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The Truth Regarding Cardio Training, General Health and Muscle Tone

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Author: Michael Gear

Steady pace endurance cardio training is a widely recommended mainstream method for prevention of heart disease or weight loss. How often have we heard the medical establishment and certain health professionals encourage us to perform 30 minutes of steady pace cardio, 3-4 times per week, maintaining the heart rate at a moderate level? Before accepting this notion, it is worth considering recent scientific research that indicates that endurance cardio work may not be as effective as it is sometimes perceived to be.

First of all, consider that our physiology, like that of most animals is optimized to perform physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery. In other words, a stop-then-go series of activities as opposed to endurance orientated physical activities. Most sports (with the exception of endurance running, cycling or swimming) are based on physical variability in the movements, and short bursts of exertion followed by a recovery period.

Recent research is pointing out that this physical variability is one of the critical aspects to consider in your training, especially if you are seeking to achieve a lean body. Consider it this way, a sprinter who engages in short burst then recovery training possesses a lean, muscular, and powerful physique. Contrast this body type with that of a marathon runner, still very lean, but almost emaciated.

Also, consider the benefits that physical variability has as an internal effect within our body. Scientist have found that variable cyclic training is linked to increased production of anti-oxidants. This is combined with an anti-inflammatory response and a more efficient nitric oxide response, leading to better cardiovascular fitness. In regards to reducing body fat, cyclic training is also highly beneficial due to the fact that it induces an increased metabolic rate.

This is important when you realize that excessive steady endurance exercise (sometimes defined as greater than 60 minutes per session most days of the week) increases the production of free radicals in the body. It can also lead to degenerated joints, reduced immune function, and most alarmingly - muscle wasting. Not really recommended if you are seeking great body tone.

When you undertake endurance training, you are only training the heart at one specific heart rate range. This doesn't help the heart respond to various every day stress. Variable cyclic training on the other hand teaches the heart to firstly respond to, and then recover from, a variety of demands. When you train the heart to rapidly increase and then rapidly decrease, it will be less likely to fail when you need it. This is vitally important as stress can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase rapidly.

Variable cyclic training involves a recovery period in between bursts of exertion. This recovery period is vitally important for the body to develop a healthy response to an exercise stimuli. This is an aspect you don't get in steady state endurance training.

What's the best form of cyclic training? Well, most competitive sports are naturally comprised of highly variable stop-and-go motion. Here's some examples:

* Football
* Sprinting
* Basketball
* Soccer
* Tennis
* Weight training
* High intensity interval training (this is where you vary between high and low intensity intervals on cardio equipment)

To summarize, the potential benefits of variable cyclic training compared to endurance training are as follows:

* Improved cardiovascular health
* Better body tone
* Anti-oxidant production
* Improved immune function
* Reduces joint wear and tear and muscle wasting,
* Increased residual metabolic rate
* Increased capacity for the heart to handle stress

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