I see it all the time. I’m at the Hollywood YMCA and inevitably someone across from me is acting like a total lunatic on the treadmill or eliptical. Hair flapping around, teeth grinding, eyes squinting, grunting – huffing and puffing! This lasts at warp speed for about 45-60 minutes. Most people believe longer harder steady state cardio is the best way to get a rockin’ hot body and lose weight. While cardio has it’s purpose getting all cracked out on it is counter productive and you’ll end up gaining weight and suffering in the long run. (no pun intended.)
Here are 4 reasons why you should try something else for a change.
1. It really doesn’t take much mental effort to do cardio. You set the machine up and just go on autopilot. It’s thoughtless, virtually meaningless movement. It takes no real mental focus or muscular awareness to move back and forth on the eliptical. There’s no real motor planning taking place. This is not the way to achieve optimal health, physical strength and reduce weight.
2. Cardio is boring. It’s so boring that unless you have an ipod you’ll never get through it. How many people do you know who are so excited to get on the elliptical or treadmill they are beaming from ear to ear and bouncing with joy? Not too many. There are the exceptions and for those few I’d say, go for it. But, you should still keep it to a maximum of 30 minutes. If you are dragging your feet and dreading going to the gym because you “have” to get your cardio in then, to you I’d say…. STOP! Life is to short to spend any amount of time doing something you don’t enjoy. There are plenty of more effective ways to get your exercise in. Plus, your motivation to exercise at all is compromised because your experience of exercise is of something that you dread. Not good for longevity.
3. Running 5 miles a day 1 – 2 x a day, 5 x a week or long burts of high intensity steady state cardio, can cause overuse & repetitive stress injuries and can cause your muscles to fall into a pattern of use. This type of regimen is very common in people who are trying to lose weight and/ or maintain weight loss. You will feel great doing this for a while, which is why so many people find it hard to believe that this can cause damage, injury, strain or weight gain, but eventually your body will start to wear down. Just ask all the long distance runners about their knee injuries and I’m sure they’d be happy to share their experience with you.
4. Long hours of cardio can cause your adrenal glands to blow up. Okay, maybe not blow up, but your adrenals will definitely take a beating and stop working properly causing all sorts of problems. Your adrenals are two little glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Their job is to produce all the steroidal hormones: Cortisol, DHEA, Progesterone, Testosterone, Estrogens etc. These hormones all have different jobs but must work together. They must also produce a certain ratio of hormones to maintain homeostasis and do their jobs properly. Here’s what happens when you over do the cardio: Cardio triggers a stress or “fight or flight” response in the body. This tells the adrenals to pump out cortisol. Cortisol levels rise at the expense of the other steroidal hormones. When this process is repeated too often or too long adrenal fatigue sets in and many physiological processes are compromised. Metabolism of fat and protein, weight and fat distribution, glucose homeostasis, muscle integrity, detox ability etc. are all processes of the adrenal glands. Think about that the next time you decide to go for your second 5 mile run of the day.
My advice is to cool it with the long steady state cardio. I recommend doing a 20-30 minutes of cardio 4-5 days a week max. Do pilates, do yoga, add resistance training, interval training, play basketball, go hiking, climb stairs, go swimming and add restorative movement like thi chi once a week. You’ll be amazing at the results you get with less effort.