For many years people have suggested that cardio is the way forward for weight loss. Some people still think it, even today! (there's no roll-eyes emoji in my email software, but if there was, I'd have used it). For many of my clients and followers who find it hard to get the heart rate up sufficiently high due to poor mobility, this can make them think there's no solution to control their weight, but FEAR NOT!! Cardio is not the only way, nor the best way, in my humble opinion.
Yes, cardio does burn calories and can help you lose weight, but it's not the solution.
Here's are a few of the issues I have with the concept that cardio is great for weight loss.
1) It takes a long time and a lot of effort. Someone came to me this morning saying "I want to lose 20kg so what exercise should I do?". I highlighted that to burn 20kg of fat, which is 180,000 calories, they'd need to run a 5k (3 miles for the yanks) three hundred and sixty times. That's basically one per day for a year, with a 5 days rest for Christmas, Easter and your Birthday. Sound like a good idea to you?
2) Most cardio workouts focus on the legs, which neglect the upper body and core. Apart from the fact that half of my clients can't use their legs, the result of this is a loss in muscle mass in the aforementioned areas because unused muscle atrophies (shrinks) when you're losing weight. The result is a weaker core and upper body. Some might use the term "skinny-fat" to describe this state. If you spent that time doing a full body strength programme and adjusted the calorie intake accordingly, you'd maintain or build muscle and become nice and toned instead of skinny fat.
3) Eating/drinking calories and then doing loads of cardio to burn them off is like pouring mud all over your garden path and washing it off on a daily basis. Yes, washing the mud away gets rid of it, but you could save yourself the time by not putting the mud there in the first place (consume fewer calories).
4) Cardio can be boring and uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes a nice bike ride and/or a pleasant run, walk is great. But I find that doing it regularly enough to lose weight becomes boring and tedious and takes the fun out of the exercise. And it's uncomfortable getting the heart rate up that high for long periods.
I sound like I'm just giving cardio a hard time right now, but I'm not. I make sure it makes up a part of my weekly training regime, (about 20%) but I don't use it for weight control, only to keep my heart and lungs functioning well, and to pump high pressure blood through my blood vessels. This ensures that they remain free from plaque build up in the hope that it'll prevent heart attacks and strokes further down the line.
So get your heart rate up at least once a week, ensure that you work as many of the muscles as you can to preserve or build strength and adjust your calorie intake accordingly, based on your goals. If you wanna gain weight, you gotta eat high calorie foods. If you wanna lose weight you gotta eat low calorie foods (not low fat foods btw - that's different). And if you're happy with your weight, just keep doing what you're doing and use your training to focus on your fitness.
Dom "cardio killer" Thorpe
p.s. in case you think that I might be "naturally thin" and not understand what it's like to gain/lose weight, check out this image. I gain weight pretty easily, I just don't allow myself to do it for very long before I switch to weight loss mode.