There are advantages of cardio sessions being part of your fitness programme. But you need to be careful of only using cardio as your main weapon for weight loss.
Every gym has different machines dedicated to cardio. These tend to include; treadmills, elipticals (cross trainers), exercise bikes and rowing machines. Every gym has those people who only use these machines and those people tend to use them for the same amount of time every time they exercise. Read on if your work out sounds like the following;
Cycle for 7.5km
Run for 2.5km
Cross trainer for 3.5km
Not bad, you might be thinking and there was a time when I would have agreed with you but this type of training programme will result in diminishing returns. By this I mean that each workout will result in fewer calories burned.
A friend of mine started going to the gym a few years ago and utilised a 100% cardio regime. She got great results at the beginning (reduced body fat, smaller waist line, improved fitness level) but her results hit a plateau just as quickly. Her boyfriend, another good friend of mine, was quick to tell her that this was due to her eating more, something you do without realising when you undertake a lot of exercise. This is not strictly true.
The problem with a weight loss programme that is heavily focussed on cardio is that your muscles and lungs will become more efficient with each session you will actually burn less calories for the same amount of exercise. The good news is this means your fitness level is improving, the bad news is your weight loss will slow down or even worse STOP!
To avoid this plateau try adding these things to your workout programme;
- High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). Jog at 70% for 1 minute followed by sprinting for 1 minute then repeat process
- Hill sprints; use the incline on the treadmill to burn extra calories
- Join a spin class; a variety of intensity and resistance will help you increase the calorie burn
- Get into the weights room
By including one or more of these ideas into your workout you should benefit from better results, it's important to include variety and it will prevent your body from getting used to your workouts.
The final downside of cardio is the build up of cortisol. Your body naturally produces cortisol during long periods of cardio type exercise. Cortisol actually prevents weight loss so another reason to stop treating the gym like your own personal hamster wheel.