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You There! Step Away from the Treadmill and Nobody Gets Hurt!

19 treadmillWhy Chronic Cardio is Bad for You

This is a tough blog for me to write. Most of my life I have been addicted to running. I love to run. In fact, my favourite stress relief activity through the years has been to head out on a weekend morning and run for a few hours. Pounding the pavement for mile after mile.

So it is difficult for me to admit that most of that training was not good for me. And potentially even harmful. So, how does an ex-marathon runner and ex-triathlete become an anti-chronic cardio convert? Well, truthfully the evidence is becoming overwhelming. Chronic cardio is not good for humans.

Don’t get me wrong. Heading out for a weekend run through the forest with a buddy is great exercise. Even if done with relative frequency. Good for the heart, good for the soul.

When I say chronic cardio, I am referring to the day in day out routine of slogging away moderate intensity miles on the road, the treadmill or the elliptical machine. You know what I mean. You head to the gym 3X/week and do your 30-40 minutes of cardio and then tinker with a few light weights.

Or even worse, the training I used to do: 60-70 km or more of running per week with essentially no strength training at all.

Here are a few of the down sides to chronic cardio:

Chronic inflammation: chronic cardio causes oxidative stress. This is a training effect that causes an adaptation and makes you more fit – but only when you have adequate rest and recovery. Most endurance athletes never get this kind of rest so the oxidative stress adds up and creates a chronic, unrelenting state of inflammation throughout the body. Cortisol levels shoot up and the body will begin to break down. If you are tired and sore when you begin your workout, this is you.

Heart conditions: evidence suggests that excess chronic cardio training causes hypertrophy of the heart muscle and, in some cases, leads to atrial fibrillation and other heart issues.

Chronic cardio can make you fatter: I experienced this one first hand. I was logging so many hours running the roads that my appetite soared. I figured I would just burn it all off with all the running so I ate whatever I wanted. Imagine my surprise when my pre-marathon race weigh in showed the scales had not budged an ounce in my favour. In fact, I resorted to caloric restriction in much of my training to get the desired weight loss, which only proved to reduce my energy and make me irritable. Much to my family’s dismay!

Not only was dad gone for 3 hours on a weekend morning, but when he got home he was too exhausted to engage in the family and in a bad mood when he finally could get involved.

Chronic cardio shifts your metabolism to sugar burning. This leads to increased demand for a high carb diet and reduced fat burning in your metabolism.

What is the answer?

There is now overwhelming evidence that shorter duration, higher intensity exercise with some weight training is the best way to go. HIIT training, burst training, and CrossFit are all examples of movement and exercise that best fulfills our human requirements for movement:

Lift Heavy, Move Fast, Go Slow, Be Mobile!

PS. If you would like more help figuring this out you may want to register for our Move By Design workshop on Tuesday March 7 @ 6:30pm. Click here to register now!

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