The Skinny On Cardio: Why It’s Important?
The first thing that normally pops into one’s head when you think of weight loss is ‘diet’. And then we jump onto the newest diet bandwagon. And most of the time we do not succeed. Why is that? Because we forget to incorporate exercise.
Simple thinking says that you must take in fewer calories than you burn every day. This will cause you to burn some of your stored up calories (fat). But it is not always that easy.
There are two ways that you can cause a calorie deficit. The first is by eating less and the second is to exercise more. The best way to make sure that you can succeed in continuous fat loss without hitting a plateau is to have a healthy combination of both.
The reason why only eating less does not work is because you’re body has an instinctual ‘starvation mode’. As soon as your body perceives that there is a period of starvation with too little food to fuel you, it lowers its metabolism to conserve energy. It does this to protect the brain.
The brain always needs glucose (carbohydrates) to function. However, glucose cannot be stored in the body. The only place your body can then get a hold of glucose is to ‘eat’ its own muscle. This lowers your metabolism and causes the starvation response. In this way your body accomplishes two things: it provides glucose for the brain and since you have less muscle, your body needs less food. And that is when you hit the fat loss plateau.
When you combine exercise with your diet, the body reasons that because you are doing something, there is probably enough food around and it shouldn’t worry about the supply. And so the starvation response is usually avoided. The two most efficient types of exercise that can accomplish this are weight training and aerobic exercise (cardiovascular exercise / cardio). This article is specifically about the cardio section. In a later article I will sing the praises of weight training… Keep an eye out for that one.
I used to hate doing cardio – I used to get tired just thinking of it. This negative attitude made it very difficult for me to commit to it. But once I used mind over matter to overcome that obstacle, and my body adapted to it, it became easier. How does your body adapt? It makes a lot of changes but here are a few major ones:
That does not mean that the same amount and type of exercise will burn more calories, but that your body is able to do the exercise more efficiently and eventually you will be able to do exercise that will burn more calories in the same amount of time like jogging instead of walking.
Over time, your body will adapt to the type of exercise that you are doing and become accustomed to the intensity, duration and frequency of it. Being very lazy, the body will not work harder than it needs to so you will have to increase or ‘overload’ the intensity, duration or frequency to boost results. Depending on which one you choose to increase, your body will adapt to that. For example; if you perform the same aerobic video 3 times per week, your body will grow accustomed to that and will burn the same amount of calories every time. If you want to burn more calories, you need to increase the frequency of your exercise to 4/5 times per week. Or you need to increase the amount of time that you do it. Or you need to increase the intensity of the exercise by moving on to an intermediate or advanced level of exercise. Whichever one you choose your body will adapt to that specific one.
How does one go about getting into a cardio routine? If you haven’t done any cardio for some time, you need to start slowly. You can progress from walking to intermittent jogging to jogging for the whole time to jogging faster or longer. The hardest part really is just to get started. In the beginning one needs a lot of discipline – almost a mind over matter thing, until it becomes part of your routine.
Once you’ve become comfortable with this routine, your body will start to crave the exercise that you’ve made it used to. Many long time athletes blame this phenomenon on the ‘endorphin high’ they get from exercising. Exercising releases endorphins into the body. Endorphins are also called the feel-good hormones. They create a feeling of well-being, relaxation, improvement in mood and increase your ability to think clearly. Once your body has become ‘addicted’ to that feeling, you will find that you need less discipline to stick to your routine or, lo and behold, you may even come to enjoy it!
It is also important that you stay well hydrated when doing cardio. All metabolic processes in the body take place in water. If you do not have enough water you will not be exercising or thinking at capacity. Exercising while dehydrated can also cause dizziness, heat exhaustion, make you pass-out or in severe cases cause death. Make sure that you are drinking water throughout the day and not only when you exercise.
Aside from burning calories and helping you to lose weight, cardio has other benefits which include: