Walking to lose weight
The Myth of Cardio:
Walk into any gym and the equipment in the most prominent place- right by the windows or mysteriously shrouded in a theater-like arena- are the cardio pieces. It’s the first thing people think of when they decide to adopt a heathier lifestyle and focus on weight loss because it is the most easily accessible. Everyone knows how to walk on a treadmill, bike a stationary bike, or climb an artificial staircase.
Recently on facebook a friend, Patty, posted that she had been walking to work rather than taking her normal bus. The trip was about a mile and a half each way and it was taking her an hour to make. While the fresh air was welcome and she enjoyed the exercise, she was disappointed that she wasn’t losing weight with her weight loss new routine.
Whether you do your cardio in the gym or in your neighborhood, many people believe that their weight loss will succeed or fail based only on their cardio routine. What we fail to realize is that more is not always better when it comes to cardio.
Patty, the friend who was disappointed that her daily walk wasn’t resulting in weight loss, posted the million-dollar question: how many more miles should she increase her walk in order to see results? The feedback she got showcased a huge misunderstanding about the benefits of cardiovascular exercise. Many of her friends suggested doubling her walk, increasing the time commitment from an hour to two hours each way of her journey. What no one told Patty was that a leisurely four hour walk each day will not result in weight loss.
The key to successful cardio is a steady increase in the intensity of the exercise. The most effective weight loss cardio sessions are short and high intensity, three or four days a week. Rather than increasing the amount of miles (or time) that Patty was walking each day, she should really try to do the one and a half-mile walk in forty-five minutes rather than sixty. Once the forty-five minute walk is comfortable, she could try to run and walk in alternating sprints. The increase of short, intense cardio workouts will boost metabolism and help spark weight loss.
The cardio trap of “longer is better” can lead to other detrimental conditions, too. How many people would be willing to devote four hours a day to cardio exercise? Not many. Most people who do spent hours on cardio often experience boredom that leads to quitting completely. There is only so much time a person can spend on the hamster wheel!
When we spend long amounts of time on cardio, our bodies learn to adapt to the stress of the routine. This causes any weight loss progress to slow or even stop completely. Why isn’t cardio the ultimate weight loss solution? Because you will get tired of doing it at about the same time it loses its effectiveness.
Cardio lovers are also at an increased risk for injury from the wear and tear on the joints. That’s another reason Patty’s increased walking trips are ill-advised. Runners in particular often experience knee, ankle, and foot-strike problems because of the constant friction and impact to their joints. Other concerns include hormonal stresses that too much cardio can cause in your body, leading to inflammation.
There is no amount of exercise that can outrun a bad diet, either, although some people have tried! Cardio in particular can cause a dependency on carbohydrates. Consuming the large amounts of carbs that are needed to fuel long cardio workouts will increase your blood sugar level and release insulin. Due to the body’s chemical processing, your body can end up storing more fat. Sounds like a no-win game, doesn’t it? Your body craves carbs to fuel the long cardio sessions, which then converts to fat even though you are spending increased time on the cardio machine. In an effort to lose weight some people cut carbs completely. This is a short-term solution that will shock your body into a short burst of weight loss followed by a weight loss plateau. Most people can’t sustain a zero-cardio diet and those with the willpower to do it may find that after a while their weight loss subsides.
The most effective weight loss plans include short, intense cardio sessions paired with strength training and a balanced nutrition plan. If you can carry on a conversation while you are taking that brief walk around the office parking lot it doesn’t count as exercise. Instead, try to get up the stairs as quickly as you can. Pair that intense burst of exercise with a hard-boiled egg or banana, and you’ll be on your way to cardiovascular health and a trimmer waistline.
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