Steady State Cardio and Aerobics

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
My wife was watching Grace and Frankie the other night and I noticed that Jane Fonda appears to be pretty fit. The rest of the crew, too. The four "elderly" were all born between 1938 and 1940! So maybe Jane Fonda had a point with her aerobics VHSs from the 80s.

Which made me think about the recent discussions here on the forum about cardio training and especially steady state zone 1-2 training for stretching the heart and building stroke volume, IIRC.

Practicing S&S gives me plenty of heart benefits. And I walk a lot, use a carrier to get my baby to sleep and commute exlusively by bike, so I get a lot of easy locomotion daily.

The classic way to build on that would be running, rowing, MTB or rucking - at least in this community, to get more into the heart stretching zone (~110-150 BPM HR).

But what is your take one Step Aerobics, dance and Zumba classes and what have you?

Might not be as steady state, and favored by sissies 👯‍♂️🤷‍♂️, but then again it includes different movement patterns which could even help with mobility and joint health.

You know, I picture doing OS style stuff rhythmically for time and in a circuit, like marching and standing cross-crawls (even with a step-up), easy carries, easy jogging in place, jumping jacks, jump rope, dancing around, crawling, fast joint circles, etc.

What do you think?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I used step aerobics and other "workout DVDs" as my main source of exercise (can't call it training) throughout my 20s and 30s. Started bike riding in my early 40s and strength training with kettlebells then barbells in my mid 40s (now 52).

Now that I "know better..."

I tried one of my old favorites a few times last year, Kathy Smith Step Workout (easy to find on YouTube, now), and I thought, wow, this is actually a great workout! Not only is it nice steady-state aerobics, you can easily vary the intensity to your own goals with the amount of movement, height of the step, etc... it uses the whole body in great movement patterns, it's fun, it's well-designed... I think they were onto something, and it would serve many people well for their health and basic fitness goals, at least to keep them from being unhealthy. Actually not sure why it went away in popularity!

That said, it's exercise... Not training. It "works" to help transform your body, to a point. Then it stops working, because it's not a progressive challenge. If you continue to put more effort into it (higher step, longer session) it can continue to push cardio "gains", but that's all it can do. Muscle development and certainly strength development plateaus rather quickly.

So, now what I know better... I'll stick with what I know now... except for the occasional session for nostalgia. :)
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
That said, it's exercise... Not training. It "works" to help transform your body, to a point. Then it stops working, because it's not a progressive challenge. If you continue to put more effort into it (higher step, longer session) it can continue to push cardio "gains", but that's all it can do. Muscle development and certainly strength development plateaus rather quickly
Good points.

Maybe HR monitoring would be a good way.

Someone mentioned on the forum that a 90s boxer used to carry a 16-24 kg KB nonstop for 30-60 minutes, or so. One could do the cook drill (carries), some presses, squats, lunges, etc. In this fashion and get an easy strength endurance aerobic session. Once it gets to easy the movements could be made more challenging and a heavier bell could be used.
 

Timmer C

Level 5 Valued Member
That said, it's exercise... Not training.
You make an important distinction, a distinction that many people fail to make. Physical activity is something that makes a good part of daily living, whether it be something purely functional (like walking or bicycling for transportation), or something more recreational (like the step program you describe.) But training is something beyond that.

(As an aside, I notice some people will pay large sums of money for what they think is “personal training”, but they confuse exercise with training.)
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Not everyone needs to "train", but everyone should "exercise."
I agree, sort of.

Someone who is already exactly what they want to be, AND that state is basically a default baseline physical existence (our natural physical state with an active lifestyle) can just "exercise" to maintain it.

Anyone who is in a condition less than that baseline, and wants to actually change or develop their physical state into something better than it is, needs to train. Exercise will work at first, but then it needs to progress intelligently to continue to stimulate an adaptation.

Anyone who wants to achieve OR maintain a baseline above a natural default healthy state needs to train, to continue to stimulate an adaptation.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
I think the difference between exercise and training is simply having a plan. There is a point where doing the same thing, one person's exercise = another person's training.

But yeah, for a base level of fitness all that stuff can work. Not the best use of training time maybe, but it includes an element of comraderie and fun that a lot of exercise lacks.
 

pet'

Level 8 Valued Member
Hello,

As I age, my take is more and more oriented toward steady state trail / moutain running / rucking, AA training and some strength training to at least maintain muscle mass (for instance daily dose, or 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps).

