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Cardiovascular Exercise

  • Cardio Twister Review - Will It Really Work?

    This morning I viewed an infomercial for the "Cardio Twister" and felt compelled to publish my opinion on the potential effectiveness of such a product for a typical Australian seeking to lose weight and tone up. As a fitness professional, I feel that I am obligated to do so in order to assist in educating you as the consumer.

    Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, I do believe that this product strongly over-promises and will under-deliver. This opinion is based on how the product has been marketed and the science that just doesn't seem to support these outrageous and "too-good-to-be-true" claims. In fact, the Cardio Twister in my opinion seems like the next generation of the Ab King Pro.

    It claims to "target" the "problem areas" such as the inner thighs, outer thighs and butt. Sure, when you are performing a twisting action, you will be recruiting the abductors, adductors and the gluteals (or the outer thighs, inner thighs and butt muscles) - but this doesn't necessarily mean that you will be losing fat from this area and developing muscle.

    I guess that this is one of the most exploited myths within the health and fitness industry. Just because you are using a particular muscle group to generate force does not necessarily mean that you will lose fat from that area and/or develop that specific muscle's size.

    What may assist you in understanding why is if I define two commonly used (and yet highly confusing) terms, "toning" and "spot reduction":

    Toning

    This term is thrown around commonly and yet not many people are aware of what "toning" actually means. Toning is a two stage process:

    1. Muscle Gain
    2. Fat Loss

    Depending upon your current body shape, the degree to which these two constituents are required will vary. For example, if you carry a fair amount of muscle but have a lot of fat tissue to lose, then you will require more fat loss than muscle gain. The converse can also be true.

    Note that you cannot turn muscle into fat or turn fat into muscle. Muscle tissue and fat tissue are two completely separate tissues and must be treated independently.

    Muscle gain, or muscle development, can be induced through a number of means. Often though, cardiovascular exercise is not an effective way to achieve this goal. The Cardio Twister is a cardiovascular workout (albeit, I don't believe it to be an effective one).

    Meanwhile, fat loss is encouraged by creating a calorie deficit (or consuming less calories than what your body expends). Two major contributors to creating a calorie deficit are through regulating your nutritional intake (or diet) and through physical exercise. Sure, the Cardio Twister is exercise and thus you will be expending calories (yet, far less than other forms of cardio). However, this machine will not "target" fat loss located on your inner and outer thighs, along with your butt area. This brings me onto spot reduction...

    Spot Reduction

    This is (unfortunately) very commonly exploited by many marketing companies promoting products of this nature that apparently "target" a specific area of the body. Spot reduction suggests that you can use a particular set of muscles and thus lose fat from a specific area of the body. If this were true, running would result in fat loss from the legs, push-ups would result in fat loss from the chest and arms and so on.

    However, the science strongly disagrees. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to suggest that spot reduction is possible. After decades of studies, science has concluded that we cannot consciously select an area of the body that we wish to lose fat from through exercise. Spot reduction is a complete myth.

    So, coming back to the Cardio Twister, if you do consider purchasing such an exercise machine, be aware that:

    1. You will not develop muscle tissue as effectively as other forms of exercise
    2. You will not expend an optimal number of calories relative to other forms of exercise
    3. You cannot choose to lose fat from your inner thighs, outer thighs or buttocks
    4. In my opinion, "a few minutes a day", without any other lifestyle changes (additional exercise, dietary change), will have minimal results

    Having said all this, if the Cardio Twister is the only way that you will perform some physical activity, then go for it. After all, some exercise is better than none! But I would strongly suggest enquiring about our personal training services...exercise can actually be exciting if it suits you and your lifestyle!

    Before concluding this Cardio Twister review, I would like to say one more thing. Although I don't know the models who demonstrate this machine on the infomercials personally, I am very confident that they followed a structured exercise and nutritional programme to get in the shape that they are in. Whilst this is probably commonsensical, I say this with a fair degree of certainty because I was once requested to model a particular brand abdominal machine for another commercial. There were no pre-requisites (such as ever having used the machine before) apart from being in shape. Of course, I was not interested.

    Anyway, I do hope that this sheds some light on the Cardio Twister and can assist you in making an informed decision if you do decide to proceed in purchasing it.

  • Running Versus Walking - Which is Best for Weight Loss?

    When I was young (we're talking about 5 years of age), I remember being told that the best possible exercise was walking because you could exercise indefinitely. Not long after, I was also told that it's not "exercise" if you don't break a sweat. So here I was quite confused and thinking that the best way to exercise is to walk in the heat!

    Nowadays, I fortunately have a much clearer understanding of the benefits to both walking and running, so I thought I'd share some information on which is more effective when trying to achieve a weight loss goal.

    Walking

    By walking, I am referring to a relatively low intensity exercise and not full-on power-walking up hills. Walking is one way to incorporate additional calorie expenditure into your day, which is important when seeking to lose weight. Walking can also be a much safer mode of exercise if you are injured, elderly, at risk medically or have joint problems.

