Tanya Wyatt, Happy Valley pond

It seems that even with exercise, less is sometimes more.  Mainstream advice tends to suggest that better results occur with high volumes of cardio and weight training, but this simply isn’t the truth.  More recent research suggests a completely different picture. A picture that should neatly counter the argument so many make about not having enough time to exercise.

A study was done recently showing that men who exercised moderately for 30 minutes several times a week, lost more weight than those who exercised for 60 minutes at the same frequency and intensity.

Not too much, not too little

Just the right amount of exercise appears to boost your overall energy levels leading to a more physically active day. Whereas too much can lead to sedentary behaviour and a tendency to overeat. This is perhaps because the subjects believed they’d burned off so many calorie during their exercise session.

Other studies show that consistent, moderate-to-high-intensity exercise done over a shorter period can lead to exceptional physical and health benefits (without the danger of boredom).  In fact, just 2 minutes 30 seconds a day of high intensity exercise will see metabolic changes occurring!  This suggests that we can spend less time exercising, but with more impressive results than your traditionally long cardio workouts can offer.

Old-school thinking

Although many people believe that linear-pattern cardio (swimming, cycling and/or running) is the way to go for fat loss. However, this is an incorrect and outdated belief.  A beginner will benefit from this type of cardio for the first 2 months. This is because beginners’ bodies aren’t used to this type of activity and therefore respond well to it.  However, after this point the body simply becomes more adept at utilizing a smaller amount of fuel over a longer period of time.  You train your body to become efficient with its fuel – the very last thing you want to achieve when looking to lose excess body fat.

There’s a time when performing linear-pattern cardio is necessary, specifically when training for an event that is cardiovascular in nature. This could be something such as IronMan or the Ocean Racing series (effectively any running, cycling or swimming event).  In other words, it’s appropriate when you have a specific sports goal that relates to a linear-pattern cardio activity.

Weight loss

If, though, your goal is to lose weight try either (or both) of the following:

Perform a cardio activity that challenges the nervous system through the use of balance and co-ordination.  The nervous system consists of both the spinal cord and the brain and this organ uses up to 30% of your fuel at any given time when activated.  This would cover sport or dance activities such as roller-blading; step classes, tennis, rock climbing, soccer, touch rugby, hip hop, belly-dancing, ballroom dancing etc.

Your other option is interval training.  This is for those who are used to physical training – that is, those who have been doing it for a minimum of two months – and who are pain and injury free.

 A formula to follow

Follow this formula: warm up on your chosen piece of cardio equipment. We rate the elliptical stepper and treadmill over the bike, rowing and regular step machines.  Your warm up is over when you feel hot enough to strip down a layer of clothing. Now sprint for 30 seconds and then recover for as long as it takes you to get back to normal breathing and for your legs to lose that ‘jelly’ feeling.  Recovery will be the low-intensity version of whatever your sprint entailed.  For example, if you ran on the treadmill, you would walk your recovery. If you stepped rapidly on the elliptical, step more slowly during your recovery. Time your recovery period and add it to your sprint period.  This amounts to one cycle.  Repeat this cycle 8 times.  That’s it!

You’ll notice that as you get fitter and your recovery periods will diminish. Don’t let your recovery go shorter than 90 seconds, though as this is the minimum duration required for the fast twitch (sprint) fibres to recover.  This means that you can see metabolic changes plus a huge caloric expenditure on approximately 20 minutes of exercise.  Easy peasy…