Dr. Laura: Can Fasting Heal Auto Immune Disease?

Fasting is known to initiate cellular clean-up, reduce inflammation, heal leaky gut and reset the immune system. What better formula could we ask for when it comes to autoimmune disease?

Can Fasting Really Help AutoImmune Suffering?

After a recent talk at Goodness Me! I did on the safety of fasting, I was left with more questions on how fasting could help those suffering with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis, Sjogren’s, celiac, diabetes type I, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis.

In the interim I have played with intermittent fasting over the past couple of months and my body says “thank you!” My digestion has not been this good for years and the persistent scalp psoriasis has all but disappeared. Even when I eat tomatoes, a common trigger for me. It seems anacdotal, however fellow colleagues in the the functional medicine industry like Mark Hyman, Amy Myers, and Courtney Sperlazza all agree.

What Kind of Fasting?

There are many kinds of fasting. We fast when we exclude a single food or types of foods from our diet. So the 30-day reset with no grains, sugar or dairy is a type of fast. This is a good start. The Ketogenic diet is a type of fast too. A Keto diet for a while may be helpful because it switches the body from a carb burning engine to a fat burning engine. But here I am talking about intermittent and more extended fasts to give complete
digestive rest
. When the body is not busy digesting and sorting out where to use or store the blood sugar, it can focus on cellular clean up and repair. Of course when you do eat, nutrient dense foods are a must because you are eating less overall and will need to pack the nutrients you need into less meals. If you are sensitive to foods, like tomatoes, dairy, wheat and sugar for me, that doesn’t mean I go back to eating them all the time. If at all. My excuse was I was in beautiful Italy and learning to make a succulent Bolognese sauce.

Can Anyone Fast?

No. Fasting isn’t for everyone. Not for children or pregnant mothers, those who are malnourished or those with anorexia or bulimia – that’s just playing with fire. Fasting also has to be monitored if you are on medications or have certain medical conditions. Medical complications include gout, cardiac arrhythmia, and postural hypotension.

How Long to Fast?

There is nothing written in stone about the perfect length of fast. And if you ever feel nauseous, dizzy or unwell you should eat. This isn’t about starvation. It’s about digestive rest. It’s about resetting insulin sensitivity and the immune system. Also, we know where the food is and have access to it if we need it. So it’s not starvation.

What Foods are Allowed?

As I mentioned above there are no real rules and there are many different  types and lengths of fasts. If you are on the thinner side and can’t stand to loose some weight, then you better consider bone broth fasts, where there are some nutrients and fat going in. If you have a little loving around that waist line, you likely can feed off that for a while and have coffee, tea and of course LOTS OF WATER.

For more information on whether fasting is right for you, and how to do it, book an appointment with Dr. Laura M. Brown ND. 519.826.7973.

 

Dr. Phil Shares: Should You Work Out With a Cold?

Should You Work Out With a Cold?

When you’re feeling under the weather, does activity help or hinder?

Most experts agree you can still work out when you’re sick — as long as you listen to your body and not push it.

Keep in mind, everyone’s tolerance level for colds and sniffles varies — one person feels like they can sustain a normal workout routine, while another feels too draggy to even consider it.

“Studies show that exercise is beneficial because it can boost your immune system before, during and after sickness,” says Nicola Finely, M.D., integrative medicine specialist at Canyon Ranch in Tucson.

Note: If you have a chronic health condition, such as asthma, you may want to consult your doctor first before exerting yourself.

Does Exercise Boost the Immune System?

“Exercise allows your white blood cells to circulate faster throughout the body, and white blood cells are the immune warriors that fight off infections,” explains Finely.

The American College of Sports Medicine backs that up, too, stating that regular and moderate exercise lowers the risk for respiratory infections and that consistent exercise can enhance health and help prevent disease.

In one study in the American Journal of Medicine, women who walked for 30 minutes every day for a year had only half the number of colds as those who didn’t bust a move.

Working out almost daily at a moderate pace can help keep your immune system strong.

But overtraining and pushing yourself too hard for too long can decrease the levels of IgA, which are antibodies on the mucosal membranes, such as the respiratory tract. These antibodies are needed to battle bacteria and viruses.

According to The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), moderate physical activity done every day, such as yoga or jogging, is the most effective way to keep the immune system strong.

