It’s common to hear fitness professionals and medical doctors prescribe low to moderate intensity aerobic training (cardio) to people that are trying to prevent cardiovascular disease or lose weight. Most often, the recommendations constitute something along the lines of “perform 30-60 minutes of steady pace cardio 3-5 times per week maintaining your heart rate at a moderate level”.
Before you just give in to this popular belief and become the “hamster on the wheel” doing endless hours of boring cardio, I’d like you to consider some recent scientific research that indicates that steady pace endurance cardio work may not be all it’s cracked up to be. First, realize that our bodies are designed to do physical activity in bursts of exertion followed by recovery, or stop-and-go movement rather than steady state movement.
Recent research is indicating that physical variability is among the most important elements to consider in your practice. This tendency can be found throughout nature as all creatures demonstrate stop-and-go motion rather than steady state motion. In reality, humans are the only animals in nature that try to perform “endurance” type physical activities.
Most competitive sports (with the exception of endurance running or biking ) are also based on stop-and-go motion or short bursts of exertion followed by recovery. To analyze an example of the various effects of endurance or steady state training versus stop-and-go training, consider the physiques of marathoners versus sprinters. Most sprinters carry a body that’s quite lean, muscular, and strong looking, while the normal dedicated marathoner is more often emaciated and sickly looking.
What would you rather resemble? Another factor to keep in mind concerning the benefits of physical variability is that the inner effect of various kinds of exercise on the body. Scientists have known that excess steady state endurance exercise (different for everybody, but sometimes defined as greater than 60 minutes per session most days of the week) increases free radical production in the body, can degenerate joints, reduces immune function, causes muscle wasting, and can result in a pro-inflammatory response in the body which could potentially lead to chronic diseases.
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On the other hand, highly variable cyclic training was linked to increased anti-oxidant in the human body and an anti-inflammatory answer, a more efficient nitric oxide reaction (which could promote a healthy cardiovascular system), and an increased metabolic rate reaction (which could help with weight loss). Furthermore, steady state endurance training only trains the heart in a heart rate range and does not train it to respond to various daily stressors.
On the other hand, highly variable cyclic training teaches the heart to respond to and recover from a number of requirements making it less likely to fail when you need it. Consider it this way — Exercise which trains your heart to quickly increase and quickly decrease will make your heart more capable of managing everyday stress. Stress can cause your blood pressure and heart rate to increase rapidly. Steady state running and other endurance training doesn’t train your heart to have the ability to manage rapid changes in heart rate or blood pressure.
The important component of variable cyclic training which makes it superior over steady state cardio is the recovery period in between bursts of effort. That recovery interval is crucially important for the body to elicit a healthy response to an exercise stimulus. Another benefit of variable cyclic training is it is a lot more interesting and has lower drop-out rates than long boring steady state cardio programs.
To summarize, a number of the potential advantages of variable cyclic training compared to steady state endurance training are as follows: improved cardiovascular health, improved anti-oxidant protection, enhanced immune function, reduced risk for joint wear and tear, reduced muscle wasting, increased residual metabolic rate after exercise, and an increased capacity for your heart to take care of life’s daily stressors. There are lots of ways that you can reap the advantages of jelqing or varying intensity physical training.
One of the absolute most efficient types of varying intensity training to actually reduce body fat and bring out severe muscular definition is doing wind sprints. Most competitive sports like soccer, basketball, racquetball, tennis, hockey, etc., are naturally comprised of highly changeable stop-and-go motion. Additionally, weight training naturally comprises short bursts of exertion followed by recovery periods. High intensity interval training (varying between low and high intensity periods on any piece of cardio equipment) is still another training method that uses exertion and recovery intervals.