A common question among those who are just starting a fitness program is, “What is the best cardio exercise?”
The short answer: Any aerobic activity that you will do on a regular basis.
At this stage of the game, I’m really more interested in getting people in the habit of incorporating more physical activity into their daily routine rather than worrying about target heart rates or interval training. Keep in mind, we’re talking about beginners here. These are folks that have been sedentary and have finally worked up enough motivation to at least give physical exercise a try. Their big concern is that a new fitness program may be such a miserable experience that they’ll want to quit (and will be even more reluctant to try again at a later date). My number one goal at this point is to get this person to adapt an exercise program and stick with it rather than see it as a white knuckle ride that they have to endure until they fit into a certain dress size.
What does the research say?
A recent study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise and done at the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse compared steady state training to interval training to help identify the best cardio exercise protocol for relatively sedentary individuals who are just starting an exercise program. They compared a steady state group (20 minutes of consistent intensity) vs a Tabata group (very brief, very high intensity intervals) vs a Meyer group (moderate intensity interval training) over eight weeks. All three groups improved power output as well as VO2 Max, with virtually no differences between groups. In other words, beginning exercisers don’t need to subject themselves to higher intensity exercise that they are less likely to enjoy in order to achieve significant improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness.
How to get started:
- Consult with your Physician to make sure you are healthy enough to begin an exercise program.
- Find an activity that you enjoy. It doesn’t have to be in a gym; it could be dancing or walking outside in nature.
- Do it.
- Do it again.
- Keep doing it.
Start at your preferred pace and don’t worry about target heart rates. You can talk, but not sing. Just be consistent and try to work up to 30 minutes of continuous activity most days of the week. Remember, the best cardio exercise program is one that you’ll do on a consistent basis. As your fitness improves, most people tend to naturally gravitate towards an exercise intensity that is within the recommended target heart rate range for moderate activity.
If you want a more structured program:
If you feel like you’d like more instruction or help getting started, give me a call and we’ll schedule an assessment to get some objective data and see exactly where you’re starting from. I can then design a customized program as well as measure your progress so that you get the results you want safely, efficiently and effectively. Start today!!