Should-You-Work-Out-With-a-Cold

Experts Recommend Exercising With a Cold If:

  •  You have a garden-variety cold but no fever. Exercise can help relieve you from stuffiness by opening up your nasal passages, says the Mayo Clinic.
  •  Your symptoms are above the neck like a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or a slight sore throat.

“Keep the intensity at a moderate-to-low pace,” cautions Finely.

For example, if you typically go for a 30-minute run every day, take a brisk walk instead. And if you start to feel worse with exercising, then you should stop, she says.

Skip Exercise With a Cold If:

  •  You have a fever, discomfort in your chest, or difficulty breathing.
  • Your symptoms are below the neck, such as chest congestion, a hacking cough or an upset stomach.
  • You’re tired, you’re running a fever, or you’re especially achy. “I’d suggest any patient refrain from exercise if fever is higher than 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit,” says Finely, who points out that a fever is considered any temperature over 100 F. Exercising during this time increases the risk of dehydration, and can worsen or lengthen the duration of your cold, she explains.

A 2014 study in the journal Sports Health found that fever can have harmful effects on muscular strength and endurance.

There’s no great advantage in tiring yourself out when you’re feeling ill. After all, you don’t want to risk making yourself sicker, and taking a few days off shouldn’t affect your overall performance. “When you get back to exercise, make sure to gradually increase your level as you begin to feel better,” Finely advises.

Exercising during a cold can be beneficial, but don’t push it.

Remember, it can help flush bacteria out of your lungs and airways and reduce your overall chances of getting a cold in the first place.

The important thing is to listen to your body.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 5 Quick + Easy Ways To Incorporate Wellness Into Your Week

With all of the go, go, go that comes with being a busy, working woman, sometimes our own health falls to the wayside. We get it, not everyone has the time to hit a two-hour Pilates class every day…we certainly don’t! We’re all about striking a balance here and figuring out simple ways to improve our health on the daily. Let’s keep it simple and dive right into our five quick and easy wellness tips to improve your week.

easy wellness tips

Increase Your Intake of Hydrating Foods

Every wellness article you read is going to tell you to drink your body weight in water, and you should! But just in case you’re not the best at guzzling gallons of water in one sitting, try snacking on it! Foods like cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes and zucchinis are about 95 percent water. Increase your intake of these tasty snacks and you’ll kill two birds with one stone. We also love mixing in a shot of this hydrating inner beauty boost into our water!

Micro-Dose Your Vitamin D

Set a timer on your phone, write it on your to-do list, do whatever you need to do to incorporate fresh air into your day. Before lunch each day, head outside for a 15-minute walk and soak up the sunshine. Fifteen minutes may not sound like much, but it’s enough to get your blood pumping and also shift your mindset. Pencil in a minimum of one walk per day, but if you can swing more, do it!

Eat Mindfully

So many of us (*guilty hand raised*) eat like it’s just something else to check off our to-do list. We often eat our lunch at our desk in front of a computer, or at home in front of the television. This often leads to overeating or mindless snacking! When it’s time to eat a meal, choose somewhere intentional to sit that doesn’t involve devices with screens. This will help you feel mindful as you eat, breathing between bites, and taking note of when your body is satisfied.

Try Dry Brushing

Never heard of dry brushing? It has a surprising number of benefits, including lymphatic system stimulation. The lymphatic system is responsible for collecting and transporting waste to the blood. Dry brushing can stimulate the lymphatic system as it stimulates and invigorates the skin. It helps with everything from improving the appearance of skin to supporting digestion. Try our favorite brush here

Do Bedtime Yoga

This is one of our favorite ways to end the day. You literally do yoga in your bed, what could be more relaxing? We follow this routine, but feel free to find one that you look forward to doing each night!

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 8 Great Things About Exercising at Lunch

8 Great Things About Exercising at Lunch

Between work, social obligations and general life responsibilities, it can be difficult to fit everything into one day. That often leads to healthy activities like working out being relegated to extracurricular status and never becoming part of your routine.

Given all that, squeezing in a lunchtime workout might seem impossible. And yet … below we’ve got eight reasons to do exactly that. Once you start reaping the physical and mental benefits of midday exercise, you might never go back.

1
IT WILL DE-STRESS YOUR DAY

Nothing wards off stress quicker than a good sweat session. Per Harvard Medical School, exercise “has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.” It’s been successfully used to treat anxiety disorders and even clinical depression, so it can help you cope with a day full of meetings or that big presentation.

