Lately, there’s been a lot of hating on cardio among fitness pros. Let’s get this straight–the idea that cardio makes people fat is absurd. Is it the best way to lose fat?. Can it be detrimental if overdone? Of course. But to say that any kind of exercise is “bad” for you, especially if you love it, is a little short-sighted. Though I don’t believe cardio is the best and only way to lose weight, there are plenty of reasons to keep some form of cardio exercise in your weekly exercise routine. But like with anything else, just don’t go overboard.
Is there a “right kind” of cardio?
If your goal is fat loss and/or muscle maintenance, then I think there is. Shorter, more intense interval or sprint training (30 mins or less) optimizes our hormonal profile of catecholamines, cortisol, HGH and testosterone to maintain muscle and preferentially burn more calories after the workout is over. The higher the intensity of the workout, the more we use sugar to fuel the workout, and in turn we use fat stores to replete post-workout. Longer bouts of cardio (40 mins or longer) can change the hormonal situation to a more cortisol-dominant state. Mostly, this occurs as a direct result of the duration. In other words, longer workouts automatically cause us to pace ourselves more, therefore intensity suffers and we end up with more of a moderate-intensity workout. Once again, not “bad,” just simply yields a different effect over time.
When it comes to cardio, you can reach a point of diminishing returns. More cardio does not equal more results and infinitum.
One key to remember is that more is not better, better quality is better. Duration is not directly related to results.
If people simply love cardio then for us to tell them not to do it when it adds to their quality of life is crazy.
Here are a few reasons I believe you SHOULD do cardio: 1) Shorter, high-intensity workouts are superior at burning fat when compared to long-duration, moderate intensity ones. You also hold onto muscle more effectively. 2) It’s a a natural mood enhancer – to boost mood and overall wellbeing when done for pleasure, and is a solid part of a natural health protocol to treat depression. 3) Cardio done outside offers a natural high and can feel exhilarating. Try a jog through the woods or off track as well as the road. Vitamin D production is a bonus. 4) Leisure walking, especially in nature, is an effective way to lower stress. This is not power-walking mind you. It should feel relaxing and you shouldn’t be out of breath or sweating. Take the dog for a walk or take the kids out on their bikes, or simply take yourself off for a walk. 5) Cardio exercise increase your fitness. Lately, there’s been some talk about marathon training being detrimental. I think this is sensationalized because honestly, when it comes to the general population, people need to be exercising MORE, not less.
In light of the fact that most people are sedentary, 99% of people will benefit from any/all kinds of cardio. The key is not to use it just as a weight loss tool, you need to fit it into lifestyle and eating a healthy well – balanced diet too.
6) Sometimes it just feels good to sweat. Sometimes it is just good to sweat out the wine and sodium and toxins in the body that build up. I love a good sweat, whether it be in the gym of hot yoga, it is great for the body as long as your keep hydrated with water. 7) Cardio boosts immunity–partly due to the cortisol/stress effects of it. If you go on holiday and get sick its because Cortisol (a stress hormone) decreases on holiday as you relax, and as a result, our immune defenses are less (along the same lines as why you would get a cortisone shot–it decreases inflammation). A little physical stress can be a good thing. 8) Sometimes I do moderate-intensity exercise when I just don’t feel like killing myself. When I feel good, I go for it with sprint trainging or something similarly intense, but mentally, I need to be in the right mood and energised for that kind of intensity. Sometimes, taking it easy can feel good too. You have listen to your body. 9) Sprinting is the most underrated exercise to develop the abs. 10) Sprinting can boost functionality. It boosts power, speed, flexibility and even can build muscle. Opt for shorter sprints, or 20s sprints up hill for best results. Rest as long as you need to in between. 11) It can be fun! I fell in love with exercise in my early teens not because I was killing it in the weight room, but because I loved Jane Fonda. I liked dance routines, choreography, step aerobics, moving to the beat of the music. And based on the pace at which the popularity of Zumba and other dance-based group classes are growing, I am not alone. If Zumba is the only thing that will get someone into a gym, who am I to tell them not to do it? Maybe someone who dances will eventually step onto the gym floor and push some weights. I hope so anyway!