We discussed in a previous article whether you should do cardio or not, to find the answer to that question, click here. But, if you decided that you are going to do cardio, what and how should you do it?
What type of cardio should I do?
This one depends on two things: what you’re able to do and what you want to do. Not every method of cardio is for everyone, personally I like using a bike, walking on a treadmill, or getting on a rower but I’m not a big fan of the elliptical or running on a treadmill.
Our list of options includes:
Walking on a treadmill
Walking may seem ‘too easy’ to some but if you increase the incline you can make it very challenging. The best thing about this option is that almost everyone can do it and most gyms, even hotel gyms, have a treadmill.
Running on a treadmill
Running is a great cardiovascular challenge, but it will beat up your joints quickly if you don’t have good technique. Running seems to be a love/hate choice, some can’t get enough of their runners high…other people would rather scrape their nails down a chalkboard.
The most joint friendly form of cardio there is, the elliptical allows you to work your heart without pounding your joints.
A quick note on technique: many people do the elliptical wrong, they allow their body to move up and down during strides. Ideally, if you see yourself in a mirror your head should not move up & down.
The bike is very accessible and depending on the model you may have an interactive screen to watch Netflix on! The bike is probably not best for those who get back pain while sitting or have hip pain.
The rower is a great way to get the upper body involved in your cardio exercise. Give the rower a miss if you have elbow pain, back pain while sitting, or hip pain. When you want to push the intensity up for a sustained period the rower is a great choice (Note: Do not use the rower for HIIT). Unfortunately, there is some technique to be learned when using the rower so it’s not as ‘plug & play’ as everything else.
This is another exercise that is accessible to almost everyone; although if you have knee pain you may want to skip it. The stair climber provides a particularly hard workout because you’re working against gravity
How should I do my cardio?
This is a great question. If you decide you want to improve your health and aid your weight loss then the next step is to decide on some logistics. The truth is that the possibilities are endless and there is very little in the way of hard and fast rules for doing your cardio. However, here are a few ideas:
‘I don’t have time for lots of cardio’: - HIIT/ SIT training
HIIT stands for High-intensity-interval training and is based around the idea that you can get the benefits of long durations of cardio in a much shorter time by doing shorter bursts of high-intensity exercise (8-9/10) mixed with periods of rest.
SIT stands for Sprint-interval-training and is similar to HIIT except that during period of exercise you are at an ‘all-out’ effort (10/10 effort). Typically, these protocols are shorter than HIIT training and can produce similar results in terms of health markers, but the training is less…fun.
What are some scientifically proven protocols that I can use?
You can make up your own HIIT and SIT protocols that fit your training style and time but here are some protocols that have been proven in the research to be effective at improving health.
4x4 method from Norway (total time: 40 minutes)
60 on 60 off method (total time: 25 minutes)
The one-minute workout (total time: 10 minutes)