2
YOUR WORKOUTS WILL BE MORE EFFICIENT

If you’ve got nowhere to be, it’s easy to move slowly through a workout, taking time to check your phone, scroll through your playlist or just sit and relax on a weight bench. But when you’re due back in the office, you’ve got extra incentive to make the most of your time. And fortunately, between cardio, weight circuits and HIIT classes, you don’t need more than 30–40 minutes to get in a great workout.

3
YOU’LL UNDO DESK-RELATED DAMAGE

It’s just not healthy to sit all day. Over the years, studies have shown sedentary behavior is associated with obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease and poor circulation. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed a 61% increase in mortality rates in those who sit and watch TV for seven hours or more per day. So getting up from your desk to stretch or walk around is a great start. Getting up from your desk to exercise for 30–45 minutes is even better.

4
IT FREES UP YOUR EVENINGS

If you’re tired of choosing between the gym and dinner with friends, well, now you won’t have to. Exercise during lunch and your night will be free to spend as you please, without the guilt of knowing you’ve missed yet another workout.

5
YOU’LL BEAT THE CROWDS

Sure, this article could cause everyone to make a mad dash to the gym. But the reality is that, on weekdays, most people work out in the morning or in the evening. That leaves the gym less crowded for lunchtime exercisers like you, so you can nab a coveted bike in that popular spin class or knock out a quick gym session without waiting on machines.

6
YOU’LL MAKE BETTER FOOD CHOICES

Even though you may feel hungry after working out, studies show exercise can help to regulate appetite and even promote satiety. It does this by releasing hormones that help the body better recognize when it’s full. So if you work out during the day, you’re not only getting the healthy benefits of exercise, but you’re more likely to make smart choices at lunch and dinner.

7
YOU’LL FEEL MORE ENERGIZED

A good workout gets the endorphins flowing, and endorphins contribute to that feeling of euphoria, often referred to as a “runner’s high.” That good feeling doesn’t stop the second you stop moving. Instead, the increased heart rate and blood flow can be accompanied by improved mood and energy for several hours after a workout, which means you’ll have the energy you need to tackle the rest of your afternoon.

8
IT’LL BOOST YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

In addition to improving your physical energy, exercise can also increase mental alertness and creative thinking. According to British researchers, workers who spent 30–60 minutes exercising at lunch reported an average performance boost of 15%. And 60% of workers saw improved time management skills, mental performance and ability to meet deadlines on days they exercised.

With all those reasons to work out during lunch, you might as well give it a try. And if your boss gives you a hard time about leaving in the middle of the day, just say (diplomatically) that you’re exercising because you care about your job and want to perform at your best.

 

by Kevin Gray

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: 10 of the Best (and Worst) Workout Buddy Types

10 of the Best (and Worst) Workout Buddy Types

rward… but there are more soulmates in your life than just your spouse.

There’s your work husband/wife — that person in your office whom you tell everything. Then you have your book club bestie who loves the same characters and hates the same novels you do. And of course, your workout buddy — the one who keeps you on track with your meal preps and daily sweat sessions.

“When figuring out who your workout buddy is going to be for Double Time, choose someone you care about,” says Tony Horton. “You can choose a friend, a co-worker, or a family member. Double Time is also a great way to promote an active lifestyle for your family and have some fun bonding time with your kids.”

You’ll be spending a lot of time with your workout buddy, so it’s best to choose wisely. There are certain qualities that your buddy should possess—and a few you want to avoid at all cost. Here’s a guide to the different workout buddies you’ll encounter, and the best attributes of a true swolemate.

1. The Cardio Fanatic

“Wanna spin? Kickbox? Dance? Maybe go for a run?”

She’s always up for an energizing class — it doesn’t matter what it is as long as it gets the heart pumping and the sweat pouring. It’s beyond motivating to be moving and grooving next to this Energizer bunny — if your spirits are sagging, he’ll keep you going.

2. The Debbie Downer

Saturday Night Live Snl GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Studies actually show that social interaction plays an important role in your interest in an activity, even beyond experience of the activity itself. So make sure you not only find an activity you like, but a partner you favor, too.

3. The Constant Chatter Box

Trying to maintain a conversation while you’re lifting weights or powering through a cardio routine is no easy task. You don’t want to be rude and ignore the Chatty Cathy, but forcing yourself to respond can prevent you from getting the most out of your workout.

