Guest Blog Post by PreKure Health Coach Certificate Student: Mitch Mullooly
Mitch is a Paramedic with St John New Zealand, Chair of Paramedics Australasia, the professional body for Paramedicine, and a Health and Wellness Coach, who is currently completing the PreKure Health Coaching course. Having spent more than two decades in the pre-hospital medical environment, working in a diverse spread of metropolitan, rural and remote locations throughout New Zealand, Mitch has a long-held passion for healthy living and wellbeing within the shift-working and emergency services environment.
As a fanatical champion of the ‘Fit for Duty’ manta, Mitch has also added the domain of ‘Fit for Life’, as not only do we need to be fit for our working conditions, but ultimately, we must be fit and healthy for our daily lives outside of our work commitments – physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Having developed the coaching programme – Eat Right. Train Smart. Be Strong. which concentrates on the three main pillars of wellbeing – nutrition, movement and mindset, Mitch has now increased her influence by creating an online community – Team ‘Fit for Duty, Fit for Life’, where she runs regular nutrition, movement and mindset challenges, as well as healthy lifestyle hacks, all with the knowledge and lived experience from being a frontline Paramedic, shiftworker, Mum and a Health and Wellness Coach.
Join our welcoming and supportive community at – Team ‘Fit for Duty, Fit for Life’ – Nutrition, Movement & Mindset or email Mitch at [email protected].
Is Cardio Bad For You?
You might have noticed recently how cardio has become an almost dreaded word in the fitness industry and something that you should pretty much remove from your vocabulary altogether.
But is cardio actually bad for you?
People often associate the word cardio with long-distance running, but they are not synonyms.
So, what exactly is cardio?
Cardiovascular Exercise (or simply, Cardio)
To put it simply: Cardiovascular or cardiorespiratory exercise is a type of exercise that gets your heart rate up, and as a result, improves your body’s oxygen consumption.
Take running for example, it’s pretty obvious that any kind of running is cardiovascular exercise, but not every cardiovascular exercise involves running (phew some might say!)
Cardio comes in so many forms, even heavy weight lifting can be cardio, if you do it fast enough.
So Many Types of Cardio
Long-distance running, bike riding, or working out on an elliptical machine are low intensity, long-duration cardiovascular activities. But there are also high intensity, short duration cardiovascular exercises and cardio exercises that are done in intervals.
Let’s take a look at the different types…
Low Intensity, Long Duration Cardio Training
Let’s get this one out of the way first, because as mentioned, it’s the type of exercise that most people associate with the word cardio. Low intensity, long-duration cardiovascular exercise lasts at least 40 minutes and it’s performed at relatively low intensity, about 40-60% of your maximum heart rate.
Slow running, brisk walking, cycling, rowing or swimming are the exercises that are usually performed within this heart rate range.
What is this type of cardio good for: This type of cardio training is good for people who are just starting their fitness journey and may not be ready for higher intensity workouts. But it’s also great for more advanced athletes during their active recovery days.
What it’s not great for: Even though you see people running outside or on a treadmill for hours in hopes of losing body fat, too long low-intensity cardio training is actually not the best tool for that. Interval and strength training are way smarter ways to go, if you want to lose fat.
It’s also been shown that low intensity, long duration cardio training produces more cortisol, which is also known as a stress hormone. After one hour of exercise, the cortisol levels have shown to go up, especially in beginners. But elevation is not that noticeable inexperienced athletes who are adapted to that type of training.
High Intensity, Short Duration Cardio Training
During this type of cardiovascular exercise, your heart is beating at around 80 to 85% of its maximum capacity. This is very high intensity training during which you don’t take breaks, but you keep going as hard as you possibly can. For example, doing 100 burpees in a row without resting is high intensity, short duration cardiovascular training.
This type of exercise lasts from just a few minutes up to around 20 minutes. If you are working really hard, going longer than 20 minutes is going to be really difficult. Can you imagine doing high knees for 20 minutes, without taking breaks? Nope, me neither. After a short period of time, you’re going to slow down a lot and it will no longer be a high intensity activity.
Also, working out on that high intensity for too long is not healthy. It’s very taxing for your heart, your muscles will fatigue quickly, and you’ll end up compromising your technique. Good form is always top priority.
