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Five Cardio Mistakes to Avoid

Gardening isn't cardio...
Gardening isn't cardio...

Cardio exercises are just as important in a weekly fitness routine as strength training and maintaining a proper diet. The problem is, you might be doing things wrong. Here are the top five mistakes I see.

Don’t confuse moving with cardio. If you have a job that keeps you on your feet, that’s better for your long-term health than sitting at a desk. But standing all day, or simply walking around, isn’t enough. You can’t count cleaning house, gardening or shopping as cardio workouts. Even taking 10,000 steps a day isn’t the same.

A proper cardio session requires that you increase your heart rate significantly. You should be breathing hard and breaking out in a sweat: not from the heat, but because your body is being challenged. The significant benefits of cardio happen when you push yourself. Learn the difference between engaging in activities and doing exercises.

Yoga isn't cardio. Yoga isn’t cardio. While there are many different types of yoga, and some are intense enough to raise your heart rate to an aerobic level, you need more. Yoga is an excellent way to stretch, improve flexibility, relieve stress and sharpen your mental focus. But even an hour of the most intense yoga routines won’t raise your heart rate as much as 15 minutes of high-intensity intervals. Don’t stop doing yoga, but don’t consider it a cardio workout.

Never combine weight training and cardio. There's a reason weight training and cardio programs are done separately. When you're moving weights, you want to be sure the movements are deliberate and controlled. Veering off in the wrong direction can cause injury. You should never try and move too quickly, so your form is always good.

For cardio to work, you MUST move quickly. The goal is to increase your heart rate and rapid movements are the best way to do that. Moving weights while you do cardio, reduces the effectiveness of the cardio workout and significantly increases your risk of injury.

Don’t strap ankle or wrist weights on during cardio sessions. They increase the impact forces on your joints as you run. Ankle and wrist weights increase the risk of injury from dislocations, ligament tears and sprains. Over time they even increase the risk of tendinitis.

That's not all. Ankle weights tend to "bounce" and cause blisters and rub skin raw. Hand-held weights change the gait of runners that leads to pain and injury in the lower back and hips. It's even more serious for people with stability issues. Adding weights to your ankles or wrists can alter how you walk, destabilizing your balance. That increases the risk of tripping or falling.

Ankle and wrist weights are great tools when used in stationary exercises, for neurologic rehabilitation or during some stretching moves. Physical therapists and trainers use them for exercises that require resistance, and when they don't need all the weight that dumbbells or machines provide. But they harm, more than they help, when used during cardio exercises.

Quit doing the same cardio workout. Imagine walking into a gym and using the same weights you did the first time you went in. Never lifting more, never targeting different body parts, never varying what you do. If you did that, your body wouldn’t change. In fact, over time you would lose muscle size and strength as you age. That's why a good training program is constantly evolving and changing.

Your body responds to cardio the same way. You’ve got to change things up to see progress. That might mean running on a treadmill one day, taking a spin on a bike the next, spending time on a rowing machine or pushing yourself on an elliptical.

The equipment isn't the only thing you should change. Some days you might push yourself with 30-second intervals, on others you could try sets as long as three or four minutes. Mixing up what you do helps prevent overtraining injuries and boredom.

Have you been making any of these cardio mistakes?  

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