You hate it? Lots of people do! You love it! There’s a loyal following there too! Whatever your views are on cardio, it’s important that you are well informed so that you can make the best decision on how you want to incorporate it into your training. Cardio or cardiovascular exercise raises the body’s heart rate into different zones, often promoting fat burn as well as calorie burn. Essentially, cardio utilizes oxygen during the workout (hence the name aerobic exercise) to get your body to perform the specific movement. It has long been used as a form of weight loss, but of course has many other significant benefits – reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased lung capacity, lowers stress, improves sleep quality, and many more. Do you know that there are different types of cardio, though, and depending on how you feel one day you might want to perform different types – owing to energy levels, time constraints and other factors. So, let’s talk about the three main types of cardio and how they can help you.

First, let’s start with HIIT cardio – everyone has heard of this one, I’m sure. It stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Here you will be doing short bursts of intense workouts for say, 20-30 seconds bringing your heart rate up to about 70%-90% maximum heart rate followed by a short rest of some seconds, followed by another round/s of intense work. Essentially a HIIT session will not be very long in duration so it’s an efficient method for those short on time as well as those targeting strength gains. The calorie burn here is the highest of the other forms of cardio but it’s not for everyone. Tabata – another well-known form of cardio, is a type of HIIT where you’re working and resting in a 2:1 ratio – 20 minutes going hard followed by 10 seconds rest, on repeat. These are excellent forms of cardio for strengthening cardiovascular strength and building your abilities as an athlete (we are all athletes by the way).

Second, there’s MISS cardio or Moderate Intensity Steady State cardio. In this type of cardio, your heart rate is lower than in HIIT – maintained around 140-160 BPM (beats per minute). In MISS, you’re essentially riding a stationary bike or (power) walking the treadmill on an incline, rowing, jogging or using the elliptical. Your body is doing hard work at a constant pace and not the start-stop mechanism seen in HIIT cardio. As a result, these workouts can be a little longer, depending on preference, since it is easier to maintain this state for a longer time period than one that is super intense. MISS however needs to be managed. The likelihood of doing excessive sessions per week or very long ones can affect strength training adaptations and muscle gains (if that is your goal) – since it can lead to glycogen depletion and muscle soreness. However, for those whose goal is general body weight maintenance with some slightly more intense sessions during the week, MISS is an excellent option.

Last, we have LISS cardio – Low Intensity Steady State cardio. The name says it all – low intensity. Therefore, we’re thinking anything such as walking, stair master, biking or elliptical where your heart rate is kept around 100-130bpm. These are perfect for daily life and staying active. LISS does not cause glycogen depletion as we saw with longer MISS sessions and so the risk of muscle soreness and stress on the joints is not a problem. However, it should be noted that LISS burns the least calories of all the 3 types of cardio. Nevertheless, its benefits are unparalleled since it is an easy and accessible option for all to add cardio into your day.

Now that you know the 3 forms of cardio, you can vary which ones you perform as well as incorporate them with some strength work. On lower energy days, opt for MISS or LISS cardio, short on time and high on energy – perhaps HIIT is best. The most important thing is that we find a way to be active every day! Till next time…

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