM: All your cardio secessions are the same. Cardio can be helpful for getting a little solitude or zone out time, but doing the same workout every day when you’re looking for results is definitely not the answer. A good exercise program incorporates variability from one workout to the next. Your body has a few major energy systems, and they all need to be challenged over time. THE FIX: Get an assessment by a trained professional. These can help determine your most efficient heart rate zones so you can exercise smarter.

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