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New Study Shows Aerobic Exercise A Waste Of Time

Amaaazing news. Finally it seems that the mainstream media is recognising the truth when it comes to ideal exercise for health and weight loss. And the big news (drum-roll please)? Cardio is most emphatically NOT the answer. Well. Obviously we already knew that, but it’s nice to see a little bit more of the world catching up. So what’s the new scoop? Well, according to this study, not only is cardio a bad idea for diabetes treatment (read: insulin and weight management), but it’s also not so great for overall health and the prevention of heart disease.

I was first exposed to this concept about 5 or 6 years ago, and I gotta tell you – it took me a good 18 months to get my head around the idea. At that age health concerns such as heart disease and diabetes never even entered my mind, but the idea that cardio wouldn’t keep me in great shape was mind-boggling. After all, wasn’t that why I’d become a cardio queen in the first place? Convinced that my 2+ hours of the stuff was what was necessary to stay slim? Never mind that it never quite worked and never mind that I was always exhausted. Long story short, switching cardio (and low-cal – what a crock) for weights and plenty of protein’n’fat has whipped me into the best shape of my life but also leaves me feeling about a million percent better.

And I’m not the only one.

Recently a long-term client came in telling me how she’d suddenly lost weight after giving up cardio. In fact, she’d dropped about 3kg of stubborn belly fat in just 2 weeks. Fat that hadn’t moved for months on her high-cardio program. I had to laugh – I’d been at her for about 2 years to drop the running, but it took her suddenly being too busy for such a huge time commitment and having to drop her sessions to weights to save time. Ah well, at least she got there in the end!

If you’re thinking I must be craaaazy to be espousing such a radical approach to health and shaping you’re probably not alone. But are you really going to insist on being so one-track-minded that you can’t even consider the possibility of a new approach? After all, once upon a time we believed the world was flat …

Now I’m guessing at least one reader out there is going to look at this study and rant back at me about how it’s too general or the sample size is too small or blah blah blah. And they’d be right – the study could be more detailed. But hey, it’s just one more tiny but tough nail in the coffin of aerobic exercise. And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that the whole energy in vs energy out argument is a crock anyway (yep, another one, am LOVING that word today).

And you know what? You can argue to the cows go home but when you’re a) doing it with a much bigger load on your booty than what you’d probably like or b) only managing to stay in shape by carefully spaced-out near starvation coupled with 90 minutes+ endurance exercise per day then you’re kinda shooting yourself in the foot. For the most part, weight loss and ideal health is very simple. Sure, it takes commitment, knowledge, and definitely some staying power, but it sure doesn’t (need to) take over your life. And it’s definitely more than just math. As this lovely lady recently discovered, eating higher calories and changing the way you workout could be just the answer you’re looking for.

So. Isn’t it time you caught up and kicked that nasty cardio habit once and for all? And if after all that you’re still not sure (seriously!), then promise me this. Try it for a month. You’ll have your answer. I guarantee it.

Life is Now. Press Play.

Kat

Life is Now. Press Play.

Kat x

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28 Comments

  1. Kiki Dogwood says:

    I LOVE YOU KAT EDEN!

    Do you think I should ditch Jenny Craig? They’ve got me on 1200 calories this week now that I just weaned my baby and guess what? I gained weight.

    Problem is, JC is working for the husband and I hate to leave him alone on it when he’s doing so great because lately he was turning into a blimp. (he doesn’t read this so I can go ahead and say it.)

  2. Otto says:

    I’m an avid runner and heading to run my first Triathlon… My cardio sessions are headed to a specific goal: run faster and farther and finish my first triathlon. I try to inject 2 sessions of weight lifting per week, though…
    But I’ve been reading a lot about this new studies that are putting cardio sessions to a 2nd level of importance, and that Fat is not actually bad (good fat, animal mainly).
    But, how does this can be applied to someone that wants to run marathons because he/she enjoys them?

  3. Mike Consol says:

    Very interesting stuff, Kat.

    What about swimming, plus walking, plus weights, plus yoga? A combination of strength, low-impact aerobic and flexibility. Does that sound like a reasonable routine?

    Also, it sounds like in a routine like that you would probably favor the weights and, maybe, yoga with less aerobic?

  4. Margo Fontaine says:

    YOU’RE MY HERO.

    I have dreaded aerobic activity forever, and am so excited by this news. Ever since reading your chunky aerobic instructor syndrome post, I’ve given myself a break, have felt SO much better, and have slimmed down in spite of it. But it’s interesting how it’s been SO drummed into our heads that I’m nervous about giving it up for good…

    But, OK. I trust you. My cardio-free month starts now.

