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What kind of cardio workouts should I be doing?

Updated: May 16

Fasted cardio, HIIT cardio, Steady state cardio, Low impact cardio. With all the information out there, it's hard to know which cardio workout is best for your goals. Let's take a look at a few different ways of doing cardio and what they are good for.

What is Cardio?

Cardio exercise, which is sometimes referred to as aerobic exercise (which is one form of cardio training - but it’s not the only one), is defined as any type of exercise that gets your heart rate up and keeps it up for a prolonged period of time.

What are the best types of cardio workouts to lose weight?

  • Swimming - Swimming is a total-body workout that starts the second you begin treading water.

  • Hiking- Hiking can build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs

  • Biking - Doing intervals on a stationary bike is a great way to maximize your calorie burn in minimum time.

  • Running - Running at a steady, moderate pace is a sure way to burn fat and calories, but it’s not the most economical way to build or even maintain muscle.

  • Bodyweight HIIT Exercises - HIIT cardio is a fat burning powerhouse; the short intervals ask you to push yourself much harder than you would be able to if you were doing longer duration bouts of movement.

  • Stairs - A stair climber offers another popular way to burn fat and calories, but only about 500-600 calories for an 180-lb. man at a moderate pace.

  • Jump Rope - There’s a reason the jump rope is a mainstay in a boxer’s training regimen: it’s cheap, easy to do, increases foot speed, and burns a ton of calories.

Cardio Styles You Can Choose From

Low Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS)

Low Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS)

This is the most common type of car you people think of. It usually entails something like getting on a treadmill and walking, riding a bike, or peddling the elliptical. Most people who do this are trying to burn fat, but you usually have to do a good duration of time. 30 to 45 minutes is about right for a real fat burning workout.

High Intensity Interval Training Cardio (HIIT)

High Intensity Interval Training Cardio (HIIT)

This cardio is very intense and entails bursts of working extremely hard, followed by stretches where you catch your breath and recover. A good example would be doing a wind sprint for 50 yards, and then walking for 50 to 100 yards to recover, and then repeating. Another would be on the stair stepper working level 4 for two minutes, followed by level 8 for two minutes. Duration is generally shorter here than on low intensity training. 12 to 20 minutes should get the job done. This cardio style is better for training your cardiovascular system and performance.

Low Impact Cardio

Low Impact Cardio

People with bad knees, elbows, and just joints in general use low impact cardio. Examples include water aerobics, walking, hiking and recumbent bikes. All of these options are generally easy on the joint, sustainable for somebody with injuries to stick with. Low impact here was probably the least sentence of all three we have discussed, so duration should be 45 to 60 minutes long to have an effective workout.

Fasted Cardio

Fasted Cardio

Fasted cardio is when you skip food and calories in the morning and do cardio first thing on an empty stomach. The thought is that if you go 8 to 10 hours between your last meal goodnight before and your cardio, your body will be burning body fat for fuel.

Lately though the science is not there to say that it's overwhelmingly better than cardio with food in your stomach.

In a 2012 study comparing fasted cardio to postprandial (after eating) cardio, results showed greater appetite suppression later in the day for the participants who had eaten breakfast before running. By the end of the day, however, there was no difference in total energy intake between the groups who had fasted before exercise or eaten before.[1]

Research indicates it's more about just burning the calories at the end of the day. But if fasted cardio feels better for you then by all means have at it!

How should I do cardiovascular exercise to get the most from it?

Lastly, another key factor to consider is no matter which cardio style you're doing, you need to make sure it's challenging enough. That is it really means you are about to pass out or anything, just enough to challenge your body so they are given the option you have chosen. The best definition is that you can hold a conversation with someone, but you are breathing heavily. You should not be able to read a book or magazine if you are doing your cardio correctly!

Are you new to fitness or confused by all the options? Contact the personal training professionals at Revive Fitness and we will work with you to find out which cardio style and options are right for you.

Article Sources

[1] Gonzalez JT, Veasey RC, Rumbold PLS, Stevenson EJ. Breakfast and exercise contingently affect postprandial metabolism and energy balance in physically active males. Br J Nutr. 2013;110(4):721–732. doi:10.1017/s0007114512005582


Article Author: Dwight Wilson

Dwight has over 20 years of experience and is an NSCA-certified trainer specializing in weight loss and enjoys bodybuilding style training. Owner of Revive Fitness, Dwight educates his clients in the areas of strength training, cardiovascular endurance, and proper nutrition.

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