I used to be a cardio junkie. I would head straight to the gym after work, hop on the treadmill to run 4-6 miles, then go into a Group X class where I would jump around trying to work up even more of a sweat. I was under the impression that I needed to sweat more to burn more and in order to sweat I had to do cardio.
Luckily for me I’ve since learned that cardio isn’t actually as crucial in health and fitness as we once thought it was. Most of you know I experienced some women related issues recently that forced me to cut back on my exercise. In the process of doing so, I began paying more attention to what many people are saying about the long term effects of excess cardio on the body.
1. Aerobic exercise increases Cortisol levels – High cortisol levels lead to belly fat and make you age faster by increasing inflammation.
2. Leads to chronic inflammation – Chronic inflammation ages tissues and is connected to fat gain, heart disease, insulin resistance and diabetes, asthma, arthritis, cancer, poor reproductive health, and stomach problems.
3. Compromises your immune system – Too much aerobic exercise can put athletes at a greater risk for infection, illness, or sickness.
4. An increased risk of injury – When small muscle tears have no time to repair this can lead to more severe injuries.
5. Requires much more carbohydrates (Sugar) – People who do more cardio are more likely to binge on carbohydrates because their body needs the sugar to continue working aerobically. (Source)
Now, do I think all cardio is bad? No, personally I still enjoy a good spin class, boot camp, or possibly even some running. However, I’ve learned my body reacts much better to less cardio and more HIIT training, heavy lifting, or shorter workouts.
Here’s a few other things I’ve discovered since cutting back on my cardio,
- You don’t have to be drenched in sweat at the end of a workout in order for it to be a good one. I used to think if I didn’t sweat, I wasted my time. Boy was I wrong! I’ve spent an hour in yoga doing extraneous movements without sweating and was much more sore the following day than I would have been running 10 miles!
- You can burn just as many calories with a 20 minute HIIT workout than with an hour of a cardio class. Have you tried HIIT workouts before? In case you aren’t sure what HIIT is, it stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Alternating between short spurts of intense anaerobic exercise with spurts of less intense recovery periods. You can read more about it here but it’s great to add into your fitness plan and there are a ton of different ways to do so! Here’s just a few of mine,
- I like muscles – When I was spending most my time focusing on cardio, I didn’t notice as much muscle and strength as I see now. Not only am I seeing more of my muscles, I’m feeling much stronger as well and loving it!
- I enjoy spending more time with my son and less time at the gym – Don’t get me wrong, I love my gym time. However, I also love being with my family and with how busy we are lately the less time I spend at the gym, the more quality time I get with them. Now that my workouts have gone from sometimes close to 2 hours down to 30 min to an hour, I have more time to do so. Here’s one of my most recent quick workouts that I created to save me some time,
- My body likes me better when I’m doing less cardio – Meaning, I’m not sick as often, I have a normal menstrual cycle, and I feel better overall.
I’m not saying that everyone should quit doing cardio after reading this. I am a firm believer in do what works best for you and there was a time in my life when my body handled excess cardio much better than it does now. However, there is a lot of research lately showing that too much cardio can be harder on our bodies than we once thought. I do recommend taking a look at just how much aerobic exercise you do in one week and asking yourself if it’s too much?
You might surprise yourself with how much better I feel cutting back. I know I did!
P.S. – The WholeMe giveaway ends on Sunday so make sure to enter before then!
- Are you or have you been in the past a cardio junkie?
- How many days of cardio do you do in one week?