Debunking New-age Cardio Myths.


“Debunking New-age Cardio Myths.”
by Corey “Narkissos” Springer
Owner of: “The NarkSide” Fitness Forums,Apollo Fitness Barbados, & NarkSide Apparel.

October 12th 2009

Hi all… Narkissos here.

Recently one of my readers sent me an article and asked for my input on it.

I thought I’d share my responses, as well as some related thoughts in article format.

Basically the article stated:

  1. No one needs to do more than 30 minutes per day.
  2. If you aren’t seeing results, then (automatically) you’re doing too much cardio.
  3. Doing a lot of cardio will cause injury. Weight-training will prevent injury.
  4. If you find cardio boring, then you’re doing too much cardio.

As you guys know, I have a huge problem with absolutes and blanket statements… so the precepts of this article irritated me to no end.

So…Here are my thoughts:

_________________________________________________
Myth 1. “No one needs to do more than 30 minutes per day.”

Let me say firstly that this is an overstatement.

Secondly, it’s plain wrong.

Duration is a facet which the successful dieter needs to manipulate in order to remain successful. Much like any stimuli applied to the body, we adapt. Even 30 minutes of hard-hitting cardio (though I doubt most people are doing intense cardio) daily is going to result in a plateau at some point. A successful dieter will add incremental increases each week, or every 2-4 weeks… so as to prevent plateaus, thus keeping fat-loss going.

Similar precepts apply even if the primary goal for cardio was heart-health.

The InterAmerican Heart Foundation suggests 30-50 minutes (warm-up and warm-up inclusive) 3-4 days per week. The Irish Heart Foundation suggested 30 minutes per day at 50-75% of maximum heart rate… however it’s website also notes that “Adults who maintain a regular routine of physical activity of longer duration or greater intensity are likely to have greater benefits.”

As per these recommendations, 30 minutes would be acceptable but not optimal.

My suggestions: Adjust your cardio duration to your level of experience/fitness firstly. i.e. If you’re a beginner, stick to 15-20 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio daily… increasing as your fitness level increases. Secondly, tweak the duration of your sessions to fit your goals.
_________________________________________________

Myth 2. Not seeing results? Then you’re definitely doing too much cardio.

If you aren’t seeing results, and by ‘results’ I mean fatloss, the first place an exercising individual should look is at one’s diet… not the duration/frequency/volume of workouts. As many trainees hate cardio with a passion, over-doing it is simply seldom a concern. True, some trainess are cardio-holics… but these do NOT represent the average trainee.

Obesity figures support the position that the average person does NOT like to exercise. Logic would dictate that one would suggest that individuals exercise more, not less.

Anyway, I’ve digressed.

I find myself needing to refer to the most basic of fitness equations: “[calories expended] > [calories ingested] = fat-loss”.

In 2004, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization stated that the average American consumes 3,790 calories per day… over 1350 of which came from fat. That’s a LOT of fat and calories, given that the RDA has been suggested to be 2000 calories… A near-2000 calorie surplus on average.

While a lot of individuals are aware of the the RDA… the numbers referenced really don’t make an impact, as a number of people don’t understand them.

Let’s put these figures into perspective, starting with the above-mentioned 2000 calorie surplus.

Measuring the surplus in exercise units, it would take approximately 6 hours for the average person to burn 2000 calories on the treadmill.

That’s right… 6 hours.

I sincerely doubt that many of my readers are doing more than an hour of cardio per day.

6 hours is simply unimaginable!

Referring again to the “[calories expended] > [calories ingested] = fat-loss” equation: Clearly logic would dictate that the facet which one would attempt to revise first is “calories ingested”.

My suggestion: Not seeing any results? Fix your diet. Exercise more (within reason). Eat less.

_________________________________________________
Need help?

Then check out my diet quick-fix threads:

_________________________________________________

Myth 3. Doing a lot of cardio will cause injury. Weight-training will prevent injury.

Firstly ‘a lot’ is relative.

Secondly: Yes, doing *too much* cardio can cause injuries… but so can too much weight-training. Heck, so can under-eating (re: poor nutrition). Injury prevention is about finding a balance between resistance training, nutrition, aerobic training, flexibility/pliability, and the application of common sense… not depending on any individual variable.

Over-emphasizing any individual facet won’t ‘prevent injury’.

Injuries result from over-use, over-exertion, as well as over-reaching. With regard to over-use, the number of consecutive days a muscle is heavily utilized tends to be correlated to risk of injury. i.e. If you are consistently placing a high demand on musculature daily, the risk of injury will be high.

This risk can be reduced by cutting down on the number of consecutive days of training, thus increasing time allotted to recovery. With regard to aerobic training in particular, risk can be reduced by alternating upper-body-dominant cardio days with lower- body-dominant cardio days. e.g. On one day you can row, and on another day you can stair-climb.