Quality food, plenty of sleep are on the top of the list as well.

Kind regards,

Pet'
 

wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I have a degree in exercise physiology and I still don't know the answer to the question:

Person A: steady state cardio, strictly Zone 2
Person B: interval training (bike, rower, sprint, whatever) done smartly, adequate rest. fluctuate from 60-80%
Person C: say S&S. same as person B but with KB swings.

We have 3 people doing different forms of "zone 2" training (B and C may go above Zone 2 briefly in their respective training session, but for the sake of the argument lets say they don't)

Who gets more benefit? Benefit being defined as "positive cardiac adaptation" that the zone 2 delivers (increased cardiac output, increased heart size, better contractility, mitochondrial biogenesis etc.) that seems to be linked more and more with longevity and healthspan.

Does B get greater effect than A because they become accustomed to higher demands? Is there the same long term adaptations and benefits (I understand that there is not as much research on this -

Is the "aerobic" part of A&A from S&S deliver the desired adaptations of cardiovascular exercise- even though the the tension derived from lifting the weight would have other adaptations like increased left ventricle wall thickness? Does this even matter? Is it BETTER and you get both?

Is the training session of "A" the ONLY way, or just the ONLY way to achieve these positive qualities?

Let's pretend Zone 2 training gets you "full" benefit. Does Zone 1 (walk around the block type of speed) get you 70% of the full benefit? 80%? more? none?

And most importantly - am I just overthinking this?


@mprevost @Al Ciampa
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
Interesting points @wespom9
You know, sometimes I think that running is only the poster child of cardio training because it is easier to quantify it than, say, yard work. And what's more, the thinking of "only 30+ minutes above 110 BPM HR will get you benefits" makes you disregard all those 10 minute walks that actually might be the backbone of general health.

So in a way I think we should not look down on casual movement and exercise, just because it lacks progressiveness. On the other hand I wish my parents would lift weights and not only go on biking vacations :D

In the end, more movement is better than little movement, and the body is an amazing whole, not just a blood pump and some muscles.
 

Tim Randolph

Level 6 Valued Member
Who gets more benefit?
I have pondered this point for a few years and I think we need to start with what do we mean by “benefit.” Personally I know that LSD builds a heart that beats slowly at night, but S&S seems to have upped my stroke volume so the same heart beat does a lot more.

We are dealing with the interplay of some very complex systems here. I think the answer to what works best will have a lot to do with “best for what.”
 
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Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
I have a degree in exercise physiology and I still don't know the answer to the question:

Person A: steady state cardio, strictly Zone 2
Person B: interval training (bike, rower, sprint, whatever) done smartly, adequate rest. fluctuate from 60-80%
Person C: say S&S. same as person B but with KB swings.

We have 3 people doing different forms of "zone 2" training (B and C may go above Zone 2 briefly in their respective training session, but for the sake of the argument lets say they don't)
I would argue that only A is doing truly "zone 2 training". Zone 2 is by definition a steady-state aerobic type of training. The others may have a similar heart rate, but they're stimulating a different adaptation.

As for B, if he never goes above zone 2, his intervals are NOT effective.

Same with C. Someone on S&S should NOT be seeking to never go above zone 2 HR, IMO. It's way too easy to stimulate progress.

Who gets more benefit? Benefit being defined as "positive cardiac adaptation" that the zone 2 delivers (increased cardiac output, increased heart size, better contractility, mitochondrial biogenesis etc.) that seems to be linked more and more with longevity and healthspan.
A gets more increased cardiac output (LV size) and mitochondrial biogenesis.

B might get better contractability and some mitochondrial biogenesis, if they would actually do intervals (go above zone 2 HR). Same with C.

Is the "aerobic" part of A&A from S&S deliver the desired adaptations of cardiovascular exercise- even though the the tension derived from lifting the weight would have other adaptations like increased left ventricle wall thickness? Does this even matter? Is it BETTER and you get both?
I would think you get a lot, but not quite as good as A as far as overall heart health. But you do get other benefits - increased muscle mass, power, strength, "functional fitness", and "good enough" heart health to make it worth it.