In fact, an inner dialog can be more helpful to your workouts than having someone else talk your ear off. This tactic, called “self-talk,” is useful for both motivational (i.e., mastery and drive) and cognitive (i.e., skill-specific and general) purposes, according to a study in the Journal of Psychological Sport and Exercise. So don’t let someone else’s talk get in the way of crushing your PR.

4. The Friendly Competitor

It doesn’t hurt if your workout partner is a bit competitive. A study of head-to-head cycling competition showed that it encourages participants to increase their performance. Having some friendly competition in the weight room or on the track will push you to be better than you thought you could be on your own.

5. The Flake

You make plans to go running at 7 a.m., but it’s 15 minutes past the hour and they’re still fast asleep. If only you had a dollar for every time The Flake has stood you up. It’s important to recognize these people for what they are — enthusiastic, fun friends who, when they do show up, add a lot to your workout. But they’re not people you can count on. So invite them to join, as long as you have someone else whom you can really rely on to be your workout buddy for the day.

6. The Muscle Head

He knows the best pre-workout supplements to improve your performance. She can tell you the difference between your gluteus maximus and your adductor longus — and which exercises work each. This buddy is a terrific partner, but only if you’re willing to put up with all the technical jargon.

7. The Drama Queen

There’s always something wrong with this workout buddy — the room is too warm or it’s too drafty. The machines are too old and broken down or they’re too new and complicated. No matter how hard you try to appease The Drama Queen, something will always be off. This will inevitably delay the act of working out for who knows how long, so it’s probably best to ditch this brand of buddy and find someone who’s not as high maintenance.

8. The One-Trick Pony

We all know that person who thinks whatever they’re doing — be it a diet or a workout plan — is the only way to do things. Sure, a low-carb diet may have helped her drop a few pounds or minute-long planks helped to strengthen his core. But just because it works for your friend doesn’t mean it will work for you. Figure out what kind of workout plan is best for you, and take this kind of buddy’s advice with a shaker of salt.

9. The Recovery Pro

Some days you just need to recover, sit on the couch, and binge on Netflix. A great workout buddy will know when to let you chill out and how to maximize your recovery time so your muscles can fully recharge. They’re always pushing you to foam roll, and they always bring the best healthy snacks to enjoy on rest day.

10. The Motivator

But you can’t sit on the couch for too long! On those days when you’re just not in the mood to workout, it’s crucial to have a support system to keep you motivated. When you can’t get going on your own, the best workout buddy will know just what to say to get you moving.

It’s a tall order finding your perfect workout buddy, but it sure beats working out on your own! What qualities do you look for in a workout partner?

Workout Everyone GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Dr. Laura: Epstein Barr Virus Linked to Several AutoImmune Diseases

The Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) we know mostly as “mono” yields connections to several autoimmune diseases.

Who Gets EBV?

More than 90% of the world’s population is infected with EBV. The age of contraction varies and for many it lays dormant for years. Like other human herpes forms of virus (EBV is HHV4), it reactivates in times of stress or trauma. Typical symptoms are what you hear from the college student and their “kissing disease” – tired, sleep a lot, muscle aches and pains, swollen glands/lymph nodes, altered sense of taste and the list goes on.

It seems that if such a large percentage of the population has EBV, it’s easy to pin it to any disease. Recent research at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital sheds some light on how EBV affects our genome.

What Diseases Link to EBV?

  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
  • Celiac Disease
  • Type 1 Diabetes
  • Graves and Hashimotos thyroiditis

“This discovery is probably fundamental enough that it will spur many scientists around the world to reconsider the role of this virus in these disorders,” said John Harley, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Autoimmune Genomics and Etiology (CAGE) at Cincinnati Children’s.

How does EBV Increase Risk for Autoimmunity?

EBV alters the human DNA in ways that weaken the immune system’s ability to combat certain diseases. We all have imperfect genes with variances called SNP’s (pronounced “snips”) that may give us advantage or risk over others in certain situations. EBV tends to change the genetic transcription of DNA to suit its own vitality and puts us more at risk for certain diseases.

What Can Increase the Risk of EBV Sickness?

