Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Best Type of Cardio!

OK everyone is busy these days and most of us don’t have the time to mess about spending loads of time in the gym. We need to get in there and do the most calorie burning, fitness increasing exercise we can in the shortest amount of time. So, what’s the best thing to do?

Well firstly as im sure you all know there is no magic piece of equipment that you can jump on for 10mins and then make a run for the steam room pot belly, saggy bum and bingo wings all taken care of! Your training program should take into account your individual kinetic chain balance, muscle activation needs, fitness goals but for arguments sake if there was just one exercise or piece of equipment I could use for the rest of my life what would it be?

The first consideration when choosing cardio equipment is, what will give you maximize caloric expenditure? This is determined by the amount of muscle mass that the equipment uses.  Typically, the more muscle engaged in the activity, the more calories you will burn. You burn approximately five calories for every liter of oxygen consumed (which varies slightly depending on how much fat and carbohydrates are used).  Using more muscle mass during exercise also increases energy expenditure after exercise, as the post-exercise metabolic rate (as measured by the excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) has been found to be significantly greater and take longer to return to resting values following lower body exercise (stationary cycling) than following upper body exercise (arm cranking) performed at the same relative intensity.

None Weight Bearing Cardio:

Bike & Rowers

Hagerman lead a study comparing energy out put of gym bikes & rowing machines. The results showed us that ventilation, oxygen consumption, and HR were all significantly higher during rowing than during cycling at all similar power outputs including maximum power output. Rowing is a favorite of mine with Personal Training Clients due to the high muscle recruitment required to perform the exercise. Most of my clients will tell you they dread being told to climb onto the rower as they know it means they are going to be pushed to their limit, but that’s exactly why I love it and use it in many of my sessions. It’s a great tool for testing your anaerobic fitness and forcing your body to adapt to burn a higher percentage of fat calories in shorter periods of exercise.
I’m not a big fan of stationary Bikes at all! Mainly, because they encourage faulty movement patterns to persist in and around our core & pelvis. Most people spend large portions of the day sat in a car driving or sat at a desk-both of which don’t encourage your bum to work at all SO why would you then go to the gym and sit on your ass again to simply ram home to your bum that it doesn’t need to do anything today apart from be a cushion!
Unless you love them or your training for a Bike ride tell your trainer to tone your bum and not keep it sleeping!! (Il go into more details of core/pelvic dysfunctions and the danger of over using bikes in a future article this week so if you want a tight bum keep a look out!)


A few studies have compared energy expenditure between different modes of exercise.  For X-Trainers studies show that using arm poles & leg motion all significantly increase the calories “burnt” than during leg-only exercise.  Although heart rate (HR) was similar between combined arm and leg exercise and leg-only exercise the amount of muscle recruited was higher and therefore consumed more calories.

Comparing the rates of energy expenditure studies found that the treadmill induced a significantly higher rate of energy expenditure compared to all of the other exercise equipment. Among the other equipment, the X-Trainer, rowing machine, and stair stepper induced significantly higher rates of energy expenditure than the stationary bike.  The highest HR occurred on the treadmill and the stair stepper, and blood lactate concentration (another marker of exercise intensity-basically that burn you get when your really pushing it) was highest on the stair stepper and rowing machine.  The studies concluded that the treadmill is the optimal indoor exercise machine for enhancing energy expenditure when perceived exertion is used to establish exercise intensity. These results are even more significant when people were tested running outside. Muscle recruitment increased significantly as did HR and oxygen consumption.

Weight Bearing Vs Non Weight Bearing Activities
Weight-bearing activities are associated with a significantly greater caloric expenditure than non-weight-bearing activities, even when the two types of exercise are performed at the same level of intensity. Among weight-bearing activities, running burns more calories than most everything else, being equaled only by cross-country skiing and sports that require a lot of running, like soccer, squash etc.  However, while these other activities use lots of muscles and burn a high level of calories, they also require a high degree of skill, which limits many people from performing the activities for long enough or at a high enough intensity to fully realize the aerobic development or energy expenditure benefits.  By contrast, running requires little skill, so people are limited only by their fitness level. 


I think it’s easy to see which exercise I’m going to choose! Running. Now hear come the floods of “I can’t run” or “it hurts my knees” etc but the fact is that for most of us running is very accessible, free (doesn’t cost anything to run in a park!) and there’s so many amazing organized runs from 5k, 10k all the way to full marathons now that its easy to set a goal and get a few pals along to join in.

I’m going to help you get started and post some basic running tips and programs and the details of some events to consider joining in with. Taking part in your first organized run seems very daunting but I guarantee you the sense of achievement and motivation it will give you is worth any amount of in-trepidation.

Remember find the exercise you enjoy and then your more likely to stick with it. Classes are a fantastic way to get into exercise and they give you a whole new social life. So no matter if its running, step, rower or a circuit class good luck & keep at it.

Peace & Love


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