What is this type of cardio good for: Short and intense cardio is a great fat burner. It’s also way to go if you don’t have much time but you want to burn a lot of energy, because high intensity cardio training comes with a fun side effect… afterburn (more on this in a future Fitness Bulletin!).
Who wouldn’t love to burn fat while lying on the couch! But to start the afterburn effect you’ll first need to workout hard.
What it’s not great for: If you’re very new to fitness, you shouldn’t workout at really high intensity more than 2-3 times a week. It’s taxing on your body, so you may get injured and suffer from fatigue. Be sure to build up some cardio endurance with low intensity, low endurance cardio training first.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Learn to love HIIT workouts! Why, because your heart is working hard, beating at a capacity of 85-100% of its maximum capacity. During high intensity interval training, you’re working as hard as you can for a certain period of time, then resting for short period of time.
Duration of the work and rest periods can vary. Most HIIT workouts are built like this: 30 seconds work, 10 second rest, or 50 seconds work, 10 seconds rest. But two minutes hard work and 30 seconds rest is high intensity interval training as well.
What is this type of cardio good for: Similar to high intensity, short duration training, HIIT is better tool for fat loss than low intensity, long duration cardio (a.k.a. doing elliptical workout for an hour). Also, HIIT has a great afterburn effect as well.
You seriously only need 10 to 15 minutes for a killer workout!
What it’s not great for: People who are carrying extra weight, are new to fitness or haven’t trained in a long time, have to be careful with incorporating extremely intense HIIT workouts into their routine. Take it easier in the beginning, there’s no need to do HIIT 5 days a week, or you take the risk of injuring yourself or overtraining.
Cardio Isn’t Bad for You!
Cardiovascular exercise actually has many benefits:
It Improves Your Heart Health
As you know, your heart is a muscle, so to make it stronger, you have to train it similarly to how you train other muscles in your body. That happens by working out and getting your heart rate up.
You can take simple steps every day to strengthen your heart. Walk places, take the stairs, ride your bike, it all makes your heart stronger, …and of course, work out!
It Boosts Your Metabolism
Elevating your heart rate also speeds up your metabolism, which is the rate at which your body burns energy. Cardiovascular training makes your metabolism faster. Faster metabolism equals faster fat loss.
HIIT is an especially great way to boost metabolism. The more intense the training, the more you increase your metabolic rate and the greater the afterburn.
It Releases Happy Hormones
Cardiovascular exercise helps to produce so-called feel-good hormones. Endorphins are a real thing! Exercising helps to relieve stress and depression. For some, there’s nothing more meditative than a long run, others prefer to give it all to short high intensity workouts.
They are different types of cardiovascular workouts, but they both can help you to feel better and happier. I don’t know anyone who finishes a workout feeling more stressed than when starting it, but I do know many people who get more stressed because they skipped their workout.
It Helps You in Your Favourite Sport
Whether your sport of choice is a team sport, boxing, or meeting up for a game of backyard cricket with friends on the weekends (dreaming of summer!), building up your cardio endurance is crucial to helping you excel at your sport. And it helps in our work life too!
Yep, I’ve been there, on a number of occasions, the first response kit, defib, O2 and a 500+mtr tramp into the bush where the patient is located… it all goes so much better when you’re not huffing and puffing for air, so that you can then focus on using your skills to treat your patient.
Get Your Cardio On!
Cardio isn’t bad for you. Our bodies need cardiovascular exercise, we are designed to move, to work hard, to sweat.
The reason why cardio has been getting a bad rap lately is that a lot of people tend to think that cardio all about running on a treadmill for hours, and we all know by now that you don’t need to run for hours or do super long endurance training to get in shape.
That’s why the types of cardio we mostly focus on for fitness for duty are high intensity, short duration, and high intensity interval cardio. Not only are they great for conditioning your heart, boosting metabolism and through that, burning fat, they’ll help you exceed not only in your work environment, but in life too, making as all ‘Fit for Duty, Fit for Life’!
And hey, those extra endorphins won’t hurt either! ?
Eat Right. Train Smart. Be Strong.