“You must be a runner”, people always say to me. The response that I actually am unable to run for long distances anymore usually shocks them.
Too many people have the idea in their head that in order to be lean you have to spend hours on cardio, and it’s simply not true. In fact, long-term cardiovascular exercise, specified as body being under stress calculated at 65% or above your max heart rate for a 30 minutes or more can actually be quite detrimental to the body for a variety of reasons ranging from mechanical to internal functions.
We’ll start with the mechanical effects. The majority of people, even those who exercise on a regular basis, very often have muscular imbalances that require the body to compensate for while performing every day movements. These imbalances can be caused by weak, underactive and/or tight, overactive muscles due to daily habits like slouching over the computer desk or simply sitting all day at work causing a weak back and tight hip flexors. Unfortunately, most people aren’t aware of the detriment of these habits, much less the compensations their bodies are making to try and realign itself after years of bad posture. Put that together with the mass assumption that hours of cardio is the only way to lose fat and not start looking like Arnold by lifting weights, people turn to the treadmill.
Lets take running for example. Long distances can cause not only joint issues, but unbalanced muscle stress as well. The impact on your body while running is 2-3 times your body weight, so multiply that by the thousands of steps taken on an average hour long cardio sesh and you’re looking at hundreds of thousands of pounds of impact. Pair that with muscular imbalances and movement compensations and you’re looking at a hip or knee replacement in your old age.
Another popular cardio is bike riding. Going back to the aforementioned muscular imbalances of tight hips and slouching shoulders due to sitting…you see where I’m going with this. Getting off work from your desk job and going right back to that position with often times an even worse forward lean with a hunched back is probably not the ideal form of exercise. Not to mention, often times bike settings are improper, leading to excessive stress on the knee joints for an extended period of time.
That all being said, if you can manage to run and ride a bike with proper form, I applaud you and do not by any means wish to belittle something if you truly enjoy it. However, I still urge you to check back tomorrow for Part 2 covering steady state cardio effects on the heart and hormones.