  5. Anthony says:

    Nice post Kat, however I don’t think all health clubs are going to ditch the cardio equipment just yet. Long bouts of cardio are not the way to get lean – short bouts of intervals like sprints or tabata’s can work well but lifting weights is definitely king!!

    @Otto if its your sport (marathon / triathlon) you will need to do at least some long distance cardio (around 6 – 8 weeks) after that you will no longer get any real cv gains. As you would of read by some of Kat’s other posts too much cardio turns you catabolic (breaking down muscle and storing fat) which isn’t what most people want.

  6. Kat Eden says:

    Hey Kiki. I’m pretty sure you know what I’m going to say here! IMO 1200 cal will put you into near-starvation mode hormonally. Unless it’s all meat and fat. And even then. My suggestion? Eat protein 4-6 times p/day, add fresh green veg, nuts, seeds, (raw), and a little full-fat dairy. Plenty of good fats. That’s all 🙂

    Otto – if you enjoy marathons that’s a great reason to do them, but I’d still sugesst a focus on anaerobic weight training for the bulk of your workouts. Circuits will help build cardiovascular endurance. SOme endurance running and regular intervals would still be useful. As far as diet – same rules. I don’t believe in the validity of carb-loading for most athletes, although there are exceptions.

    Mike – you answered your own question! Aim for 3-4 weights sessions, 1-2 yoga, 1-2 walking/swimming. Too much swimming tells the body to start storing evenly-distributed fat.

  7. Otto says:

    @kat @anthony My trainning week looks like this:
    Monday – Easy Run (8-12 kms)
    Tuesday – Weight Session in the morning, Swimming at night (1200-1500 mts)
    Wednesday – Speed Work
    Thrusday – Weight Session in the morning, Swimming (speed swimming, 50 mts high speed, 50 recover)
    Friday – Bike (arround 20-25 minutes)
    Saturday – Long Run (usually have a long run every 2 weeks, 15 miles or more)

    Obviously, this would change depending if we are in marathon season. I would run farther on the long runs to prepare for the marathon.

    Any thoughts? Am I over trainning on my cardio for my objectives? Also… I try to keep my meat intake at the minimum… I eat a eggs every day, tough…

    I have been fighting to lower my % of fat and weight… I have been unsuccessfull mainly because I can’t keep with my diet… Lots of temptation and I get tired at night with all the work and trainnings… so… I’m weak 😛

  8. Anthony says:

    @Otto why do you try to limit your meat intake?

    Meat (beef, lamb, chicken & fish) are best sources of protein available and contains important vitamins and minerals (B’s, iron etc). The quality of meat is super important and where you can try buying organic or bio dynamic meat. It does cost a little more but it is worth it to avoid the nasty stuff (hormones etc) they feed animals on conventional farms.

    Don’t be scared of Fat… do your homework, Kat has written about fats and how it is a myth that there bad for you.

    It is hard to give training advice without knowing more information – you are definitely training a lot though, how close are your races? Focus on quality not quantity. Mix up your training (periodisation) every 4 weeks – changing exercises, reps, sets and tempos. Mix up your running, riding and swimming too.

    Remember that you still need strength and stability to run well.

    Side note on getting lean – IMO nutrition far out ways training bout 70 – 30 % get your food right is critical if you want to be lean.

    Hope this helps : )

  9. Kat says:

    Anthony – are you inside my head?! 🙂 I read your comment (and Otto, your second comment) earlier this morning but hadn’t had a chance to reply yet, but I don’t really think I need to now! My first question back to you Otto was going to be “why don’t you eat meat?” Everything Anthony has said is relevant to you (and indeed anyone looking to transform their health).

    Most definitely I’d relate your lack of energy and unsuccessful weight loss back to a lack of animal protein. It’s especially important to eat meat first thing in the morning, as it dictates your overall motivation, energy, and metabolism for the day.

    As far as your training, I’d reduce cardio by one session p/week on average and add in one more weights session. Strength based ideally. But (copying Anthony again here) that’s very general advice – it’s tough to give out individualised training advice in this format. As a rule I’d recommend 3-4 weights sessions p/week.

    Kat

    Oh, Anthony – love those tabata’s! They are the best!

  10. Interesting theory… and I would have agreed up until about 3 weeks ago. I recently started working with the New Leaf Metabolic Training System that scientifically measures cardiovascular performance and prescribes cardio workouts to improve fat burning and athletic performance. Right now I am in the process of doing a 30-day fitness challenge to drop the most amount of fat possible (to see if custom cardio workouts will have a positive affect). I’ve been between 7-8% for a long time, and no matter how hard I tried with various strength training, HIIT, complexes, etc., I could never get below 6.7%. I rarely did cardio, but now that has all changed…

    Even before I decided to do New Leaf, I knew cardio has its place, and just like strength training it needs to be designed to meet the fitness level of the individual. I have always found this very hard to discern, and at best, I would usually just randomly select specific high intensity intervals to do in a 2:1, 3:1, or 4:1 ratio (low intensity duration to high intensity duration) for myself and my clients. And though my anaerobic power would increase, I saw little benefits towards dropping those last 3-5 lbs to get me to 4-5%.

