Variety is the key to improving your cardio workout

Fitness • Limit interval training to two or three times a week
This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Which is better — a slow and steady cardio workout, or a fast and intense one?

How about both?

There was a time when aerobic work, that slow and steady effort, was the "in" way of logging cardio hours.

But with the increasing popularity of crossfit and ultimate workout routines, anaerobic exercise became the favored form.

If one's goal is to lose weight, then anaerobic, intense interval workouts are the way to go. They also are more time efficient than the aerobic, long duration workouts.

Interval workouts also use the so called "fast twitch" muscles in our bodies. These are the ones that drive sprinters and cycling racers. They are also the ones responsible for giving your body a cut or lean look.

So why not do intervals exclusively? The answer lies in one's every day life.

We spend the majority of our time in the aerobic zone, whether we are walking the dog or strolling around the grocery store.

The good and bad about aerobic work is it trains our body to be more efficient so we can work longer with less effort. This is great for those who do marathons, or long bike rides.

However, doing aerobic work exclusively isn't good for those trying to lose weight because all that efficiency means one has to work longer to burn the same amount of calories.

Therefore, in my view, it is good to have some aerobic work so your body can handle every day activity. Hikes, gardening and playing with the kids becomes easier.

In addition, our bodies simply aren't meant to train at the high intensity pace real interval work demands.

If done properly, it takes the body at least two days to recover from maximum interval work. If you don't let the body recover, you won't be able to push the heart as much as before, so performance is compromised.

Interval work also causes a lot of stress to the body. Some stress is good, it makes the body adapt and get stronger. But again, recovery is the key. A lot of stress gets the hormonal system out of whack which can lead to weight gain — the result most people don't want.

Doing intervals twice a week — maybe three — is most the body can handle.

Of course, limiting intervals doesn't mean you have to spend the rest of the time on the couch. This is where the beauty of aerobic work comes into play.

It too causes stress on the body, but at a much lower level. One doesn't have to run a marathon to qualify as "aerobic work" either. Hiking or walking or a low intensity bike ride of 30 to 60 minutes is a great form of exercise and will get the body systems moving.

Then, on interval days, push the body, which will expand your cardio abilities.

Remember, just as with anything, variety is key. Do some interval work, do some aerobic work and your cardio program will bebalanced.

Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and Holistic Lifestyle Coach. E-mail her at Twitter: