There seems to be an anti-cardio movement going on in the fitness world and while I don’t believe cardio is a great tool to lose fat, I would never say that it is bad for you. However, I do think there is a misconception that the more you do, the better results you will get.
Longer duration cardio can keep our bodies in a chronically high cortisol (stress hormone )state and strip our bodies of lean muscle mass. Often this type of activity is either paired with eating less, in which our metabolic rate slows, or causes us to crave and eat more, resulting in excess fat/weight gain.
If you run long distance or like to spend an hour on the bike because you enjoy it, it releases those feel good endorphins, or you are training for a triathlon, then by all means go for it! But if your goal is to lose fat or build muscle, you are picking one of the least efficient forms of training.
Over the past few years I have figured out my own unique cardio formula, that has been most successful for my body and my mind.
Here are the 5 types of multi-purpose cardio that I enjoy and see results from.
Leisure walking. The stress reducer. Leisure walking is a great way to lower your cortisol levels. I walk 15-40 minutes 5 days a week with my dog, depending on how much time I have. She makes it a bit more stressful, as she likes to stop and smell everything or try to run ahead, but I take it as an opportunity to practice patience and enjoy my time outside.
Hiking/Swimming . The exercise that does not feel like exercise. When I go hiking or swimming, I don’t really think about it in a workout perspective. I think about it in a movement perspective. I don’t do it to burn calories, I do it because I love it and it is a great mood enhancer. I think it is important to have movement in our lives, that is not considered “exercise” to our brain.
Sprinting – The athlete in me. Whenever I sprint it makes me feel like an athlete, which makes me feel powerful and confident. Sprinting is probably one of the forms of cardio I do least, but when I do it, it makes me feel strong. Sprinting is also a great workout to develop abs. Who knew? It works the waist from all angles and is one of the best exercises for fat burning.
Lift weights faster – The all-in-one cardio. This is the form I use most often to get my heart rate up. I like to pair most of my strength exercises in a pattern that allows me to keep moving, makes me breathe hard, and get the benefits of strength training at the same time. This allows me to keep lean muscle mass and burn more calories at rest. (Sign up below to get a few examples).
Interval Training – More time efficient. I have no desire to sit on a bike, elliptical, or go for a run for more than 20 minutes, let alone 2 hours. If I can get solid benefits from 20 minutes of intervals working harder but for a shorter period of time, or add a quick 10 minutes in after my strength workout, I am all about it!
I created 10 types of multi purpose cardio workouts completely FREE for you to try. (Sign up —-> here .) Ultimately, the best kind of cardio is the kind you can stick with ongoing. Find what you enjoy, or can at least tolerate the best, and you will find it is easier to stick with.