  • Stress
  • Trauma
  • Poor nutrition
  • Eating the wrong foods
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor  sleep
  • Lack of spiritual connection

More research is required in this area of science for our full understanding of how to combat this detrimental virus. A Naturopathic Doctor like Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND can help balance lifestyle, diet, nutrition and immune boosting profile to keep the Epstein Barr and other forms of Human Herpes Virus (warts, shingles, cold sores) dormant in your system. Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND can also order and inert genetic tests to help you evaluate your risk for certain autoimmune diseases. Knowing your risk factors can contribute to proactive wellness plan that is tailored specifically to you.

 

Dr. Laura: Is Fasting Safe?

Fasting is part of the human existence for thousands of years. As you will learn in this article, not only is it safe, it has numerous health benefits.

Image result for empty plate

What is fasting?

There are many ways people approach a fast. It is simply a period of not eating. It may be done weekly until you reach your health targets, seasonally, or a couple times a year. Water intake is necessary during periods of fasts, as our bodies can do without calories, but not without water. Many choose to fast overnight (most common) from dinner to breakfast, or 7pm to 7am – a 12 hour fast. Then “break-fast” is just that, it breaks the fast. Recently it has gained more popularity and there are different lengths of fasts.

  • intermittent fast, lasting 12-20 hours
  • 24 hour fasts
  • 36 hour fasts
  • extended fasts

Sometimes on the intermittent fasts, people will have a coffee or tea and water while they are not eating. If you truly wish to detoxify, caffeine free is the way to go. So herbs in water or  lemon certainly is less stimulating. For others they choose to incorporate bone broth, which really has proteins and fats in it, but can be suitable for introductory fasting and digestive rest.

Are there benefits to fasting?

  • weight loss
  • reset insulin sensitivity
  • digestive rest
  • more powerful than low carb, ketogenic diets alone
  • protects from illness and maintains wellness
  • provides spiritual cleansing or purification
  • no cooking, cleaning, or grocery shopping!
  • mental clarity
  • overcome stubborn weight plateaus

Will I get hungry?

Hunger may set in, same as if you were at work and didn’t get a break and had to wait to eat, same experience – you push it through till it’s time to eat. But you should never feel nauseated, ill, dizzy or faint. If you do really feel the intense need to eat, it’s easy – you eat. Then you could try the fasting again next week.

Fasting will switch you body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates. If your body is primed to burn carbs, you will need to get over the initial bout of strong carb cravings before the fat burning kicks in.

What do I eat when I am not fasting?

What you eat when you are not fasting depends on the reasons for your fast. If you are trying to loose weight or reset your insulin sensitivity, then a ketogenic diet may be best. For those on a digestive fast, re-introduce with easy to digest and simple combinations of foods. A spiritual fast? Then you likely just go back to your regular way of healthy eating. Regardless, you do no want to eat to make up for the time you fasted: that’s counterproductive. If you are doing one or two 24 hours fasts per week (having a couple one meal a day kind of routine), then when you are eating regular on the other days, eat the most healthy vibrant life-filled food that you can. Avoid things that are packaged or processed to get the most nutrition you can on the days you eat.

When is fasting not safe?

Fasting is not safe for the following people:

  • children aged 18 or under
  • pregnancy
  • breastfeeding
  • thin, weak or feeble
  • nutritionally deficit

Fasting needs to be medically monitored for the following people:

  • those with gout
  • those taking medications
  • if you have type 1 or 2 diabetes
  • those with gastro reflux disease

For questions or advice on what kind or whether fasting is right for you, book an appointment to review with Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND. (519) 826-7973.

References:

Fun Jason. 2016. The complete guide to fasting. Victory Belt Publishing. Las Vegas.

Dr. Laura: Get your GOOD Carbohydrates: Easy Roasted Veggies

FRESH, WHOLE & NATURAL

Our bodies are designed with a blueprint made many hundreds of years ago.  Our lifestyles and environment have changed a lot since then, but our bodies have not.  We need whole, real foods. This means preparing ahead, especially things like our complex carbohydrates. We need to look to root vegetables more and breads or packaged/fast food less for our carbohydrate intake.

  • Ultra-processed foods contribute over 90 percent of all added sugars to the diet
  • A 10% increase in the consumption of ultra-processed food leads to a 12% increase in the risk of cancer.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates provide energy to think, move and build our body. Focus on slow carbs, not low carbs. This means selecting carbohydrate foods rich in fibre, a critical nutrient that slows the release of sugars into our bloodstream and helps us eliminate waste. Skip the gluten– research is clear is affects most all of us to one extent or another. It’s not always about the intestinal tract – gluten can affect skin, brain and muscles too.

