Know Your Cardio
- One of the biggest benefits of SST is strengthening the heart.
Your heart is simply a muscle with the function of pumping blood through your entire body. One of the biggest benefits of SST is strengthening the heart so that it becomes more efficient at doing its job. The lungs pull oxygen in from the air and place it in the bloodstream, and the heart is responsible for pumping the oxygenated blood around the body to the working muscles. Maintaining a steady state in the aerobic zone can help the body become much more efficient at pumping oxygenated blood to the working muscles and moving the deoxygenated blood back to the lungs to remove the carbon-dioxide and be reoxygenated.
- To optimize aerobic efficiency during exercise, stay at an intensity where breathing is quick, but under control.
You can easily determine the appropriate intensity for optimal aerobic efficiency by using the science behind the Talk Test. The Talk Test is the foundation for programming in the cardiorespiratory component of exercise program design. When you can talk during exercise, you are working at intensity where the aerobic energy system is using oxygen to help metabolize fat into energy to fuel muscle activity. As exercise intensity increases, energy demands become more immediate and the body will start using stored carbohydrates (glycogen in the muscle cells) to supply energy. As work increases, the body needs more oxygen and, because its burning more carbohydrate, is expiring (breathing out) more carbon dioxide. This, in turn, increases breathing rate, which limits the ability to talk. To optimize aerobic efficiency during exercise, urge you to work at an intensity where breathing is quick, but under control, and where you can talk without too much difficulty (i.e., on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is the hardest, this would be about between 5 and 6). Staying at this intensity optimizes aerobic efficiency instead of simply trying to work as hard as possible.
- Aerobic SST can help the body become more efficient at using fat to fuel muscle activity.
At lower intensities, the body will metabolize free fatty acids (fat) as the primary source of fuel. As mentioned above, at higher intensities the body relies on carbohydrates for energy, and high-intensity workouts that deplete muscle glycogen will, over time, cause adaptations to your muscles so they can store more glycogen for future high-intensity workouts. Training at a lower intensity using the aerobic energy pathways helps the body become more efficient at lipolysis, which is the breakdown of fatty acids (lipids) into energy (in the form of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP).
- Because SST is less physically demanding than HIIT, exercising to improve aerobic capacity could help reduce ones risk of injury.
As energy depletes during high-intensity exercise, there is a tendency to lose form or technique, which could be a cause of injury. However, SST also poses the risk of overuse injury if the same exercise is performed repeatedly. For the best results from SST, its a good idea to switch modes of exercise so that you do not overuse any muscles. When working on cardio, keep switching machines (e.g., stationary bike, treadmill, stair climber, rowing machine, elliptical trainer) every 10-12 minutes to help break of the monotony of SST and reduce the stress on any single joint or muscle group. The goal is to maintain the same level of intensity (5-6/10) on each piece of equipment and accumulate a total of 30-60 minutes for the entire workout.
- SST in the aerobic zone is important for cellular health.
For example, SST can increase the number of mitochondria in muscle cells (mitochondria are the components of the cell that help convert oxygen to fuel). Over the long-term, increasing the amount of mitochondria in muscle cells helps improve overall aerobic efficiency and cellular function, and may also mitigate the effects of the normal, biological aging process.
- SST can help with active recovery from harder, more-challenging workouts.
Lower-intensity aerobic conditioning, around 4-5/10, will help remove metabolic waste while delivering the nutrients that can help repair the muscles used in the previous days workout. Even if mildly sore, SST in the aerobic zone can help the body fully recover and prepare for the next hard workout.When it comes to deriving long-term benefits from exercise, it is better to train smarter as opposed to simply push the body to work harder. Knowing how to properly organize your long-term fitness programs by alternating between low-, moderate- and high-intensity workouts are the real secrets to achieving long-term success from exercise.