Let's pretend Zone 2 training gets you "full" benefit. Does Zone 1 (walk around the block type of speed) get you 70% of the full benefit? 80%? more? none?
I have wondered this a lot. I think it gets at least half the benefit. So 2 hours of walking might compare to 45 min session truly in zone 2. The main difference is that you won't get better at it. Zone 2 stimulates your slow twitch fiber to actually get better, more powerful, so you end up being able to produced more power in zone 2. If you keep walking, there's no increased adaptation. You're plateau-ed and maintaining.

And most importantly - am I just overthinking this?
I don't think so. I think they're good questions that most people should be able to answer who have been studying this stuff for a while. Doesn't mean they'll be the right answers... I might not be completely right with mine, or others may have a different opinion, but they're all very relevant to "what's the best way to structure our training time/effort", which is what we spend a lot of time discussing here on the forum, and which we need to be able to determine for ourselves and our clients.
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
I think it gets at least half the benefit. So 2 hours of walking might compare to 45 min session truly in zone 2. The main difference is that you won't get better at it. Zone 2 stimulates your slow twitch fiber to actually get better, more powerful, so you end up being able to produced more power in zone 2. If you keep walking, there's no increased adaptation. You're plateau-ed and maintaining
Yes, from a training perspective, plateau-ing isn't favorable, but from an aging perspective easy maintaining might actually be the key for health.

If you look at the so called blue zones and anecdotal reports of people older than 100 years, they tend to walk at least an hour or so at a relaxed pace everyday (plus community, meal enjoyment, sense of purpose etc.).

Again, this leads us to questions of ROI, diminishing returns, "how much is enough", and sustainability. In my family and peer group walking is more socially compatible (can be done in a group spending quality time together) than running (e.g. family fathers training for an ultra race and thus not available for their children or spouse).

So running might be the better for heart health, but walking (or yard work) might be the low hanging fruit with very little risks (runners have a high injury rate).
 

ali

Level 6 Valued Member
The blue zone thing is interesting from an exercise viewpoint....it doesn't feature much! Other than lots of low intensity movement, muscle and training adaptations for longevity and health may possibly offset other blue zone variables, like sunshine, freshly picked olives, that don't exist or are rare in your locale otherwise. And blue zones especially..... if you have ancestors from Sardinia, you live in Sardinia allowing for phenotypic expression in that climate but will radically unexpress should you pack up and head for the north coast of Finland.
The gentle nudging of time spent in zone 2 too, is that offset by more vigorous nudging of intensity done less frequently or offset again by frequent low intensity and longer duration zone 1 movement?
I'm happy to conclude that the best way is the one that you enjoy because you can select the best option to suit your bias. My bias is intensity and I'm fully aware I often make a dog's dinner of trying to understand why.
There was a study out recently showing different FMRI brain imaging scans of high intensity v lower intensity work loads. Different brain regions are activated. The higher intensity tended to light up more emotional centres and thus in part helps to explain why I'm unhinged without the emotional balance of running as fast as I can.
Quite happy doing zen easy work but without a fizz now and then I die a little inside. Whatever works for you....if I could dance with grace I would dance. I dunno, is zumba dancing? Whenever I've seen a zumba class there's very little graceful movement. Ballet on the other hand is beautiful and ballet dancers are very strong in the most graceful of ways. Professional dancers are seriously strong and aerobically enhanced to the point of doing some ridiculous moves whilst smiling throughout and often singing too with amazing breath control.
Back in the day I frequented an 'aerobic' class run by a South American dance champion. Used it as a fitness-ey thing complementing my squash season. Loads of fun dancey moves with hundred of push ups. His class always ended with a 5 minute can-can routine leaving everyone exhausted and laughing inanely on the floor. A sort of Yoga laughing therapy and magic mushroom cleansing detox ceremony that the good folk of silicon valley do podcasts about today. What goes around comes around....
 

Bauer

Level 6 Valued Member
I'm happy to conclude that the best way is the one that you enjoy because you can select the best option to suit your bias.
I like that a lot :)

Edit: Just don't expect your method of choice to deliver results it can't deliver.
 
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wespom9

Level 6 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I have pondered this point for a few years and I think we need to start with what do we mean by “benefit.”

