Aerobic exercise, also known as cardio, is a type of physical activity in which the muscles receive sufficient oxygen in order to release energy.
The energy is produced by oxidising or burning the calories and releasing ATP or Adenosine triphosphate molecules (form of cellular energy). This type of workout includes activities like walking, running, jogging, cycling and swimming.
Aerobic workouts improve the body functions to a great extent. They are beneficial as they prevent the risk of various health problems. These include cardiovascular disease, impaired body functions, metabolic abnormalities and brain related disorders among many others.
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Why steady state exercise such as long cardio session is not good for weight loss?
Even though cardio is good for weight loss, it is only so for a certain period of time. After continuously working out at the same rate, also known as a steady state exercise, the body gets used to it and adjusts itself accordingly.
This means that the body then starts to save some extra calories for future workout sessions so that they can replace the ones being lost. Due to this, there is either no change in the weight or the person may even gain extra weight.
What is High Intensity Intermittent Training?
This is the reason why HIIT or High Intensity Intermittent Training is preferred over cardio exercise. High intensity interval training involves intense workout with small intervals in between.
Basically in this type of training, people work out so as to make the metabolism work as fast as possible and then it is followed by short breaks which allow the muscles to recover and absorb oxygen from the blood to complete the oxidation and release energy. It can be aerobic as well as anaerobic.
What does research say about role of long cardio sessions in weight loss?
Studies have found that aerobic exercise does not always lead to sustained weight loss. In some cases, cardio does not cause any change in the weight, and in some others it has been proved to even gain weight.
The fat lost is way lesser than expected from this kind of workout.
This may be because people do not maintain a healthy diet along with physical activity. For weight loss to take place successfully, it is important to decrease the calorie intake and increase the energy expenditure.
A workout session consisting of a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training, which involves weight lifting exercises, should be followed as they are the most effective in losing fat fast.
Aerobic exercise burns the stored fat. But after a certain amount, they start burning protein from the muscles in order to obtain energy. This leads to the degradation of the muscles.
To prevent this, more lean mass is needed so that the lost muscle is rebuilt. The lean mass should be increased while the level of fat mass should be low for healthy weight loss. Resistance training helps in building up this lean mass.
A study was performed to compare the effects of running for a long time between athletes and non-athletic people. Running is a form of cardio workout as it involves aerobic processes in order to release energy.
It was observed that athletes had a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation (A condition in which the heart beats irregularly) than other regular people. Hence it can be said that practicing cardio for long periods of time can be detrimental to health.
Resting energy expenditure is the amount of energy required by the body when it is not performing any kind of physical activity. It means that the body is at rest. This is the minimum energy required daily by the body to survive.
When the resting energy expenditure (REE) is reduced, significant changes in weight can be observed. In order to lose weight, the REE should be increased. Cardio does not cause a sufficient decrease in the REE; hence it is not as effective in decreasing fat as other forms of physical activities.
How Is High Intensity Intermittent Training Better Than Cardio For Weight Loss?
High intensity intermittent training has been proved to cause a greater reduction in fat loss when compared with a cardio workout consisting of a constant speed throughout the session. This was observed when both the types of exercise had the same frequency and intensity.
Another reason why HIIT should be preferred over cardio is the fast metabolism in HIIT. When the metabolism becomes fast during the high intensity workout, the fat oxidizes at a higher rate.
On the other hand, in steady state cardio, the metabolism is slower and it returns back to the initial rate once the workout stops. HIIT also help in increasing the production of hormones which aid in weight loss and decrease the insulin resistance to the body.
The duration of a cardio workout is not the most important factor to consider when aiming for weight loss. What’s more important is the balance of a healthy diet and an acute workout.
The number of calories consumed should be controlled along with lowering the fat and carbohydrate content as much as possible. Maintaining a negative energy balance is an essential part of weight loss.
Exercises which are of a high intensity lead to a greater weight loss than the ones with low or moderate intensity. This is because the fat is lost faster if the workout is intense.
There is enough research to show that low intensity cardio is not sufficient for reducing fat from the body even if done for a long time.
When cardio is performed for a prolonged time period, it may lead to injuries to the muscle due to continuous strain. To prevent this, the workout session should be kept short but with an increased intensity.
We can say that aerobic workouts are good for health, but in order to reduce a significant amount of weight successfully, strength training should be included in the workout regime.
Strength training includes physical activities which provide resistance to the muscles which further makes them stronger. This is necessary in order to maintain an optimum weight, but to lose the excess fat.