The motivations to exercise or play sports are not always related to weight loss or with the aim of improving body image. The benefits of including some physical activity in the daily routine They range from reducing the risk of suffering from cardiovascular disease, some type of cancer or the deterioration of bones and muscles to improving brain health.
“Getting regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills strong as you age. It can also reduce your risk of depression and anxiety, as well as help you sleep better.” point out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States (CDC, for its acronym in English).
Cardiovascular exercise is one of the most sought after by those who want to start moving the body, But what is the activity that guarantees the best results? Rebeca Del Valle is a personal trainer, she has tried several physical activities as a student and also as a teacher with several training certifications throughout her life, and then she solves several of the most popular questions about cardio (cardiovascular exercise, also called aerobic, which uses the largest muscles in the body and increases the heart rate).
Before guiding us on which is the best option for those looking to exercise, the specialist explains that this activity It is not exactly the magic solution if you are looking to lose weight and improve fitness: “Many people believe that just running or cardio is enough and with that you will automatically lose weight, in part it is true, but the problem is that when you do only cardiovascular activity you do not strengthen or you are making an increase in muscle mass, this can cause effects such as sagging skin, which does not happen with strength training because you are also making a change in your metabolism and fat oxidation also occurs. You can lose weight but at the same time you increase muscle mass.”
So why does cardio seem to be the key to weight loss in popular belief? It is believed that “with cardio you are sweating, then you are sweating fat and it is not true, fat does not sweat, what you are sweating are the body’s toxins, but not fat as such,” adds Rebeca Del Valle, who also highlights the importance of combining exercise with a proper diet: “They can do a lot of cardio, but if they don’t have a proper diet, they’re not going to see results either.”
And if you’ve already made up your mind, the expert provides some guidelines to start moving your body while being aware of your goals: “You can’t follow a cardio routine that you saw in a magazine because everyone will have different goals, it’s going to be different that of a person who wants to run a marathon to that of a person who simply wants to improve their health or be more active. First, it is to know what it is that you want to achieve. Then it is necessary to know if you have any medical condition such as high blood pressure, low blood pressure or if you have a knee injury, or if you have an injury, to adapt your routine to your needs.”
It is important to take into account several points so as not to put your health at risk: “For people who are starting, who have low physical activity, they have to take into account three variables: frequency, intensity and duration. It is not recommended that any of these factors be increased by more than 10%. If you want to progressively load all three, there is a risk of overtraining.”
The increase in each of these variables will depend on age, physical condition and the gradual advances linked to a correct diet, guided by a professional. It is important do not forget the necessary rest periods in each week of training.
One of the main obstacles for which a person in the United States does not practice physical activity is the lack of time, as this survey applied in 2019 demonstrates, but Del Valle recalls that it is not necessary to have many free hours to complete a good session which, as he already explained, preferably combines strength and cardio: “If you are a sedentary person, who is just starting or who has little physical activity, you should start with three times a week for around 45-60 minutes. If you are a person who has medium or advanced intensity, you can do it every day, between 45 and 60 minutes”.
Now yes, What is the exercise that gives us the greatest benefits? “There are different types of cardio: it can be running, elliptical training, jumping rope, but what works best is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). In this approach, you’re taking into account the other factors, it’s not just cardio, you’re also training strength and endurance. If you’re just running, not including strength and endurance, you’d need extra gear. To do progressive loading, you need to integrate more instruments. In HIIT you can integrate other instruments such as the kettlebell, the rope, that give it that punch to your training.
Rebeca Del Valle states that the body needs different stimuli to continue oxidizing fat: “Imagine a person who runs 30 minutes every day at the same intensity, at first the body is not used to it and then it will present changes faster, it will start losing more weight, but once the body gets used to it, it will enter a balance and the results will be slower”.
After starting training, it is best to keep the routine constant because, with just two weeks of inactivity, the muscles forget, and it is also important to diversify the activities: “Some ways to change the resistance is, for example, to change the scene. You can go to the mountain, it is steeper. If you’re in the gym, try incline machines or combinations, you could do five minutes on the treadmill and then five minutes on the stair climber and switch it up. You could also add training bands to your routine, take the stairs and some workouts HIIT and functional, where you can include some weights”.
In short, why would you recommend including high-intensity interval training? “This type of training helps you improve your body composition, increase strength, increase your cardiovascular performance. The exercises HIIT they help to reach the most optimal peak of oxygen, it helps to increase resistance and helps to lower blood pressure”, concludes Del Valle, personal trainer.