“Cardio Free Diet.” “Just Say No to Cardio.” “Cardio Sucks.” I recently came upon these books on Amazon. Now, I know attention-grabbing headlines can help with marketing efforts and increase readership, but the concept that “cardio is bad for you” is truly misleading. The truth is heart disease is the number one cause of death for women, so it’s just downright irresponsible to go around saying that something which actually HELPS our hearts can be harmful.
I’m a superfan of strength training, to be sure, but, here’s the bottom line: you need both cardio workouts and strength training workouts to be healthy and live a fit life.
Now that’s not to say you can’t combine your cardio and your strength training into one workout. I’m all for it. In fact, that’s what my HIIT workouts are all about. My HIIT workouts (High Intensity Interval Training) combine intense cardio drills with full body strength training moves that work your muscles. These combo workouts where you are building muscle at the same time you are getting an awesome cardio burn (torching those calories) are my favorite workouts because they save time.
These authors/books that throw cardio under the bus claim that cardio can hurt your immunity, cause injury or lead you to inhale polluted air if you happen to be working out in a toxic urban area. Those reasons don’t have merit to throw out your cardio workouts. Let’s face it, it can be dangerous to cross the road if you aren’t careful, but that doesn’t mean you should never cross a road again. The logic is silly. Yes, working on building and retaining the muscle in your body can prevent injury, but your cardio workouts are necessary. Here’s why:
1. Cardio keeps your heart healthy
To improve overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Your cardio workouts of running, jogging, swimming, biking, or even walking briskly can count towards meeting these recommended guidelines.
2. Cardio boosts your mood
Cardiovascular exercise causes your brain to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals responsible for balancing your mood and keeping depressive thoughts at bay. Many people cite beginning an exercise regimen as one step they’ve taken to help their overall mental health. Even a brisk walk can noticeably alter your attitude.
3. Cardio improves your immunity
Unless you are jogging through smog, the notion that you’r charming your immune system by getting in cardiovascular exercise outdoors is nonsense. On the contrary, cardio exercise makes your immune system stronger, helping you to reduce your body’s risk of bacterial infection and prevent disease.
4. Cardio helps your circulation
Cardiovascular exercise improves your blood circulation, which helps your body rid itself of toxins better and keeps you healthy. Poor circulation long-term can lead to problems such as heart attack or stroke, but keeping your circulation functioning properly can help keep these problems from occurring, all while keeping your immune system functioning as it should.
5. Cardio improves sleep quality
If you’re too tired to exercise, you may be looking at the problem from the wrong end. Getting in adequate cardiovascular exercise can actually help you have more energy during the day and sleep better at night. Be sure to exercise early in the morning if you find that you lack energy during the day but can’t sleep at night.
6. Cardio burns calories
If you start a new cardio regimen, you can see results quickly. Yes, you need strength training to maintain a healthy metabolism, but if you’re pushing yourself to a moderate to high intensity, you’ll burn calories and fat effectively during each cardio workout.
7. Cardio helps keep your bones healthy
Cardiovascular exercise builds bone mass, which can help prevent osteoporosis and other bone-related ailments. Walking and swimming are two low-impact forms of cardio, but jogging and running are more intense, high-impact ways to build bone mass.
Please don’t listen to the hype or buy into quick-fix gimmicks. I believe in being real—and that’s the real way to weight loss. Don’t diet. Edit what you eat. Don’t give up your favorite foods, just use them as a treat now and then. And don’t start skipping your cardio workouts—just add strength training if you aren’t doing anything to keep and build up your muscles. Gimmicks and provocative book titles are designed to make someone money—they aren’t designed to help you. And helping you is what I am all about. Off. Soapbox. Now.