It doesn’t matter when you do your cardio as long as you do it.
Many cardiovascular marketers I know are publishing content about exercise this time of year. I thought these insights from “America’s toughest trainer,” Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame were kind of interesting.
Michaels refutes the oft-espoused theory that cardio is most effective first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Some people believe that because they haven’t eaten in 8 to 10 hours, there will be less blood sugar available for fuel, which will force your body to draw on and burn more of its stored energy. Not true, says Michaels. In fact, exercising on an empty stomach can hinder performance and make you feel weak. Her advice is to do your cardio workout whenever you have the energy to give it maximum effort. For people who are interested in weight loss, Michaels recommends one day per week devoted strictly to cardio and cardio mixed in with circuit training on other days throughout the week.
How long is long enough?
When it comes to duration, Michaels recommends a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of two hours of cardio in any single session. For some people, the number of calories burned in a half hour session may not seem worth it, but obviously, heart patients need to heed the advice of their doctors based on their individual situations. And exercising for too long can release stress hormones into the body, such as cortisol, which inhibit weight loss, causing your body to react by storing fat and retaining water out of self-protection.
What type of exercise is best?
Walking, rowing, spinning, stepping, and climbing can all lead to increased fitness. Michaels recommends that people do whatever they enjoy the most and that they mix it up to avoid plateaus. Here’s a good calculator to figure out how many calories you’re burning during various exercises.
How much is enough?
When it comes to intensity, Michaels recommends using your best judgment. I would add that heart patients should also consult their physicians. In general, if it feels too easy, increase intensity; if it feels too difficult or your form is compromised, decrease intensity. As you get into better shape, your tolerance for intensity will increase. Michaels recommends keeping your heart rate at 85 percent of your maximum while you are doing it. To figure out your target heart rate, here’s a heart rate calculator from Mayo Clinic.
Most experts also strongly recommend that you purchase a heart-rate monitor, which will give you instant feedback on how you’re doing, letting you know if you’re working too hard or not working hard enough.
Still not motivated? Try these tips.