Cardio – What Type is Best for Beginners?

Steady State vs. Interval vs. Tabata

What type of cardio is best for beginners?

As a personal trainer who sees new, untrained clients regularly; this is a great question.  Here at Core Results, part of what we do is to design cardiovascular programs for new clients who often have done little to no prior cardiovascular activity.  So where do we start?  Is it better for the client to start with steady state, meaning they are active for a certain period of time at a relatively moderate and constant rate; or is it better to do some type of interval training where they push the intensity, recover and repeat.  If interval is the way to go, is it better to do a more moderate program or is it better to go all out with something like a Tabata program (20 second intervals of very high intensity separated by 10 seconds of recovery)?  These are all very good questions.

Metabolic Training FacilitiesPart of the confusion comes in the new way the we think about cardio these days. In the past, the thought was that for weight loss, and fat burning in particular, a very moderate pace for an extended period of time was the way to go.  These days, thanks to a lot of research in the area, we now know that shorter, higher intensity provides better results over the long term.  So with that in mind, clients often want to jump right into the higher intensity sighting this newer train of thought.  But not so fast!!

A new study suggests that for the untrained individual with a history of little exercise, there is very little difference in the results regardless of the form they choose, at least for the short term. 

In real world terms what does that mean.  From a trainers perspective it means that the two most important things to consider when designing a cardio program for a beginner is program adherence and injury prevention.  With those points as guiding factors, I almost always prescribe moderate steady state and/or moderate intervals for new clients.  Intense cardio will simply be unpleasant for a deconditioned client resulting in an increased risk of drop-out; and it puts that client at a higher risk for injury.  Now in light of this new study, we can also infer that there is very little benefit to outweigh the risks we already new were present. 

In summary, slow and steady wins the race in this case.  If you are new to exercise, take your time. Figure out where it fits into your daily schedule and get into the habit of exercise. Give your body adequate time to make the physiological changes that will allow you to keep going injury free.  Most importantly, try to enjoy the feeling of getting healthy. Before you know it, you’ll be ready to push your limits!

Categories: Advice & Support Cardio