Good sources of carbohydrate & fibre: Hummus/beans/lentils, sweet potato, yucca, yam, quinoa, coconut, teff, psyllium, flax, wild and brown rice, squash, celery, gluten free oats, and whole fruits like berries, apples and pears.

Preparing  roasted vegetables is one of my favourite ways to get my good carbs into my daily routine. I’ll do a tray like the above about 2x a week. Then I can place the veggies in a pyrex container and pull a few from it and chop up to top a salad or warm up to have with fresh steamed greens and my pick of protein. It’s really quiet easy- wash them up, chop them how you’d like and toss in a little olive oil. Throw a sheet of parchment paper (I buy mine at Costco) on the cookie tray for easy clean up. Place the veggies on the tray and put some salt and pepper on them. Sometimes I will add Italian spice, rosemary or maybe some fennel seeds. Convect bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes (depends on your oven and how much you liked your veggies cooked).

Pretty cool that if you eat the cooked and cooled potatoes – white or sweet – you will not affect your blood sugar the same as if they are hot. This is because a potato cooked and cooled forms a resistant starch which slows the stream of sugars into the system. The resistant starch is fantastic food (prebiotic) for the good bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract too! So even more reasons to chop and put on some greens and take for lunch. Also the asparagus is good prebiotic as well.

PLANT POWER

There are more than 5,000 phytochemicals identified plus many we suspect still remain unknown. Turns out, Mother Nature has packed a punch of power in the plant kingdom. Many plants contain one or more of these 5,000 nutritional perks that helps us:

  • Defend against pathogens, parasites, and predators.
  • Protect against chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease, neurodegeneration, and cancer.
  • Purify and renew the blood
  • Nourish & cleanse body of toxins
  • Stimulating effects
  • Relaxing effects
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Provides many vitamins and minerals

 

From the heart and kitchen of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

Dr. Phil Shares: The Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Stamina

The Best Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Stamina

To many people looking to lose weight, cardio exercise means running… and that’s it. So if you don’t like rapidly planting one foot in front of the other for miles at a stretch, chances are you don’t do it. Or you give it half effort on the rare occasion you do lace up your sneakers.

But there are plenty of other ways to get your cardio on, most of which can help you boost heart health, build muscle and strength, and reach or maintain your goal weight — it all depends on how you do them. Following is everything you need to know about cardio exercises for weight loss, strength, and endurance.

What Is Cardio Exercise?

Although we think of “cardio” as activities like running, cycling, and swimming, cardiorespiratory exercise is anything that elevates the heart rate and challenges the body to deliver oxygen to working muscles, explains Pete McCall, C.S.C.S., an ACE-certified personal trainer and host of the All About Fitness podcast.

“The cardiac system pumps blood around the body, and the respiratory system draws oxygen in and around the body. Any exercise that engages these systems and keeps them going is cardiorespiratory,” he says.

Anaerobic vs. Aerobic Activity

Two more terms that get thrown around along with cardio are “aerobic” and “anaerobic.” These designations refer to how much oxygen is used to produce energy for the task at hand. While each energy system is always in use to some extent, the intensity of activity determines which form of fuel is utilized more.

Aerobic exercise relies primarily on oxygen to produce energy, and is performed at low or moderate intensity for an extended period of time (more than 2 minutes or so) due to the length of time necessary to produce that energy.

Examples: marathon running, swimming, road cycling, etc.

Anaerobic exercise, on the other hand, does not emphasize oxygen as its main source of energy, relying more on ready glycogen and phosphocreatine. Anaerobic activity is performed in bursts (up to 2 minutes or so) at high intensities.

Example: sprinting, weightlifting, and high-intensity intervals

The anaerobic threshold — at which you cross over from aerobic into anaerobic activity — varies from person to person, but generally starts around 80 percent of your max heart rate, says Beachbody fitness expert Cody Braun. Here’s a formula that can help you determine your max heart rate.

    220, minus your age = your age-adjusted max HR

For example, if you’re 30 years old, your age-adjusted maximum heart rate is 220, minus 30 years = 190 bpm. From there, calculate appropriate percentages of that number to determine your target zones.