Some psychological factors also influence the risk of injury. Some studies have shown that athletes who overly aggressive, stressed, or otherwise tense are at greater risk for injury than their relaxed peers. Personally I’ve seen an athlete tear a muscle clean off the bone simply because he showed up at the gym pissed. He followed his standard warm-up. The only factor dissimilar to his usual work-out was his agitation. Stress is real!

Other factors which may increase the risk of injury are muscular imbalances, muscle tightness, and “trigger points”. “Muscular imbalances” refer to abnormalities in muscle strength, size, and length. An imbalance may affect load distribution, which may, in turn, increase the risk of joint trauma. In my experience, particularly where antagonists are concerned, muscle tightness/stiffness directly relates to increased injury risk. Stiffness tends to result in a shorter antagonist… which, as a result, ‘pulls’ on the areas it opposes. This tension affects changes the range of motion of limbs and joints, thus increasing localized stress and the risk of injury.

Trigger points are thick knots located in fascia tissue “sheath” surrounding a muscle. These knots can be caused by poor shoes and equipment, poor exercise biomechanics, localized trauma, poor flexibility, the repeated use of range-of-motion shortening actions (e.g. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time) and related exercises etc. These painful knots can shorten the usable range-of-motion of a muscle/joint… thus increasing the risk of injury.

One would realize that not one of these risk factors is directly related to aerobic exercise specifically. One would also realize that not one of these risk factors pegs weight-training as a solution. Utilize common sense…and find a balance. Resistance exercise, aerobic exercise, and flexibility training are essential to remaining injury-free. ‘Balance’ refers to putting equal effort into each of these.

Some common sense suggestions:

  • Monitor daily for signs of fatigue.. and avoid training when you are tired.
  • Choose appropriate footwear.
  • Use appropriate training surfaces.
  • Pay attention to exercise biomechanics.
  • Utilize stretching and trigger-point therapy (aka self-myofascial release) to prevent injury.
  • Find a balance between weight-training and cardio.
  • Consume enough calories and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to support your activity.

_________________________________________________

Myth. 4 If you’re getting bored, you’re doing too much cardio.

Rubbish. 🙂

What, you were expecting a long and detailed rebuttal?

Well I’m sorry to disappoint you there. That last myth was just too asinine to validate wasting words.

I will say this however: Humans are easily bored.

We find a number of activities ‘boring’… however, we continue to enroll in these activities (e.g. jobs; school) because the benefits of these activities are seen as desirable.

My suggestion: Primarily, condition yourself to view cardio in the same light as other essential activities. Secondarily, find ways to make cardio enjoyable. Take it outdoors if need be. Make it a family activity… or one which you share with your significant other. Just get it done!

I realize that I’ve run out of ‘rant’ for that article, but before I run out of space let me address a couple more myths:
_________________________________________________
Myth 5: “If you aren’t sweating during cardio exercise, then you aren’t getting its full benefits.”

Now this myth is one that I hear WHEREVER I go. Heck, if you ask the average gym rat why he’s at the gym, you’re sure to hear at least 1 out of each 5 respond with “to work up a sweat”. Where the correlation between sweat and fat-loss/results came about, we may never know however.

What trainees don’t seem to get is that the process of sweating itself is nothing more than the mechanism by the body cools itself. This process is NOT indicative of how effective a workout is… as exercises which result in even mild sweating may result in the burning of a substantial amount of calories.
_________________________________________________
Myth 6. If you don’t have 30 minutes for cardio, then you might as well skip it.

I know, I know… The first myth mentioned 30+ minutes of cardio. Truth-be-told however, every single minute of activity you can dedicate to exercise each day counts! Even if you don’t have 30 minutes for cardio, skipping your session would be a personal disservice!

My suggestions: Plan ahead so as to make the best use of the time you CAN dedicate to cardio. 10-20 minutes of all-out hill sprints, burpees, HIIT treadmill or elliptical work, or skipping can go a long way!

That’s it for today guys!

Narkissos out!

Corey “Narkissos” Springer
Owner of:
“The
NarkSide” Fitness Forums
Apollo Fitness Barbados
NarkSide Apparel

References:

“FAO Statistical Yearbook, 2004 Vol. 1” http://www.fao.org/docrep/009/a0205m/a0205m00.htm
Retrieved: 12th October.

“FAO Country Profiles: United States of America”. ftp://ftp.fao.org/docrep/fao/008/a02…of-America.pdf
Retrieved: 12th October.

“Physical Activity”. The Irish Heart Foundation. http://www.irishheart.ie/iopen24/phy…vity-t-73.html
Retrieved: 12th October.

“Search for calories burned by various activities.” http://calorielab.com/burned/
Retrieved: 12th October.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s