There are two main categories of exercise. The first is aerobic or ‘cardio’ exercise. This is any activity that uses large muscle groups to raise your heart rate to at least above 50% of your maximum for a sustained period of time. Examples include, walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rowing etc. The benefits are improved heart and lung function, weight loss, reduction in mood swings and depression just to name a few.
The second form of exercise is resistance or ‘weights’ training. Circuit training is the most popular form of resistance training for weight loss. Some of the benefits include; improved muscle strength and tone, improved metabolism, improved bone density and improved posture.
1) Aerobic or ‘cardio’ exercise
Everyone has wondered at some point in time which form of cardio exercise is better; low intensity or high intensity? Walk or run? To put it in simple terms, both low and high intensity exercises will help you to burn off body fat. The question here is which is the most effective to burn off MORE body fat?
You will hear all too often that if you are trying to lose body fat, you should walk rather than run because you burn more fat by walking. These people have just misunderstood the data. When you walk at a low intensity, around 75% of the calories you use will come from body fat. When you go for a jog only 50% of the calories burned will come from body fat, and when you run very fast, only 20% of the calories burned will come from body fat. What has been completely forgotten is that, while jogging burns a lower proportion of fat, it will burn a greater amount of fat. The conclusion is that jogging burns more body fat than walking!
To put the icing on the cake, when your glycogen stores get low (due to higher intensity exercise), the carbohydrates from the food you eat will later get converted into glycogen to top up the depleted stores, and therefore, will not be converted to body fat when they are left unused for energy.
High intensity cardio exercise will also boost your metabolism even after you have completed your workout. What this means, is that your body will continue to burn calories hours after you have finished your workout. This is because during recovery from this type of exercise, energy (calories) is needed to return your body to a resting state and adapt it to the exercise just performed. This process is known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Once a state of EPOC is achieved, your body will continue to burn more calories after your session as it tries to recover from the activity just performed. This includes hormone balancing, replenishment of fuel stores, cellular repair, fuelling the body’s increase in metabolism due to the increase in body temperature and many more bodily processes. This means that you have the potential to keep burning calories for up to 36 hours after your workout! This effect is nearly non-existent in low intensity exercise.
In summary, high intensity interval training (HIIT) is the most effective form of cardio for weight loss.
2) Resistance or ‘weights’ Training
Resistance As we have already mentioned, resistance training is one of the most effective ways to improve the functioning of your metabolism. To be more specific, metabolic resistance training (MRT) should be your method of choice if increased muscle tone and body fat loss are your goals. The essence of MRT is to pack more exercise into less time. Circuit training is probably the most popular form of MRT as it has been shown to burn many more calories and have a much greater EPOC effect than traditional resistance training. The exercises performed should cover all of the major muscle groups. They should be compound in nature; meaning that they should utilize more than one muscle group at a time. Time spent performing each exercise should be 45-60 seconds or 15-20 repetitions with minimal rest in-between exercises. If done properly, total session time should be about 30minutes.
The only way MRT can be effective is if you are pushing your muscles to the point of failure (or at least close to it) between 15-20 repetitions. If you do not achieve this level of muscular fatigue, you are not giving your muscles a reason to change. The most well designed program will be deemed ineffective if this principle is not followed.