We are dealing with the interplay of some very complex systems here. I think the answer to what works best will have a lot to do with “best for what.”
Agreed, and that's why I qualified it with " Benefit being defined as "positive cardiac adaptation" that the zone 2 delivers (increased cardiac output, increased heart size, better contractility, mitochondrial biogenesis etc.) that seems to be linked more and more with longevity and healthspan".


I would argue that only A is doing truly "zone 2 training". Zone 2 is by definition a steady-state aerobic type of training. The others may have a similar heart rate, but they're stimulating a different adaptation.

As for B, if he never goes above zone 2, his intervals are NOT effective.

Same with C. Someone on S&S should NOT be seeking to never go above zone 2 HR, IMO. It's way too easy to stimulate progress.
Can you expand on why if intervals don't go above zone 2, they are ineffective? It's not apples to apples comparison, why is this not effective? I work with people with COPD who do "intervals" (meaning they literally need to stop because they can't breathe, rest and go again) and I can tell you, their endurance (and speed) see increases over an 8 week span.

I would think you get a lot, but not quite as good as A as far as overall heart health. But you do get other benefits - increased muscle mass, power, strength, "functional fitness", and "good enough" heart health to make it worth it.
This to me is the crux of the question. 80% of the desired benefit of cardio, plus benefit in a multitude of other positive adaptations? Truly the minimalist's choice of weapon.

I have wondered this a lot. I think it gets at least half the benefit. So 2 hours of walking might compare to 45 min session truly in zone 2. The main difference is that you won't get better at it. Zone 2 stimulates your slow twitch fiber to actually get better, more powerful, so you end up being able to produced more power in zone 2. If you keep walking, there's no increased adaptation. You're plateau-ed and maintaining.
I don't think I'm mistaken, but if I recall correctly there is a wealth of evidence that suggests with an increase in intensity, less time is necessary to achieve adaptation (I want to say 3:1 ratio). Does this go for performance AND health?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Can you expand on why if intervals don't go above zone 2, they are ineffective? It's not apples to apples comparison, why is this not effective? I work with people with COPD who do "intervals" (meaning they literally need to stop because they can't breathe, rest and go again) and I can tell you, their endurance (and speed) see increases over an 8 week span.
Let's define this a little better. I'm 52 years old and have been a cyclist for 12+ years, in addition to strength training. My max HR is probably about 180. During a snatch test it's about 172, but I'll see 180 at the end of a 5k running race or a bike sprint or something. My MAF HR is about 130. So my zone 2, depending on whose "zone" method you're using, is probably about 120-135.

When I do high-intensity intervals on an Airdyne, my HR goes up to about 170 with a 20 second effort, then settles back down to 130ish over the next minute and 40 seconds. I might repeat that 4 more times for a HIIT session.

So what if I did intervals on the Airdyne where i brought my HR up to 130? What would I do to do zone 2 intervals -- cruise along at 110, do a really really brief and not so hard effort for 20 seconds or up to a minute or two? I suppose one option would be doing a longer interval... but what's the point? I'm only IN zone 2 at that point. A zone 2 steady state effort still isn't very hard, and there's no lactate accumulation (most people's definition of zone 2), so there's no reason to rest between interval efforts.

Now does that mean I'd be doing nothing effective? No... it's still time well spent -- I've elevated my heart rate for some period of time, and I'm training my heart and the rest of my body to do an aerobic effort. So it's good, and certainly would be stimulating an improvement for someone who was starting from no exercise and doing this. It's just not nearly as effective for improving certain performance (and possibly health) parameters as actual higher intensity intervals would be, particularly in the well-trained athlete.

This to me is the crux of the question. 80% of the desired benefit of cardio, plus benefit in a multitude of other positive adaptations? Truly the minimalist's choice of weapon.
Yes, I'd agree with that perspective.

I don't think I'm mistaken, but if I recall correctly there is a wealth of evidence that suggests with an increase in intensity, less time is necessary to achieve adaptation (I want to say 3:1 ratio). Does this go for performance AND health?
I think so. To what degree on both is highly individual, for many reasons: 1) their starting condition, 2) their desired improvements, 3) their genetic tendencies, 4) their exact programming.

Also, Pavel makes a good case in the Q&D book (and the Strong Endurance seminar) that there's a trade-off there as well -- high-intensity intervals have some downstream negative effects when you exceed a certain threshold. The detail is in the book.
 
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