It’s no secret that losing weight can be quite challenging.
And my guess is that since you are reading this post, even if you have not started yet, you are probably having the same dilemma most people have – losing weight – whether brought about by genes, age or simply the love for eating more than others.
There are people who try crazy and not-so-crazy ways to shed off unwanted fats and calories like purging, buying slimming pills online, low-caloric diets, bariatric surgery and eating nothing but air. Some turn to getting into sports like cycling and triathlon for endurance, weight loss and stamina. Among the myriad of ways to achieve the ideal weight, one of the slimming exercises weight-enthusiasts and fitness beginners find popular and effective are cardio exercises.
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There is no doubt cardiovascular exercises, also referred to as aerobic exercises bring results when it comes to fitness and weight loss. Why wouldn’t it? These are workout activities that put your large groups of muscles to work simultaneously.
Just imagine three hamsters in cages on tread wheels exercising all at the same time and these cute pets are your large muscles. It is but fair to say that they burn calories more collectively than a mere hamster on a spinning wheel.
But, is Cardio Enough to Lose A Lot of Weight?
I’m afraid not. Sure, the internet has presented many benefits of cardio exercises in physical and mental health, weight loss, fat-burning, endorphin-release and even improving your socializing skills.
However, it is not the end-all and be-all of achieving that killer body. It might even be risky if you over-exert yourself. In case you haven’t read, The Huffington Post reported that a woman passed out inside her car and almost died while crossing an intersection. She was following a strict 1000-calorie-per-day diet and over exerting herself.
Not to burst your bubble here, but yes, focusing on cardio can prove your weight loss efforts futile. But this does not mean you have to sell your mountain bike or end your aerobics class and pull out your membership. I am just saying that if you want to lose weight and shed some weight, then it is good to focus on more than JUST cardio.
Here are Some Benefits of Cardio Workouts
You might find it ludicrous to list what cardio can do for you when this article seems to keep you from doing cardio (however, that is not the case, cardio is def important).
This is more of a nudge and reminder of sort if you are one of those people who believe hours of dancing and then pigging out after will do the trick. And before cardio lovers throw tomatoes at me when and if they see me walking on the street, here are the benefits cardio exercises have.
1. They reduce the risks of stroke and cardiovascular diseases.
For an overweight person and someone who has a sedentary lifestyle, walking for at least 40 minutes every other day is important because it exercises your hearts muscles. Of course, this is after a doctor has examined the person and has given a go-signal that this is safe.
Cardiovascular tests are important like ECG and stress test so the cardiologist or medical practitioner can create an exercise routine.
2. Cardio is useful in boosting stamina.
Have you noticed that after you do your favorite aerobics video or get done with a long job, you feel more energized and your energy levels are high?
This is because cardio exercises improve your blood circulation and pumps up blood to your body, including your brain.
Doing cardio keeps you more alert and active. This is why exercising is not advisable before you go to bed since you will find it difficult to sleep.
3. Doing Cardio reduces stress.
Cardio exercises are a great way to manage your stress. Not only do they divert your attention on exercising but they also are responsible for the release of endorphins or what is known as happy hormones. These hormones are responsible for alleviating pain and giving a person a happy disposition.
4. They improve heart and lung performance efficiency.
Aerobic exercises like using the treadmill or running a marathon makes your body need more oxygen, so they make the heart work harder and in return, your heart gets stronger by working harder to get that needed oxygen and blood supply to your muscles.
As this happens, your lungs become more efficient in delivering oxygen to the blood and at the same time removing carbon dioxide waste.
Consequently, your heart, lungs and diaphragm become stronger.
During aerobic exercise, your working muscles demand more oxygen, and this prompts the heart to work harder, get stronger and increase the volume of blood it can deliver to muscles.
Your lungs, meanwhile, become more efficient in delivering oxygen to the blood and removing the carbon dioxide waste. The muscle that supports your lungs, the diaphragm, gets stronger.
Now, back to the main issue!
Cardiovascular exercise can help in weight loss. In fact, it can even lead to fast burning of calories. However, it is important to correct the myth which is – all you need to reduce your weight is cardio.
Some people spend hours on the treadmill, sweating it out and tire their bodies because they feel lighter after-wards. But again, this does not mean it is the only cure for obesity.
Too much of everything is bad, in case you have forgotten. Everything, exercising included, needs to be in moderation and be varied.
It is important to exercise right, that is, doing so correctly for at least 20 to 45 minutes. This can burn between 300 to 500 calories.
It is also important to include other weight loss regimens like lifestyle changes and eating the right portions of food. More than anything, your brain is what needs to be focused on so you can condition your mind and body on the right nutrition you need.
