There is SO much information about fitness. What to do, what not to do, when to do it and why. With so much information out there, so many competing theories, I know it can be overwhelming. Furthermore, now that there are so many different platforms sharing information, it can make us all a little crazy trying to navigate the best way to exercise for our health and wellness.
I want to take some of the craziness away and address what I see as old, but still sticking around and tripping folks up, myths. If you are one of the many, many folks that still believes that cardio is king – or queen – this is especially for you!
1. CARDIO IS KEY FOR LOSING FAT
While cardio is important for heart health, endurance and burning calories, the calories you are burning from endless time on the treadmill or elliptical come from carbs, fat and protein. That means the calories you burn are essential for building muscle. If you are trying to reduce body fat, the last thing you want to do is burn muscle. Replacing body fat with muscle will make you stronger and able to function better in your everyday life. Muscle is more compact than fat and takes up less room, so replacing body fat with muscle will make you appear smaller, leaner and more toned. Also, when your workout consists of cardio only, your calorie burn stops when you stop. With strength training, a beautiful thing happens . . . your body continues to work to repair and grow those muscles. Since your body is still working, it is still burning calories, even at rest for up to 72 hours. If losing weight and belly fat is part of your fitness goal, forget the myth that cardio is king and make sure you add resistance training to your workouts. .
2. LOWER BODY CARDIO COUNTS AS STRENGTH TRAINING
I know people who only run or spin. That’s great. Those are great workouts to get the heart rate up, work up a sweat and burn calories. Believe me, I love these workouts, but these do NOT constitute a lower body strength workout. Running and spinning work different muscle fibers than lower body strength moves like squats, lunges, deadlifts and plies. It is also important to incorporate these lower body strength moves to prevent muscle imbalances which can lead to injuries. It’s like the yin and yang. You need both for your overall health and fitness.
3. THE FAT BURNING ZONE IS A THING
I hope you are not taking away that I am down on cardio. Not so. It is definitely important and has it’s place. When I began in the fitness world I remember reading about and listening to people talk about the magic of exercising in the fat burning zone. It seemed like this mysterious place or level that, if obtained, would automatically take the fat away. Do you know what I’m talking about here?
This “fat burning zone” is based on the premise that working out at a lower intensity causes the body to burn a higher percentage of calories from fat rather than carbohydrates. Through the years this philosophy has gotten a little crazy. This is what actually happens. Even though you are working out at this lower intensity and are burning more of your calories from fat, the fact is that you are burning fewer calories overall. The truth is if you want to burn MORE calories and fat, you are much better off doing a workout involving High Intensity Interval Training.
I’m not saying there is no place for a lower intensity workout. There absolutely is. This is a great thing to do on an active rest day, or on a day after an intense workout. So, think about your goals, and just don’t be fooled by the fat burning zone myth.
4. MACHINES DON’T LIE
I know there are so many people out there that are slaves to their cardio machines and the numbers displayed on the screens – kinda like we can be slaves to step counts on our fitness trackers. Let me just say it here out loud, those numbers ARE NOT accurate. If you have been on an elliptical for 30 minutes and the screen tells you that you have burned 400 calories, do not believe it. That machine likely has no clue how many calories you have burned! Ellipticals, treadmills, stair climbers and bikes are all known to overestimate.
If you really want an accurate read on your own personal calorie burn, I would suggest using a good heart rate monitor.
Most importantly, remember that workouts are like diets, some work better for some people and others work better for others. It is up to you to experiment with your workouts, your schedule and see what gives you the best results for your own personal goals. Just, whatever you do, remember it’s not all about the cardio – please incorporate some strength training!