The word cardio evokes images of running and walking, kickboxing in an exercise class, hill climbs on a spin bike, and the dreaded cardio equipment in the gym. Performing cardio every week can be a very mundane task, especially if you tend to do the same type of cardio every day. Moreover, pain and overuse injuries can result from repetitive, high impact cardio sessions due to repetitive movement and continuous pressure on the joints. Even though there are many reasons why we tend to favor one form of cardio over another, there is a traditional belief that cardio has to look a certain way.
Cardiovascular benefits, such as a stronger heart and lungs, reduced risk of disease and cancer, improved health factors, and increased energy, can all be achieved by elevating the heart rate during exercise. On the other hand, resistance training builds muscles, increases bone density, increases metabolism, decreases risk of coronary disease, and improves physical performance. The human body needs both cardio and resistance training, but there is a trend to split them up into two separate workouts. There is no reason, however, why these can’t be done simultaneously.
Cardio and strength training equally raise the heart rate (which is the indicator of cardiovascular training), so integrating them produces explosive results! Your heart does not know the difference between the stair master and performing weighted step-ups. The heart rate elevates in response to the physical demand placed on the working muscles. With this in mind, I would like to introduce a way of working out called ‘postural movement and flow.’
Postural movement and flow centers in principles of lengthening the muscles through deep muscle work, dynamic movements, and stretching. The exercises are performed by utilizing body-weight only resistance in a series of flow patterns to keep the heart rate elevated while building and shaping the muscles. These postural movements start with isometric holds and then progress into dynamic movements. In between exercises, the heart rate descends through a stretch or breathing rest. Because this movement progresses with high and low intensity intervals, this technique can be described as a form of interval training. This type of interval training is one of the best ways to burn fat, boost metabolism, build muscle, and gain cardiovascular benefits in one workout.
For example, if we take the chair pose typically seen in a yoga class and combine a movement progression, this will cause your upper and lower body muscles to feel the burn, while the heart rate reaches beyond a moderate intensity cardio zone. Here is a demonstration of the chair pose progression:
Chair Pose Progression
- Sit back as if you are reaching for a chair with your hips, and lower the thighs as close to parallel to the floor as possible without allowing the knees to go past the toes. Simultaneously, lengthen the arms overhead to reach in line with the ears while pressing the shoulders down the back. Scoop the naval into the spine to engage the core and reduce pressure off the low back.
- Lift out of this pose into a standing position while strongly resisting the arms open to shoulder level.
- Repeat this movement sequence for three sets of eight repetitions.
There are two factors in postural movement and flow which contribute to the cardiovascular benefit. First, exercise intensity increases with the number of large muscle groups working at the same time. Employing exercises that combine the upper and lower body fatigues a greater number of muscles while it further increases the heart rate. Second, focusing the mind’s attention increases muscular contraction strength, thus increasing the work demand on the body. Mental focus is a key-contributing component to determining the level of intensity you can achieve from exercise.
Supplementing workouts with other forms of cardio are a great way to beat a fitness plateau, fight cardio boredom, and fit fitness into a busy lifestyle by combining cardio and strength. In addition, alternative forms of cardio, like postural movement and flow, require less physical impact and repetitive movements on the joints, which is especially useful for those with injuries or special conditions. If you love running or high impact cardio, try an alternative form once a week to cross-train your body. If you are limited or detest most traditional forms of cardio, this is the perfect way to gain the fat burning, health boosting benefits of cardiovascular exercise.
The best way to adhere to any exercise program is finding what you like to do! Cardio does not have to be so dreadful and boring. Try joining your strength and cardio workouts together for some variety and take the pressure off your joints.