How often do you go to the gym and think “Well, I should do some cardio today”? Does “cardio” mean torturing yourself on a treadmill? Does it involve the Stairmaster AKA Death machine?
To be honest with you, many of us are brainwashed (or cardio-washed?) by the media that hardcore cardio is the way to go. And it is true, cardio is fantastic for burning fat, building muscle, feeling great, and pumping your heart. Hey, even cleaning up your house can be a good cardio workout. In fact, low heart rate workouts can be very beneficial for your health. The problem is…many people don’t know the difference between cardio and the metabolic effects of it on our bodies. Why is it a problem?
It can lead to overtraining, causing too much inflammation, and many chronic issues that may prevent you from exercising completely. Let alone the injuries! While we often think “the harder I work out, the more I sweat, the more beneficial my workout is”. It is not the case, and largely is a myth. In fact, if you are huffing and puffing for too long, you are engaging in anaerobic exercise. if you repeat this type of exercise often, you will make your body endure loads of work that it is not used to dealing with, thus the consequences:
- Muscles will not recover properly (because they will be stressed and overused);
- Muscles break down (they need time to rest and recover – excessive wear causes them not to recover fully);
- Compromising immune function (extra inflammation causes recovery issues and diverts body functions to repair);
- Desire to work out will decrease = performance will too (who wants to work out when you say “ouch” trying to laugh?!);
- You will feel like you need more carbohydrates to recover – which is not always a good thing. This increase in cravings is because your body depletes glycogen stores, not necessarily burns fat like you want.
What is low heart rate training?
Any movement or exercise you perform in the low, or aerobic heart rate zone (your heart rate of 180-age and below as an estimate) can be considered low heart rate training. Not to go too deep into the science of mitochondria and cardiovascular activities, but it is the best and most efficient way to optimize your heart health. It is a comfortable zone for most people, and it allows bio-magical science to happen. Your bones get more strength, your muscles get stronger and endure more without breaking down, your body releases endorphins, inflammation is kept under control and at a low rate. You start with burning fat instead of glycogen (if you are fat-adapted) because your body prefers to use ketones (or the energy produced from fat) during aerobic exercises. This also allows us to be able to exercise longer for more efficient results.
The difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise:
As I mentioned before, aerobic exercise based on lower heart rates. Alternatively, anaerobic exercise is anything above the level of “180 minus your age”. It does not mean it is wrong, or bad. Anaerobic exercises work totally differently on your body ( ever tried running a marathon at a good speed?! You will feel like a train wreck by the end of the third hour…). In fact, anaerobic literally “without oxygen”. You burn glycogen (read: all the carbs you ate), and burn it at a good rate, causing your body to produce lactate and a high amount of inflammation. This is how we build muscle, but it is hard on the body, especially at higher frequencies. At some point, you will need food to replenish because your body will run out of fuel. It is pretty stressful for your body!
What are the benefits of low heart rate training?
The absence of chronic illness.
Your body abuses cortisol production when you do anaerobic exercise, as well as fight-or-flight response, which leads to systemic inflammation. On the opposite, aerobic exercise does not lead to too much of oxidation and stress, thus it prevents you from getting too much of acute inflammation and chronic illness as a consequence.
Would you rather complete a marathon at a slower pace and feel great or pace through one and DNF (do not finish)? Aerobic exercise allows you to feel good, be excited about your next workout, and perform at a healthier and higher standard level than anaerobic. As your work out at an aerobic level, your bodies ability automatically gets better. Over time you can achieve some of your best goals, by implementing small increases.
How does it sound – you will be a permanent fat burner if you engage in aerobic exercise 2-5 hours a week? Who does NOT want to have less body fat?!
Especially important for women – to keep those hormonal levels in check. For everyone though too much anaerobic training will lead to depletion of glycogen resources, and extra insulin production. Plus you are likely to crave bad stuff more often.
By adapting your body to burning fat and keeping your heart rate low, you will be able to go longer. Remember: it will take a bit of time to switch the routine, so stay patient. It works well for runners, hikers, and endurance athletes. Over time, your body will be able to achieve more at the same levels.
Note for runners: Here is an awesome article about athletic performance and low-carb training.
If you STILL want to pump it up, include high-intensity intervals in your routine, or try strength training. Keep them short, explosive, and recover well! Learn a bit more about the health benefits of HIIT and short interval training here.
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Related: Are You Chronic?
Types of low heart rate training:
What else can you do besides from walking to stay within your low heart rate range? Lots of things! Walking is one of the best forms of exercise for your health. It is available for most people of any age and ability, it is the easiest thing to do even if you are in a time crunch, it is reviving, rejuvenating, and de-stressing as well! You can adjust to your level of intensity, and you can do it almost anywhere.
Want to spice up your routine?
- water aerobics
- ballroom dancing
and much more! Try low heart rate training for better health, and see how you feel – find your soulmate workout!
Do you do any of low heart rate training? What is your favorite fun, and easy exercise?
Author: Anya Perry
Anya Perry battled boring diets, low energy, and declining health for over 10 years before she found what works. Now, she helps women achieve their dream state of health, fitness, and vitality… without the struggles, battles of miserable diets and yo-yo results. She can’t live without coffee and challenge