Here is part 3 of my mini-series on debunking the myths surrounding workout programs for women:
Myth: Women should mostly focus on performing large amounts (30-60 minutes 3-5 days/week) of moderate intensity steady state cardiovascular exercise between 60-70% of their maximum heart. This exercise prescription will burn the most calories and overall body fat.
Fact: Women should mostly focus on strength training using multiple joint exercises and challenging resistance (see parts one and two of this series), and supplement their strength training work with high intensity interval training (HIIT). This exercise prescription, in addition to a calorically appropriate diet (the REAL fat burner), will give women their best chance at achieving the "toned athletic look".
While steady state moderately intense cardiovascular exercise certainly burns calories, it does not create the type of metabolic disturbance necessary to keep your body burning fat THROUGHOUT THE DAY. Too often, women look at fat lose in the time frame they actually spend exercising...maybe 1 hour daily. They need to look at fat loss over a 24 period. Strength training and interval cardiovascular training will "keep your metabolic flame burning" for hours after the actual exercise is complete, and this is key. You may (and I think this is "iffy")burn more energy DURING you workouts performing steady state cardio, but certainly not for hours afterwards. Steady state cardiovascular work may make your metabolic flame reach it's peak during the exercise session, but, almost immediately afterwards, it dies out and returns to baseline...almost as though someone dumped water on the fire.
Conversely, strength training and interval training allows the flame to continue burning and die down very gradually for hours after your workout is finished (almost like sitting around a camp fire, going to sleep in your tent, and letting the fire burn down gradually all night long while you sleep), and your overall net calorie expenditure over a 24 period is much greater.
Finally, in a general sense, steady state cardiovascular work doesn't stimulate the larger type II muscle cells. These cells must be stimulated, through strength training, as we age or you begin to lose lean muscle mass. As you lose lean muscle mass, your resting metabolism begins to decline. If you lose a couple pounds of muscle each decade after age 30, you'll eventually end up with much more body fat at age 50+ even though you may not be eating much more on a daily basis than you were when you were younger...this is referred to as "creeping" weight gain.
Stay tuned for more facts and myths about workout programs for women. Until then, keep training hard!