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  • Writer's pictureBen Lawson

Stop All the Cardio

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

By Ben Lawson, ISSA Certified PT

It’s 1969. The US beat the soviets to be the first country to land on the moon. The Beatles hold their last public performance. Pontiac, Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet, Plymouth and Oldsmobile all compete in putting out beautiful muscle cars. A new company named Nike starts popularizing a new concept, called jogging, as a health measure in order to sell more shoes. The breakout science behind this jogging was revolutionary in the late 1960s. As the decades past, jogging only increased in popularity, largely due to the declining cardiovascular health of the world. As wealth and poverty decreased, convenience food was now cheaper and more readily available to the masses. This only played into the growing obesity population that was and is especially predominate in the US.

With many making commitments to lose weight, turning to cardio still seems to be the first instinct. Many “newbies” or avid gym go-ers like to do long intense or high intensity cardio bouts. But why is the revolutionary science from the late 1960s still the go to method for the average person? Is it-outdated advice from the medical community? Is the average person ignorant of the best way to lose weight? Does the fitness industry need to do a better job at educating? Possibly the later, because I know many experienced trainers or bodybuilding competitors over using cardio and have no idea the effects it’s having on their bodies.

Clients I’ve worked with that fall off the Team Lawless wagon and start doing their own thing seems to fall into cardio. Is it because they're lazy or just too ingrained to do cardio for weight loss? When I talk to many folks who are just starting and completely de-conditioned, it’s normal for them to say, I’ll start adjusting my diet and just do cardio to lose some weight then try to build back up eventually with weight training. Here’s why this is wrong:

· Motivated beginners tend to overdo the intensity. Usually when too many variables are extenuated at once regardless how much change occurs, they usually gain body fat back and aren’t able to stick with it because they think the over the top intensity is the only way to continue results. The truth is, in my experience, those who made small changes at a time had the best long-term changes. That means starting with small diet and movement changes. Doing a bunch of cardio, severe calorie restriction and intense weight training is the wrong answer.

· Cardio is a stress on the body. Most of us live stressful lives. Life in general coupled with too much exercise is a recipe for disaster. Stress causes our bodies to release a hormone called Cortisol, among others. This hormone aids in the “flight or flight” instinct. Releasing some Cortisol is not bad, in fact it can help us overcome and adapt to situations, but too much can be bad and cause a host of problems including insomnia, fat gain, decrease in muscle, etc. Without getting too complicated, adding cardio or doing too much cardio can cause organs that release cortisol to become fatigued. Therefore it’s always better to fare on the side of caution with a less-is-more approach.

· If exercise is a priority instead of doing cardio, do resistance training or mobility based movements. Get comfortable with learning how to lift weights (or body weight) and move correctly in general. Gaining muscle will allow your body to burn even more calories even when at rest, only aiding in your weight loss goals. (Yes, males and females alike. Adding 10lbs to a female will not cause you to look like a bodybuilder).

· Fitness competitors or trainers tend to overdo it with the hopes to stay lean year round. Weight loss always is and will be a matter of calories in vs. calories out (law of thermodynamics). Therefore, if you’re required to do cardio to “stay lean”, you’re eating too much. Eating just 100-200 calories less will make doing 20-30 minutes of cardio equal, while imposing less stress on the body. If you want more gains, don’t you want the body performing at it’s peak?

Does that mean cardio is all bad? Of course not, it has a time and place. There are cardiovascular health benefits. Many of those benefits can be reached through less intense means like walking throughout the week. If endurance is your goal, cardio is a must. Or if you are in the “prepping” stage for a competition, wedding or beach season cardio can be added to aid in the weight loss cycle with the goal of it being a short-term fix. The bulk of your results should still come from proper nutrition and weight training. In a list of the basic fitness priorities one should consider the following hierarchy: 1. And 2. Nutrition and Sleep (in no particular order) 3.Resistance Training 4. Cardio. If you’re only doing cardio because you don’t know how to structure a proper nutrition plan, contact a personal trainer for assistance. If you have questions, feel free to reach out anytime

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