Importance of Variability in Cardiovascular Workouts

The most common cardiovascular workout consists of a 30 minute steady rate run on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike, or coasting on a elliptical machine while watching the television at their $35 per month state of the art gym.  While it is good that the individual is actively elevating their heart rate for 30 minutes and religiously doing this three to four days per week, the truth is that the value to an individual's cardiovascular system is greatly reduced after the first couple of weeks as the body becomes condition to operating in this steady state.  That is what our bodies do ...  they quickly adapt to new environments and conditions and then efficiently operate in that situation.  This is why it is important to vary the activity rate to keep the body under stress and tax the cardiovascular system.

5 Tips to Lose Your Belly Fat Many fitness professionals and doctors will prescribe low to moderate intensity aerobic training (cardiovascular training) to people who are trying to reduce the chances for heart disease or lose weight.  The typical recommendation is:  perform 30 to 60 minutes of steady pace cardio exercise (ie, run on a treadmill) at least 3 to 5 times per week in which you maintain your heart rate at a moderate level.  Sound familiar?

Before you take this recommendation at face value, I would like you to consider that recent scientific research indicates that steady pace endurance cardio work may not be as effective in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system or losing weight as many originally thought.

First, realize that our bodies are designed to perform physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery (stop and go movements) instead of steady state movements.  Recent research suggests that physical variability is one of the most important aspects to consider in your training.  This tendency can be seen throughout nature as animals regularly demonstrate exertion bursts.  Oddly, humans are the only creatures that attempt to do endurance type physical activity.  Most competitive sports, such as football, basketball, soccer, and hockey, are based on short bursts of exertion followed by recovery.

Consider the physiques of marathoners versus sprinters.  Most sprinters carry a physique that is very lean, muscular, and powerful looking while the typical marathoner is often emaciated and sickly looking.  Which would you rather look like?  The difference is based on the marathoner's endurance training versus the sprinter's exertion burst and recovery training.

Another factor to keep in mind regarding the benefits of physical variability is the internal effect of various forms of exercise on our body.  Scientists have known that excessive steady state endurance exercise increases degenerate joints, reduces immune function, causes muscle wasting, and can cause pro-inflammatory response in the body that can potentially lead to chronic diseases.

On the other hand, highly variable cyclic training has been linked to increased anti-oxidant production in the body and an anti-inflammatory response, a more efficient nitric oxide response that can encourage a healthy cardiovascular system, and an increased metabolic rate that can assist with weight loss.  Furthermore, steady state endurance training only trains the heart at one specific heart rate range and does not train it to respond to various everyday stressors.

Highly variable cyclic training teaches the heart to respond to and recover from a variety of demands making it less likely to fail when you need it.  This type of training teaches your heart to rapidly increase and decrease, which makes your heart more capable of handling everyday stress.  Stress can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase rapidly.  Cyclical training teaches your body how to react to an elevated heart rate and quickly recover.  That recover period (the down time between burst of exertion) is crucially important for the body to elicit a healthy response to an excessive stimulus.

An example of high intensity cyclic training using a NordicTrack variable speed and incline treadmill could look something like this:

  1. Warm-up: 3 to 5 minute progression from a brisk walk to light jog
  2. Interval 1:  run at 8 mph (80% maximum wind sprint speed) for 1 minute
  3. Interval 2:  walk at 4 mph (brisk walk) for 1 1/2 minutes
  4. Interval 3:  run at 10 mph (100% maximum wind spring speed) for 1 minute
  5. Interval 4:  walk at 4 mph (brisk walk) for 1 1/2 minutes
  6. Repeat the 4 intervals (steps 2 thru 5) 4 times
  7. Warm-down:  3 to 5 minute progression from a light jog to brisk walk to normal walk

In less than 30 minutes a couple times per week, you have trained your body to handle everyday life stressors and simultaneously improved your cardiovascular health and shed a few extra pounds.

To learn about more high intensity variable cyclical training, go to Workout, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Secrets.

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