From the medical dictionary:
Aerobic exercise: a type of physical activity that increases the heart rate and promotes increased use of oxygen in order to improve the overall body condition.
So aerobic exercise – or cardio – is anything that increases heart rate and breathing rate. That would be…essentially anything that is not sleeping or being dead.
While the guru’s argue over whether you need to do fasted or fed cardio, intervals or steady state…I’m going to tell you, you don’t need to do cardio at all. At least not as a form of organised and regimented exercise.
That’s not to say there is anything wrong with it, or that it is bad. Just that you don’t need to do cardio. There’s better ways to improve body composition, health and general fitness, for anyone but a specialist endurance athlete.
Here’s why: You do cardio all of the damn time.
I’m going to give you some examples in a moment.
As I’m ahead of the curve on this latest trend, I feel like I should take the liberty of giving these things catchy names – who wouldn’t want to be credited with coming up with the next ‘functional training’?
I’m going to tell you about some of the things that I do, instead of cardio. Maybe you can think of some others for yourself?
- A few times per day, usually when I need to get from one location to another, I do this. Sometimes I do it just because. It typically lasts from 5-20 minutes, but can easily run in to multiple hours if I am exploring a new place. This activity mildly raises my heart rate and breathing rate. I call this ‘walking‘.
- For 1-1.5 hours, pretty much every day, I go to the gym and do various different things which result in my heart rate and breathing rate being in the 60-90% of maximum range for extended periods of time. Working in intervals with anywhere between 15 seconds and 5 minutes of rest time between sets. This, I have dubbed ‘lifting weights‘.
- A few times a week, a special friend will come round to my place and we will workout together for half an hour or so. Sometimes working in intervals for a few hours. It typically involves being around 60-75% max heart rate for extended periods of time. This is something we have termed ‘having sex‘.
- When I’m in a new place, especially a hilly place, I like to walk around a lot. Usually in nature, probably up a hill or even small mountain. This is to obtain a nice view, to connect with nature, to explore and to relax. It can last anywhere from an hour to all day, and typically involves relatively gentle exertion, possibly with some tougher moments. I will be bringing out the $59.99 e-book in just a few short weeks, but for now I can let you, as a loyal and valued reader, exclusively in on the secret. It’s going to be titled ‘Phil’s Ultimate Guide to ‘Hiking”.
- Being in Thailand, I often find myself near the ocean. The water is warm and clear, quite beautiful actually. Something that I have worked out, that I have never seen anybody doing before, is that you can get in the ocean and…’swim‘.
- On a Saturday night (or Friday, or Thursday, or indeed any other night, on occasion) I have been known to frequent a nightclub. Sometimes, if I’m in the mood and I like the music they are playing, I will join dozens of other people moving around in a rhythmic fashion to the beat of the music. I was chatting with some people in the club the other night and we came to the conclusion that a good name for this practice would be ‘dancing‘.
If you haven’t picked up the point…
You don’t need to ‘do cardio’ in the gym, you don’t need to run or cross trainer in order to work your cardiovascular system.
If you’re trying to improve body composition, lifting weights will do a much better job (assuming you do it intensely) and be less monotonous.
If you just want to be healthy, or to enjoy your exercise, then go out and do something that you enjoy.
Cardio has its merits, especially for those at an elite level trying to get super lean, but it does not require monotonous misery in a gym.
Do something you like doing and you will do it for life.