Many of my clients update me on their daily/weekly cardio activities by way of email. I think this is noble, and it is always appreciated — though it isn’t always cardio. And though the line between exercise and cardio can be fine, it is more often broad — especially under the confluent human behaviors of rationalization and indolence.
Here are the ten most common non-cardio cardio sessions I receive from week to week.
- Mowing the lawn. This is definitely work and there are calories burned to be sure. But the calories burned are relative to the size of the lawn, and the equipment being used. If you’re mowing ten acres with a tractor, you are still going for a ride. If you’re mowing a quarter acre on a 21% grade with a push-mower, there may actually be a sweat brewin’, still not necessarily cardio.
- Chasing the kids. Chasing the kids is to cardio, as getting a beer is to halftime — not exercise. Nope, not too many calories burned chasing the kids. Accelerated heart rate and frustration yes, but that’s not the healthiest way to increase your pulse. Unless your child is on the treadmill in front of you, or you are chasing them from San Diego to Carlsbad, probably not sufficient cardio.
- Walking the hills of Fallbrook (or any community). By far the most common cardio session I receive each week. Walking can actually be cardio, but as I drive the hills of Fallbrook, I observe how people walk. This activity can be a very healthy endeavor, as well as relaxing. But cardio, true cardio? More often than not, these walks are very healthy, but not true cardio — not in the fat burning sense that most people are seeking.
- Sex. I had a woman ask me recently if sex was cardio. Like mowing the lawn, this is relative to the size of the lawn and the equipment used. Anyway, sex, like other physical activities, is exercise and can burn calories. Only the lucky ones can count it as fat-burning cardio.
- Cleaning the house. Very seldom do I clean mine, so I can’t really say. This I know; if you’re breathing hard and sweating, and maintaining a heart rate of 130+ bmp for an extended period, your housework may be cardio. Otherwise, it’s just housework and that’s why I never do it.
- Walking on the beach. See number 3, and then reduce it’s metabolic and caloric value since the beach is that much more relaxing.
- Gardening. Great dexterity, flexibility, and balance developed here if you adhere to, and maintain good postures during your planting and yard grooming activities. Calories burned? Not too many. Calories grown? Depends on what you’re planting. Gardening is a great activity — but not a major fat burner.
- Waxing the car. This is exercise to be sure. Especially for the right deltoid — wax on/wax off, that sort of thing. Just like a tennis player, you can tell a car enthusiast at a glance, by the disparity of the size and definition of his right arm and shoulder relative to the one on his left side. He’ll still have a belly though, unless he does some real cardio.
- Visiting SeaWorld. Even if you run through SeaWorld at a sprinters pace, any would-be cardio will be offset by two words: Funnel Cake.
- Shopping at the mall, Costco, Ikea and other large profile structures. Okay, I actually do consider this cardio because I really do run to get in and out of these wretched places as fast as possible. Most linger though, and there are few calories spent in lingering.
“Cardio” in the perception of a fitness enthusiast is a way to coax the body into losing body fat, minimizing blood sugar, and increasing and maintaining a higher heart-rate. However, in the mind of a fitness professional, this entails reaching a certain heart rate, and maintaining that heart rate for an extended period of time. Exercises which will promote this include the usual fair; rigorous walking, running, cycling (stationary or hard road time), stair stepping, elliptical trainers, etc.
In simplistic terms, cardio for the purpose of fat loss can be described as follows: Exercising, breathing hard, sweating — and maintaining that level of intensity for 30-45 minutes. That is more likely to be cardio than the 10 items listed above.
That’s not to say that the activities listed aren’t good. There is value in all exercise; all movement is good. Decreased blood pressure, burning blood-sugar before it turns to fat, stress relief, mental clarity, improved balance, increased flexibility can all developed by embracing the ten listed activities. But as a means of cardio for the sake of fat loss, stick to the standard fair, and stick to ’em like glue.