Bad Practices you Should Avoid Doing When it Comes to your Cardio Routine
Running at a Steady Pace
There is no doubt running at a pace that is comfortable to the runner especially with the goal of finishing a race can be good for endurance. However this might not be as effective if you are trying to burn as many calories as possible.
According to experts, intensity is important, since running a longer distance but at a steady pace can help in maintaining weight but not losing weight.
A short yet more intensified aerobic workout or cardio such as sprinting is more effective in burning fat. This is because the body needs to get back its energy and restore hormonal levels of the blood after working out intensively.
A cardio activity at a steady pace will not be able to make this happen.
Focusing on the Same Routine
Cardio activities burn calories but focusing on and doing the same exact routine daily is not as effective as switching it up daily. Although running can and will burn calories, sprinting and weight training are more effective in building muscles, which make it possible to burn calories even with just doing their daily routines like waking and short-distance yet fast running.
Incorporating weight training into your workout routine will provide extreme benefits, as you will be involving more muscles and more body parts.
Running Way Too Much
Excessive running can release the hormone cortisol but the bad thing about this is that the stress in running and the cortisol itself can result to resistance to insulin which can result to fat storage in the belly.
Stress, which can result from running too much, can lower metabolism and affect weight loss. Moreover, too much cortisol in the body can break down the muscle tissue and as an effect, fat buildup. It can also lead to inflammation that can trigger cardiac events and can be detrimental to the immune system.
Here is What Experts Have to Say About why Focusing Just on Cardio Can be Bad
Extreme Cardio Training and Heart Muscle Scarring
A study was made on rats to mimic the stress serious marathoners undergo for a 10-year period. It was seen that at the start of the study, the hearts of the rats tested were normal and healthy but during the course of the study, there had been developments of diffuse scarring and changes that are also seen in athletes who are in endurance training.
There was also a study conducted on fit older men and non athletes between the ages of 26 to 67 years old. The participants have been training for a long time and have ran at least a hundred marathons.
They underwent a MRI to determine if there is fibrosis in the hearts of the participants. The result was astonishing, there was no scarring found in the hearts of younger marathoners and older men who are not runners, but half of the long-time marathoners who were older had fibrosis in their hearts. Too much endurance training can be bad for your heart.
Increased Cortisol and Decreased Testosterone and HGH Levels
As I have mentioned earlier, chronic cardio activities like running can lead to elevated production of cortisol, which can result in fat storage in you body.
Activities like aerobics can be a relief from stress mentally but can also be stressful to the body. As for men, it can lower testosterone levels which can also decrease libido and muscle tissue as well as lead to anxiety and worse, depression.
We all know that these can lead to over-eating and craving for comfort foods that can increase body fats. Decreased muscle tissue, on the other hand can lower the metabolic rate, thus, making weight loss more difficult.
And I haven’t even mentioned adrenal burnout which I think I should!
Adrenaline hormones are responsible for making us feel good inside and being happy. However, if you exercise for hours every day even to the point of being upset and being depressed if you miss an aerobics class, not only are you creating excessive adrenaline which can lead to adrenal burnout and chronic fatigue.
You might even become an exercise addict which is one of the four symptoms needed to be diagnosed with having a maladaptive behavior disorder. But that will be for another topic.
Cardio exercises are important and effective for a healthier you and in some extent, a slimmer and fitter you. But these activities should be done correctly and in short durations. They should also be applied with other weight-loss practices. Too much cardio can negatively affect your body.
So What Type of Cardio is Effective and Safe for Weight Loss?
To get the most of your cardio workout, stick with high-intensity aerobics or cardio activities for a short duration of time and following it with rest periods. Also, try to add weight training to your workout program.
Even the father of aerobics exercise, Dr. Kenneth Cooper advocates for scientific training. This was after he observed that a number of his friends who were so into aerobics exercise either suffered from cancer and heart disease. From then on, he said that excessive aerobic exercise and doing anything that goes beyond 20 minutes can have diminishing effects.
With an expert such as the “Father of Aerobics Exercise” talking about excessive cardio and the facts you have just read, perhaps, by now, you have been enlightened on why just focusing on cardio can harm more than help you in losing weight.
Still planning to stick to your hours of aerobics class every day? You might want to think again.
The bottom line here is if you are focusing just on cardio to bring down your weight and not incorporating it with other types of exercising as well as a healthy diet, then you are more likely wasting your efforts.
Mix up your routine, do cardio on day, lift weights the next day, do speed burst interval training one day … etc. The key is to work as much of your body as possible and keep your body guessing!