Maximize Your Cardio for Health and Fat Loss!
Ugh. I have to work out for THIRTY minutes?!? Five times per week?!?
I’ll be honest that I used to tell people: "It is what it is, so get over it and just do it."
Not helpful. Shame on me.
To the average fitness professional who probably works out 60 minutes per day, 6 days per week, a 30 minute workout seems completely reasonable and….EASY.
It's also really easy to forget how it feels to be at the beginning of a fitness journey. What seems really "easy" and "doable" for me today was DAUNTING when I was just getting started.
Nowadays I strive to be much more empathetic toward my clients and not take for granted that they may be afraid of change. They already feel guilty. They already know they haven't been taking great care of their bodies. They are putting their trust in me to guide them, not make them feel worse about themselves.
I work with clients to find ways around their biggest obstacles to health and weight loss. Exercise - or lack of exercise - often tops the list of obstacles.
I have found that the average person simply dreads the idea of exercising for 30 minutes. Even if it’s only 3 or 4 times per week. Couple that with our standard American, super-busy lifestyle, and it’s even less likely that you’ll consistently make time for a 30 minute session.
No doubt, movement and exercise are important. You absolutely should be striving to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity EVERY day. It’s important for every facet of human well-being from proper digestion to heart health to maintaining your weight.
The human body is built to MOVE.
But does it really have to be 30 minutes?
Bad news: Yes. You need to be moving for at least 30 minutes every day. Minimum.
Good news: You will derive just as much benefit – and possibly more – by breaking it into three 10-minute sessions spread throughout the day.
That’s right! You may get MORE benefit by breaking up your exercise sessions!
Get a little nerdy with me as we explore the science:
A 2001 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition concluded that shorter 10 minute bouts of exercise were just as effective for aerobic fitness and weight loss as a single 30 minute session.
A 2012 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise showed that shorter 10-minute brisk walks spread throughout the day was MORE EFFECTIVE at lowering blood pressure in prehypertensive adults than a continuous 30 minute session!
What about calorie burn?
Calorie burn will be exactly the same if you break a workout into three separate segments as if you did it in a single 30 minute session. But there may be additional benefits for health and weight loss if you properly time these mini-bouts of exercise:
A study published by the Journal of American Medical Directors Association indicated that timing exercise to fall AFTER meals was more effective at lowering blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes.
If you've been following me, you should already know that high blood glucose leads to elevated insulin. Insulin is a hormone whose main function is to instruct your cells to STORE energy. It also effectively turns off your body’s ability to burn its own stored fat. For this reason, controlling blood sugar and insulin is imperative, not only for health, but also weight control.
So I am stretching the science a bit on this, but I would go so far as to say that performing 10 minute exercise sessions right after meals will not only help Type 2 diabetics control their blood glucose levels, but it may also help the average person without diabetes better control their weight!
So how does a health coach help people struggling to incorporate exercise into their busy lifestyle?
- Break 30 minute sessions into shorter segments of 10 minutes each. Not only is this psychologically more “doable”, but, as noted above, this may actually be MORE effective than a single 30 minute session.
- Time at least one of your 10 minute sessions to fall directly after the largest meal of the day (usually dinner). This is so easy and can actually be ENJOYABLE! Take a brisk walk with your dog or with a loved one. You’ll simultaneously increase positive connections with a loved one, reduce stress, and improve your health!
- Don't overdo it. There's no need to run or sweat profusely. Brisk walking is best for cardiovascular and joint health. You should be walking fast enough to increase your heart and breathing rate, but still be able to maintain a conversation.
- Try adding short bouts of high intensity work to ONE of the 10 minute sessions (preferably the morning session). Try this: 10 seconds of high intensity “work” (i.e. skipping, sprinting, jumping jacks, jumping rope, squats, pushups, etc.) followed by 50 seconds of walking at a moderate “recovery” pace. Repeat 10 times (for a 10 minute session). Current research strongly indicates that High intensity interval training (HIIT) is more effective at reducing body fat and increasing cardiovascular health – yes, even for older adults – than steady-state cardio…but that’s a topic for another day.
When do you need to do continuous cardio sessions? In my opinion, NEVER, unless you are training for something specific like a 5k, 10k, marathon, or triathlon. In those cases, yes, you need to help your body adjust to running/cycling/swimming for longer periods of time. Keep in mind that long-duration cardio isn't actually very good for you, especially if you're a woman...but that's another topic for another day!
Bottom Line: We need movement. Find a realistic way to incorporate more movement into your day and you'll be happier, healthier, and have an easier time controlling your weight.
What is YOUR favorite way to incorporate exercise into your day?
Thanks for reading!