In this case, 80 percent (the anaerobic threshold) is about 152 beats per minute. You can use a heart rate monitor to track your BPMs during exercise to make sure you’re adequately challenging yourself relative to your objectives.

The Talk Test

If you prefer an even simpler way of tracking your effort, there’s the talk test. Can you carry on a conversation? If not, you’re doing anaerobic work.

“Your body needs to expire (exhale) carbon dioxide to metabolize glycogen,” McCall explains. “So the pace of your breathing picks up and you lose the ability to talk.”

RPE

Another way to gauge the intensity of activity is the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) — basically, how hard you feel like you’re working. The RPE scale runs from six to 20, which roughly corresponds with your heart rate divided by 10.

At rest, your RPE is six. Light activity lands you at 11, hard work gets you up to 15, and all-out maximal exertion takes you up to 20.

Benefits of Cardio Exercise

Like all exercise, cardiorespiratory workouts offer a slew of perks. “Cardio improves circulation of blood and oxygen, allows you to exert yourself longer without being fatigued, helps make the heart more efficient, burns off calories, helps you sleep, gives you more energy, and reduces stress,” says Michele Olson, Ph.D., professor of sport science at Huntingdon College.

Cardio can even help you become stronger. “Enhancing aerobic capacity can improve blood, oxygen, and nutrient flow to working muscles, and help with recovery between sets of resistance-training exercises,” McCall says.

Cardio for Weight Loss

Of course, chief among the benefits of cardio for many people is weight loss. Research has long found that both endurance and interval training improve body compositiondecrease waist circumference, and lead to similar amounts of weight loss.

However, high-intensity exercise has been found to trump aerobic exercise at decreasing body fat, owing primarily to the afterburn effect of excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). Where steady-state (low to moderate intensity) activity may burn more calories during its typically longer durations, high-intensity exercise keeps your metabolism elevated long after a workout, in some cases up to 72 hours. That means more calories burned overall.

And since interval training takes less time to get the same results, many prefer it. In a small study published in 2016, a group of sedentary men was split into two groups who exercised three times a week for three months: one did moderate-intensity cycling for 45 minutes, while the other alternated three 20-second cycle sprints with low-intensity pedaling for 10 minutes.

At the end of the experiment, both groups lost about 2 percent of their body fat. But the second group worked for one-fifth as much time as the first. “With HIIT, you are utilizing all your systems efficiently — you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck in the shortest time,” Braun says.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

Man cycling hard | Cardio exercises for weight loss

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends adults get at least 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity cardio, or 60 minutes of high-intensity cardio each week for general fitness. That works out to 30 minutes five days a week, or 20 minutes three days a week, respectively.

But you can split up time within the day, too. For instance, 15 minutes of jump rope in the morning, and 15 minutes of soccer with your kids in the afternoon. Just be sure to push yourself (and pay attention to your heart rate) if you’re aiming for more vigorous cardio.

If you’re newer to cardio, McCall suggests setting a small, realistic goal, such as 15 minutes, three times a week. “If you’re successful at achieving this, that will encourage you to add more,” he says.

From there, add five to 10 percent more cardio each week. So, 15 minutes becomes 17 minutes, and then 20 minutes, etc. You can add five to 10 percent more mileage if you prefer to use distance as your measurement.

It’s OK to do some form of cardio every day, as long as you’re not doing super intense workouts daily. If you put in a hard day, make the one that follows an active recovery day with a walk or perhaps yoga. “Exercise is a stress, and your body needs days to recover and heal itself,” Braun says.

For those who favor a combination strength-and-cardio workout, Braun recommends doing strength first. “The body likes to use carbs before fat for energy,” he explains. “Strength training uses glycogen for energy. Once those stores are depleted, your body will turn to fat deposits during lower-intensity cardio.” Further, if you do high-intensity cardio first, you may not have the strength to give weightlifting your all, and your form might suffer.

Types of Cardio Training

The method by which you perform cardio is as important to your goals as the exercises themselves. The following strategies alter variables like tempo, rest, and even activity.

