Cardio workouts – an essential tool for toning your body

A widely held belief is the idea that it is possible to have one element of fitness without the others. So for example, when someone thinks to themselves: "I need to get toned", they are probably looking for a workout that will provide well defined strong muscles. However, a toned body is a reflection of a fit and healthy body. Anyone with a body that looks  "toned" or well-defined, will have worked on all elements of their fitness.

At Technogym, total wellness means working on your body on the inside and out: on your physical as well as your emotional states. What you put into your body as well as what you don’t.  These form part of the Six Dimensions of Wellness – here’s a quick recap:

Intellectual – Using available resources to expand knowledge, improve skills and increase the potential of the shelf of others.

Spiritual – Developing a strong sense of personal values and ethics

Physical – Looking after the fabric of your body

Occupational – Your attitude and approach to work

Social – Connecting them being in harmony with other people

Emotional – Managing your emotional state so that you can deal with life's ups and downs with grace and maintain satisfying relationships with others.

Wellness concepts are woven into everything (from products to programs) at Technogym.

Therefore, instead of asking how to tone your body, the real question should be how to improve your overall fitness and well-being so that you become stronger, faster, and physically and emotionally healthier all-round. In this article, the focus is on physical fitness. There are five components of physical fitness to consider:

Muscular strength

  1. Muscular Endurance
  2. Cardiovascular endurance
  3. Flexibility
  4. Body fat composition

We will be looking at working your cardiovascular system to burn fat. Cardiovascular training also has the added benefit of helping to prevent heart disease and lower your blood pressure.

Cardiovascular training helps you burn fat by increasing your metabolism. The lower the percentage of fat covering your muscles the easier it will be to see them and so they will look more toned and well-defined.

Losing fat is not the same thing as losing weight.  Weight loss can occur due to losing muscle mass (the result of burning considerably more calories than you consume; forcing our body to use muscle tissue as a source of fuel) or simply losing water.

Losing fat means that you are burning off the excess fat your body has stored because you consumed more energy than it needed to perform the demands placed upon it.  Whilst a cardiovascular program will aid fat burning, fat loss also requires a very precise nutritional plan to ensure that you only burn fat, and not muscle tissue as well or instead of.

There are two approaches to cardiovascular training:

Low Intensity Steady-State Cardio (LISSC)

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

The fitness industry has long debated the merits of LISSC versus HITT with experts coming down on one side of the fence or the other. However the reality is that both forms of cardio have their pros and cons. Which one is best for you will depend on your fitness levels, personal preference (it is better to stick to a programme that you enjoy than give up on one that you dislike), and on the goals you wish to achieve. Indeed, it is likely that each will be useful to your fitness program at different periods.

Low Intensity Steady-State Cardio (LISSC)

LISSC is an aerobic activity performed at a steady but challenging and manageable pace. That is between 60 to 80% of your maximum heart rate capacity for a minimum of 20 minutes. This type of aerobic exercise requires oxygen and uses stored fat as fuel.

The majority of physical activity performed by the human body relies on aerobic activity, which is true whether we are resting or moving. In addition, anaerobic activities have to draw on the aerobic system in order to return the body to a neutral state following anaerobic bursts.

LISSC is a simple way of burning fat for beginners because it is performed at a lower intensity allowing the individual to gradually build up their endurance. LISSC has a low impact on the body and therefore is easy on joints, requires little or no recovery time, and can be done on a daily basis if desired.

A typical LISSC work out should begin with a brief warm-up and stretch of about 5 to 8 minutes to mobilise the joints and prepare the body for exercise. This is followed by a build-up period of another 5 to 8 minutes where the heart rate is gradually increased to the training zone (60 to 80% of the maximum heart rate capacity). Once the training zone is reached the exercise is sustained at this steady-state for a period of at least 20 minutes, ideally between 30-45 minutes.

The steady state section is followed by a cool down period of 3 to 8 minutes (depending on the level of fitness) where the heart rate is returned to pre-exercise levels. Like all good workouts the LISSC should conclude with stretching the used muscles to ensure that they remain flexible and supple.

Examples of LISSC exercises include:

  • Power walking
  • Jogging
  • Cycling
  • Elliptical training
  • Swimming
  • Dancing
  • Tai-chi
  • Yoga

 

A good way of keeping track of your heart rate is to use a heart rate monitor. You can also use the Talk test (see whether you can answer a question, but not comfortably carry on a conversation). The aim of LISSC is to break a sweat without having to work at too high an intensity. If you feel out of breath and unable to continue, it is probably an indication that you are no longer working in the LISSC training zone.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

HIIT is made up of short bursts of vigorous, anaerobic "give it all you’ve got" activity (often between one and two minutes), followed by a period of rest. The rest is usually double the time you spend performing the exercise, although this recovery period can be shortened as fitness levels improve.

HIIT sessions are short, i.e. no more than 20 minutes, excluding warm up, cool down and stretches (8-15 minutes is an average length of time for one session). You can perform HIIT in a gym on a treadmill, cycle, elliptical equipment or outdoors, and use equipment like kettle bells, barbells, jump ropes, or your own bodyweight.

HIIT is a more effective tool than LISSC for rapid fat loss. A 1994 study, found HIIT was nine times more effective for losing fat than steady-state cardio (Laval University Quebec, Canada). HIIT has significantly greater Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC), which means that the body continues to burn calories post workout. Also, with HIIT your resting metabolism increases, and your body becomes more efficient at using fat for fuel.

Because HIIT requires the individual to push their body to its limits (intervals are done at 90% of max heart rate capacity), this level of intensity is not recommended for beginners. Beginners wishing to include HIIT sessions in their fitness routines should start slow and be aware of their own physical limitations. In addition, due to the stress on the body, HIIT should only be done a maximum of 2-3 times per week, on alternative days.

Cardiovascular exercises, whether LISSC or HIIT, are an effective way to achieve a tight, toned appearance. If you need help finding a suitable workout, Technogym’s personal home and gym club equipment such as MYRUN TECHNOGYM, Cross Personal or Excite + Vario are ideal for both LISSC and HIIT training because their intuitive and interactive UNITY consoles can create routine shaped around the users personal needs and goals