It’s no secret that popular fitness media portrays fat loss as the only objective of exercise. Cardio is often framed as an activity that you just have to get through until you reach your weight-loss goals. Many people view fitness as a finite process with a clear end point: getting down to the body size or shape you desire.
And then what?

The point that’s missing in this perspective is that our bodies were built for exercise, movement, physical exertion; we crave physical activity because it’s our method of maintenance. Our bodies weren’t designed to finally achieve that ideal weight through cardio, and then stop because the goal has been reached. Cardio isn’t just a tool for losing weight. Although fat loss is a worthy goal for many people, it’s not the main purpose of cardiovascular exercise.

Bodies = Cars?

The analogy between our bodies and cars may be drawn. Cars need their oil changed every few months. When you get this done once—when you make the appointment, drive to the mechanic, wait for it to be finished, pay your bill—you’re not done forever. This sequence is a maintenance activity that must be done routinely as long as you want your car to function well. An oil change isn’t an end goal, or a one-and-done tool to fix a specific issue, but simply something your car was designed to need regularly for good, reliable performance.

Similarly, cardio isn’t a project with a fixed start and end date. It’s a crucial part of living a healthy lifestyle—and if you view it as such, you’re more likely to stick to it. Once you recognize that cardio must be incorporated into your lifestyle for best results, you won’t treat it as a mountain to be climbed and checked off your list. Just as you have to eat and sleep every day in order to keep your body functioning as it’s supposed to, you have to consistently get active for the same reason.

Tune up = Mix it up

Our bodies are sophisticated systems that are designed to adapt, so reaching a plateau in health benefits from cardio is common. In order to continuously reap these healthy benefits from physical activity, it’s important to mix it up often. That’s why Bootique in San Diego offers a range of different options, from Zumba-style cardio fitness to outdoor boot camp for women—and no two classes are the same, either! Our trainers make a concerted effort to challenge your body in new ways each time with the workouts they plan. The classes we offer in San Diego, from Mission Bay to Mission Beach, La Jolla to Civita, are designed to promote cardiovascular health as the ultimate goal, whether the byproduct of weight loss is also a goal or not, and to ensure you have fun doing it so that it will become a part of your lifestyle.

Now, although creating a healthy lifestyle of consistent physical activity should be the goal of cardio, weight loss still is, of course, a byproduct that many people are seeking in addition. To that end, there are different styles and methods of cardio that are better suited for different byproducts like this. If you’re looking to lose fat or increase muscle tone as you build a healthy lifestyle, there are varied forms of cardio you can choose to more efficiently accomplish your goals. Choose your goal, and then work to incorporate the following style of cardio into your healthy-lifestyle routine.

How to choose the best form of cardio for you and your goals:

Goal: Lose Weight: You want to increase caloric expenditure during your workout)
Type: Interval Training > Steady-State Heart Rate
Interval Training is more effective and should be done more often than steady-state heart rate
Duration: 40-60 minutes/day
Frequency: 4-6 days/week
Intensity: Moderate-high intensity (75-85% max HR or a 7-8 on a perceived exertion scale of 1-10)

Goal: Tone up/Fat Loss: You want to increase your metabolism and increase caloric expenditure once you finish your workout.
Type: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)
Duration: 20-30 minutes/day
Frequency: 4-6 days/week
Intensity: High Intensity (to tolerance) 95% max HR on heavy interval, 50% max HR on light interval. If using a perceived exertion scale, make your high intensity interval feel like a 9-10 and your recovery interval feel like a 5.

Goal: Increase Endurance and/or increase energy for the day through your workout
Type: Steady-State Heart Rate > Interval Training
Steady-State Heart Rate is more effective and should be done more often Interval Training
Duration: Start low, increase 1 minute/day until 40-60 minutes/day
Frequency: 4-6 days/week
Intensity: Moderate-high intensity

The purpose of cardio is to celebrate what our bodies can do, and to help us maintain a healthy status. As such, it should be practiced regularly and with joy! Contact us at Bootique in San Diego to learn more about our personal training, Zumba, and outdoor fitness classes we offer to help you get on track with a healthy, active lifestyle.