Sorting Out One of the Biggest Fitness Debates
There’s no doubt that cardio can be a little addictive. The best of runners know this well, but even cycling and using the elliptical come with their own habit forming effects.
A lot the addictive qualities of cardio are tied to the old adage “no pain, no gain.” We’ve all heard it, and cardio is where it often rears its ugly head. We approach cardio with the belief that you have to push yourself really hard to see the effects you want.
And when you’re finished a cardio workout, all the aches, pains, and exhaustion feel just right. They’re totally in line with a “no pain, no gain” approach to fitness. But aside from the endorphins, these outcomes aren’t always a good thing. Over time, you might be doing some damage to your body.
And that’s where today’s topic comes in. Can too much cardio be bad for you? Absolutely, and I’m about to explain why – while offering some effective and healthy solutions for what to do instead.
Why Cardio Can Be Bad in Excess – And What to Do About It
Chronic Cardio Can Put Stress on Your Heart
We often think of cardio exercise as being only beneficial for our heart and entire cardiovascular system. But this isn’t necessarily the case, especially when you’re doing cardio in excess.
Research is actually showing a dark side to too much cardio. In studies of marathon runners and triathletes, years of intense cardio seemed to be associated with heart problems and plaque-build up in the arteries. Other research has shown immediate problems in circulation following long endurance running, even in trained athletes.
The problem is that cardio is still a form of stress on your body. In moderation, your body can adapt to this stress without any real consequence. But if you constantly push yourself too hard, not provide adequate time to rest and also have good sleeping habits you may be breaking your body’s limits and putting yourself at risk of cardiovascular disease.
Chronic Cardio May Cause Unwanted Weight Gain
Seriously! Too much cardio can actually mess with your hormones, especially the stress hormone cortisol. Again, this comes back to the fact that cardio is technically a form of stress, and too much can induce a prolonged stress response in your body.
Over time, too much cortisol being released wreaks havoc on your body, affecting everything from your immune system to your mental acuity. What’s worse, there is a direct link between increased cortisol and weight gain. And it’s not just any weight gain. Studies show that cortisol leads to weight gain around your stomach and love handles more than anywhere else – the exact opposite of what you’re probably looking for.
What to Do Instead:
There are three recommendations I’m going to make here. One is to start replacing some of your long endurance cardio with high intensity interval training. This will help you avoid the chronic strain on your body, while also conditioning your muscles to ensure maximum enhancement of your metabolism (i.e., fat-burning ability).
For more on why you should give HIIT a try, take a look at these 7 Reasons to Try High Intensity Interval Training.
The second recommendation is to start incorporating yoga. The reason yoga is so good is that it challenges muscles that normally get ignored in traditional cardio exercise. Plus you get a whole lot of flexibility training, which can help improve your health and fitness in a number of ways.
Not convinced? Check out these Health Benefits of Yoga for more information.
Lastly, if you find that you can’t give it up all together try switching it up with another lower-impact cardio activity like biking. Biking will take away all the stress from the impact on your knees and lower back but still allow you to improve your cardiovascular capabilities.
Whatever you do, remember this: Cardio isn’t all bad, but there’s a lot more out there you should explore when it comes to your exercise habits. In moderation, cardio can be an extra boost to your weight loss and toning efforts. But in too high of doses, you may be working against yourself.
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