    Due to the low intensity nature of walking, you are able to extend the duration of this type of exercise. However, walking at a comfortable pace will have a negligible effect on fitness for the average person. It is okay to expend calories, but that's about it.

    With all this taken into consideration, a low intensity walk can be integrated into nearly any one's plan to facilitate recovery in between more intense workouts.

    Running

    Running is a much higher intensity format of exercise. Because of the additional effort required, far more calories are expended within a given time and thus, weight loss will be encouraged more so than walking.

    In regards to your fitness, running will have a significant impact on your level of fitness because you are stressing the body and forcing it to condition to these stressful conditions.

    However, there can be some drawbacks to the high impact nature of running. Issues such as tendonitis in the lower body, arthritis and injuries (ankle, knees, hips, lumbar spine) can certainly limit your ability to run in a safe manner. Also, if you do have present medical considerations (severe asthma, poor cardiovascular health etc.) you may be unable to undertake a programme that incorporates running.

    The high impact nature of running not only limits the percentage of population that can participate in this mode of exercise, but it also inhibits hypertrophy (or muscle building). If your goal is to build a significant amounts muscle, you may consider other low-impact forms of exercise such as using a bike, cross-trainer, rower etc. The high impact nature of running can cause damage along the z-discs of muscle fibres and thus inhibit the degree of muscle growth experienced in the lower body.

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    As you can see, there running or walking isn't necessarily "better" for weight loss. They are both formats of exercise that can be beneficial to you, depending upon your specific goals, history, lifestyle etc.

  • Boot Camp Workouts – No Pain, No Gain?

    Are Boot Camp style workouts beneficial? A team of exercise researchers from the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse Exercise and Health Program studied the benefits of such a program.
  • The Best Cardio Exercise for Weight Loss

    You walk into the gym and there are a number of cardio machines available to use. There is the treadmill, cross trainer, upright bike, recumbent bike, rower, stepper...and then a few more machines that you don't even know the names of! Which is the best cardio exercise to undertake?

    Well, unlike with resistance training, cardio exercise is a far more even playing field in regards to the effectiveness of various exercises in regards to weight loss.

    Firstly, why is this so?

    The goal of cardiovascular exercise is to elevate your heart rate to induce a response (whatever you are performing the cardio for). Disregarding exceptional cases (medical concerns, injuries, super-specific training etc.), so long as you can get your heart rate up on a particular machine, then it's going to be effective.

    You may have read yesterday's post entitled "Debunking the Fat Burning Zone Myth". If you proceeded to read my article "The Fat Burning Zone", you would be well aware that the most effective way to lose weight is to get the intensity of the exercise up.

    So now we are at the point where we no longer are considering "the best cardio exercise for weight loss", but rather "how to increase the intensity of the cardio exercise for weight loss". Here is the key to increasing the intensity:

    Pick a cardio format that you enjoy using!

    You see, if you actually enjoy using the format (whether that be a treadmill, upright bike, cross trainer, outdoor running, outdoor bike riding etc.), then you are going to be able to push yourself that little bit harder to maximise your results. Why force yourself to undertake a form of exercise that you loath? You are going to be bored, you won't be able to wait until your cardio is over...why in the world would you want to make your cardio more miserable than what it already is?

    Oh and a really, really big benefit to this is that, if you enjoy your cardio, chances are that you will stick to it for longer! By eliminating your dislike of a particular exercise from your regime, that's one less thing working against you to achieve your weight loss goals.

    At lower intensities, weight bearing cardio exercises (such as treadmill, walking, jogging, running, cross trainer) may be more effective in maximising the number of calories burnt during your workout. However, when considering high intensity cardio workouts, a bike can more far more effective than a cross trainer, even though less muscles are being utilised. It all comes down to what the best cardio exercises are for YOU.

  • The Benefits of Cardio when Building Muscle

    If you want to build muscle, do you perform cardio? I know there are plenty of people out there who swear black and blue that cardio is definitely not going to assist in building muscle. In fact, many people would suggest that cardio will necessarily hamper muscle gain. I disagree.

    There is plenty of research out there to suggest that cardio, nutrition and resistance training can work together to symbiotically enhance the muscle building process. In fact, there are several specific advantages to cardio that are often overlooked. High intensity cardio can:

    • Enhance your weight lifting performance
    • Improve your fitness to further improve lifting performance
    • Boost your general health (this is an obvious benefit to building muscle)
    • Induce anabolic hormone secretion
    • Develop your mental strength and focus in the weights room

    And of course high intensity cardio has the added benefit of significant fat loss!

    But I don't want you to take my word for it. I recently published a comprehensive review of a number of studies on the benefits of cardio when building muscle, entitled "Cardio & Bodybuilding - Good for Muscle Growth?"

    This month, Australian IronMan (a leading Australian bodybuilding and fitness magazine) just published this article on pages 94-96. You can buy it at your local newsagent or alternatively read the online version of "Cardio is Not the Enemy"

    At the end of the day, if you want to obtain maximum results, you need a balance between all aspects of training. This includes cardio, nutrition, weight training and recovery.

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