Low intensity cardio in a paleo lifestyle
I’ve had periods in my life in which I’ve exercised less, maybe just one workout a week or so and I’ve felt pretty good. I’ve also had short periods with no – zero – exercising at all. For example when I’ve been sick or injured. During the periods of no training I’ve actually felt pretty low. I’ve felt ok for the first week or so but then felt more and more irritable and I’ve had problems just relaxing.
But during weeks of very little exercise, like I said above, I’ve felt pretty good. However, once I start to include more sessions and do that consistently I realize there are different levels of happiness 🙂
So, even if I’ve felt happy and ok – as soon as I start to exercise more (and do it for a week or two) I get VERY HAPPY. For me – and for most people I would guess – you start to realise there is an even higher lever of happiness that you come to experience with continuous exercise. That’s why sometimes feel sorry for people who workout a few times a month only and never move passed that. I think, based on my own experience that they miss out on a lot of good stuff! NOTHING beets the feeling of happiness!! And by the way, don’t confuse happiness with pleasure. Happiness i long lasting and life changing. Pleasure is short, lasts for a short time and then disappears.
So start with regular workouts and feel happy!
How to do low intensity cardio?
In this post I’m going to specifically dig into the subject of low intensity cardio. In previous posts I’ve looked at strength training and how to do it. Make sure you have a look at those posts if you haven’t already. Also keep in mind that the exercise and workouts that I recommend here on thepeoplespaleo.com are optimal for health and not for performance. If you are looking at competing in an obstacle course race,in crossfit, in running or any other sport you need to do much more. If you want optimal health – keep reading…
Low intensity cardio acts as the foundation of a primal and paleo training regimen. It forms the base. Since it’s low intensity it can and should be done almost every day. Looking at our ancestors way back 100’000 years ago they were doing low intensity cardio every day as part of their daily life. Obviously they didn’t see it as exercise it was their way of moving from one place to another. This is the type of “exercise” we should try to simulate and it should act as a guideline in terms of what we should train.
Based on what type of low intensity cardio our ancestors did we should focus on walking, slow and steady jogging, cycling, canoeing etc. All done at a nice and comfortable pace and intensity but still at a pace that gets our heart rate going. We don’t want to be feeling like we’re going to die. It should feel ok and nice and we should look forward to the next session.
Ideally you want to include 2-5 hours of low cardio every week. This may sound like a lot to you but it isn’t too bad. Simply include a few easy jogging or walking sessions each week with each session lasting 45 min or an hour.
Our ancestors didn’t have gyms. They were outside – all the time. I also strongly recommend you exercise outside. Feel the wind, enjoy the weather no matter if it’s raining or if t’s sunny. Breath the fresh air and during your session take the time to listen to the sounds, see the surroundings and try to feel how you feel. Have a positive attitude. If it’s windy and raining then you’ll feel even better having done the workout.
Why low intensity and not high?
First of all let’s define just how low low intensity is. I’d recommend you go no higher that 75% of your maximum heart rate during these sessions. Don’t go too low either – not lower than 60%. If you don’t want to do a maximum heart rate test you can get good enough estimates by using this formula: HRmax = 217 – (0.85 x Age).
To measure you’re heart rate I recommend you get a heart rate monitor. Very handy. If you don’t have one you have to guess or simply measure your heart rate manually during your workout. At 75% you should be able to talk pretty comfortably.
High intensity is all intensities above 75%. Most people I meet during my workouts are way above 75%. You can hear that on how they breath. Heavy frequent breathing is a sign you are going too hard.
Why not high intensity? Low sounds boring and slow 🙂 Well, like I said, paleo exercising is all about health and not about top performance. High intensity cardio has a few disadvantages from a health perspective:
- Increased stress on the body. The body is not genetically adapted for continuos workouts at high intensities. The stress can cause systemic inflammation (a strong contributor to heart disease, cancer and nearly all other health problems).
- Increased appetite
- Hormonal imbalance. Stress hormone like cortisol increases.
- Increasingly dependent on carbs in the form of glycogen. We want to body to use fat as the primary source of energy but doing high intensity cardio does not promote that.
Benefits of a low intensity cardio
- Improved fat metabolism. I.e. your body becomes better at using fat for fuel.
- Improved cardiovascular function. You build up your capillary network (blood vessels that supply your muscle cells with fuel and oxygen).
- Stronger bones and joints. In a low intensity you use your bones and joints – you don’t wear them out.
- Stronger immune system,
- Increased energy and happiness.
So, start today and do low intensity cardio!!