Endurance training

This is steady-state cardio, wherein you maintain roughly the same pace throughout a workout. You can do this with any of the cardio exercises listed below. You’ll burn calories and train your body to consume oxygen more efficiently, but you won’t build much strength, and you’re likely to lose some muscle.
Best for: Muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance

Interval training

As mentioned above, alternating between periods of high-intensity bursts (such as sprinting) and lower-intensity rest or recovery (such as jogging or walking) will burn more calories in less time. It also generally burns more fat overall, improves anaerobic capacity, and helps your body recover quicker.
Best for: Muscular development, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Low-intensity interval training

HIIT isn’t the only way to get your intervals on. “Doing lower-intensity exercise for one to two minutes at time uses the aerobic energy pathways without creating excessive fatigue,” McCall explains. He recommends exerting at a 5 to 7 (on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the hardest) with a 2-to-1 work-to-recovery ratio. So go 2 minutes at a level 7, then 1 minute at a level 4, for example.
Best for: Cardiovascular endurance

Circuit training

This type of total-body workout involves performing a number of different exercises in succession (a circuit) with minimal rest in between. It typically involves combining cardio and strength training, though Olson notes it isn’t optimal for either. For weight loss, however, it can be quite effective. Alternate between exercises such as squat lunges, burpees, medicine ball passes, and mountain climbers for 30 to 60 seconds each, then rest a minute between rounds.
Best for: Muscular development, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Fartleks

This funny Swedish term is is a great way to break up the monotony of regimented intervals, McCall says. Work at a high intensity for some distance (say, eight lightposts away) or time (until the second verse of the song you’re listening to). Then go at an easy effort until you recover. Continue this pattern for different distances or times for your entire workout.
Best for: Muscular development, muscular endurance, cardiorespiratory capacity, fat loss

Cardio Exercises for Weight Loss, Strength, and Endurance

You now know what cardio is and how it’s applied — here are the cardio exercises to try.

running swimming cycling jumping hiking | cardio exercises

Running

Easy to do most anywhere and fairly cheap, running offers a slew of benefits, like strengthening bones and enhancing joint health. However, “the repetitive impact can cause lower-extremity overuse injuries if you don’t vary it with other forms of exercise,” Olson says. To help avoid injury, make sure you’re running with proper form.

Cycling

Easier on your joints than running, biking challenges your body to effectively deliver oxygen to muscles, which it offers a greater likelihood for growth.

Swimming

Another great option if you have joint issues, swimming is a total-body workout. But you do need a place to swim — and to know how to properly swim — to reap all of its benefits. Once you do, check out these tips to improve your freestyle stroke.

Rowing

Crew teams are in top shape because rowing is a great total-body cardio and muscular workout. It’s also low-impact, sparing shock to joints.

Plyometrics

This kind of exercise most often refers to jump training, and can burn many calories as you increase your explosive power. Naturally, though, good form is a must for this high-impact activity, or you increase the risk of injury. “You need to have the best movement mechanics to do plyometric training,” Braun says.

Dancing

Who says cardio can’t be fun? Whether you prefer moving to pop musiccountry music, or something in between, dancing is a great way to improve aerobic — and even anaerobic — capacity.

Jumping rope

Cheap, portable, and easy to do pretty much anywhere, jumping rope builds aerobic and anaerobic endurance, and may help improve coordination, balance, and bone mineral density, research shows. It’s best to wear the right shoes and jump on a forgiving surface such as a wood floor, Olson says. And if you have tight calves, stretch them before and after.

Hiking

“Consistent hiking for two to four hours at a time uses the aerobic energy system, which can help increase the utilization of fat for energy,” McCall says, and that can lead to weight loss. Hiking is also easier on your joints than running, plus you’re spending time in nature, which has been shown to improve mood among other benefits.

Calisthenics

Old-school bodyweight exercises like squats and pushups are a great way to get your heart pumping and build muscular endurance. “The more muscles used, the more oxygen required, and the more calories burned,” McCall says. Try jumping jacks, high knees, ice skaters, mountain climbers, and burpees.

Sports

Games like softball, basketball, and soccer offer more than friendly competition. “Each sport has different benefits for your body, from the fuel system you use to skills required of your body and mind,” Braun says. “The movements required in different sports help teach coordination while keeping cardio fun and interactive.”

Cardio Is Way More Than Running

You can get the benefits of cardio in many more ways than simply running. Whether you swim, dance, or do Beachbody workouts at home, be sure to do more than one thing.

“Your body is capable of a lot of things. For general health and fitness, encompass all of it,” Braun says. Do endurance as well as interval workouts, in all forms of cardio, to lose weight, improve overall fitness, and reduce your risk of injury.

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Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

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