Can Low Intensity Cardio Be Effective As High Intensity?!

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We’ve all heard about HIIT and the benefits it offers: a high-intensity, fast and calorie-burning workout. It’s extremely popular with good reason, but what about low-intensity cardio training? A common misconception is that exercise has to be intense in order to be effective, but that isn’t correct. Case in point: low-intensity cardio training.

Low-intensity cardio training is when you workout at approximately 50–70 percent of your maximum heart rate for a steady and sustained period. Typically, a low-intensity cardio workout lasts 10–60 minutes. Low-intensity cardio training is relatively low impact, while providing all the cardiovascular benefits of exercise without over-taxing your body. Low-intensity cardio training can be utilized for warming up before and cooling down after resistance-training sessions. In addition, this style of training is well-suited to fasted cardio. It can also assist active recovery as it helps to improve blood flow and circulation to your working muscles.  You should be able to hold a conversation while completing a low-intensity cardio workout (making it the perfect social exercise!).

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How do you calculate your maximum heart rate?

To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 25 years old, subtract 25 from 220 to get a maximum heart rate of 195. This is the average number of times your heart should beat per minute during max effort exercise. If your maximum heart rate is 195, then for a low-intensity workout, you’ll be maintaining a heart rate of between 78 (40% of maximum heart rate) and 136 (70% of maximum) throughout the session to stay in the range of a suitable heart rate.

How does low-intensity cardio training work?

Low-intensity cardio builds your aerobic capacity. In turn, your body is able to break down carbs and fats into energy, strengthen your slow-twitch muscles and transport oxygen more effectively to your working muscles. Your ability to store glycogen (carbs in the liver and muscles) increases which means your aerobic capacity increases. In addition to this, once your glycogen stores have depleted, your body is more efficient at metabolising fat for fuel.

There are so many forms of low-intensity cardio workouts to try! 

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Not only are they well suited to doing with a friend or partner, they’re also relatively low in cost, which makes them accessible and wallet-friendly. If you do all your workouts in a gym (and want to stick with what works), try going for a long walk on a treadmill or stair-stepper machine, pedaling on a bike, hitting up the rowing machine and swimming laps of the pool. Alternatively, if you enjoy heading outdoors and getting some vitamin D, go for a walk, hit the pavement with a light jog, swim some laps or try your hand at cycling. Yoga can also be a good form of low-intensity cardio.

How often should you do low-intensity cardio training? 

The ultimate goal is to have a well-rounded fitness routine, and this will look different for each person. You can actually complete low-intensity cardio training every day if you like! However, this could be supplemented with 2–4 HIIT workouts during the week, too, if that’s in line with your fitness goals.  Schedules can be packed and life happens — just do the best you can. If you have an off week, start fresh the following one. Don’t beat yourself up!

 

 

Take away tip

Benefits of low-intensity cardio training:

  • Improve blood circulation and increase blood flow 
  • Build cardiovascular endurance
  • Build muscle endurance
  • Lessen fatigue
  • Burn fat
  • Place less strain on your joints, ligaments and tendons — and therefore reduce the risk of injury

Q&A: How low intensity cardio training works?

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