    I think blanket statements about cardio being ineffective is dangerous; its not as black and white as Kat makes it seem. The same could be said for strength training – which can be ineffective unless progressively designed. Where I do agree is this: doing random cardio will provide diminished results over the long haul – I have personally witness this phenomenon hundreds of times.

    Short and sweet, in my professional opinion… Diversity in all types of training is key.

    1. Kat says:

      Hey Mike
      Great comment, and actually it fits in with some of my previous posts on cardio. I didn’t talk about it in this one, but have previously discussed the cardio adaptation theory, which states that (when a person is new to endurance based cardio or has not done it for a long while) they will generally experience great results for a 6-8 week period. After that, my clinical research and experience has taught me that their body will then begin to predict the upcoming work and lay down fat stores in advance.
      Given that your training has been anaerobic (100%?) for the most part, this would definitely fit your profile. The link to my post on this is here:

      https://thekatrinaruthshow.com/how-to-avoid-chunk-fat-aerobics-instructor-syndrome/

      Of course, the main point of that post was for people to change from endurance to interval-based, it’s rare to come across someone such as yourself who might benefit from doing the reverse! I think that’s a key point here – you’re obviously following a well-structured routine, and at such a point that small changes can and will make a vast difference. I definitely agree with you in saying diversity is key, that’s one strong reason why I write ‘against’ cardio, given that a vast majority of people are either doing loads of it or think they should be!

  11. Otto says:

    Kat and Anthony, thank you very much for these insides! I have never been professionally trained, so, I’m learning my ways in this kind of forums.

    My reason to keep meat intake to the minimum is for personal reasons only. I do try to eat eggs in the morning almost every day :).

    But, will definitely include more strength training for sure. Actually, I do look leaner than I would like to. But, what I end up concluding here is that I may have reached the point where I need professional help to keep
    improving my athletic skills and reduce my body fat.

    Thanks again guys! Greetings from Mexico!

  12. Kat Eden says:

    No problem Otto – all the best with your regime! It might be good to supplement with some Branch Chain Amino Acids and Carnitine if you’re not eating meat. Just an idea. You can also try a good quality rice/pea protein, like Sunwarrior.

  13. NotAPundit says:

    What a time for this post to hit my feed reader! Having settled into the new house, I’m now turning my attention to getting in shape again. Between work, single motherhood, and 2-3 sessions/week of martial arts practice, I’m struggling to find ways to fit resistance workouts into my crazy life.

    Running off to the gym is simply a no-go for now. The only reason I make it to the dojo so much is that my son studies alongside me. 🙂 I haven’t the slightest idea what a good at-home workout would be — I could stand to invest a little money in equipment for home if there’s something that can make a real difference without taking up a ton of space, and that I won’t “outgrow” in a year or less as I get in better shape. Where do I start?

    1. Kat says:

      This is a great idea for a future post actually. Stay tuned; I’ve just added it to my schedule for the next month.

  14. Tom Legath says:

    Great post I’m gonna pass this around this is stuff people need to know. Thanks!

    1. Kat says:

      My pleasure Tom, glad you enjoyed it!

  15. Just came across cool joke: Stressed spelled backwards is desserts.

  16. Hayley says:

    Wow – what a response!My dad is in his sixties and keeps saying to his doctor – clearly your advice isn’t working, we’re in a obesity and heart disease crisis and you keep telling people to do the same thing! He’s following a lot of this same thinking now and finally getting results.
    I say to other busy mums – I didn’t have more time to do more, so changing my nutrition more in line with what you recommend and shifting to the dynamic and weights training did it for me, and here’s the thing. I know your ideal -but my maintenance mode was 2 good heafty sessions a week. So to those who think it’s too hard – no way – they old way they taught me, that was too hard, too many hours I didn’t have and too much starvation I couldn’t manage.:))
    I’m also now navigating my second pregnancy and SOOOO much more enjoyable, less pain and fluid, I can’t believe the difference on so many levels.thanks

    1. Kat says:

      Pleasure … it’s such a relief to know we don’t actually have to beat ourselves up to get results, isn’t it?!

  17. Kat says:

    Cardio training (particularly aerobics) has seen my weight fall from 100+kg to 65.5kg (as of this morning) placing me smack bang in the middle of ‘healthy’ BMI range. I ahve gone from overweight participant to passionate instructor. I have seen a vast improvement in my quality of life and look forward to exercising as regularly as I can. I have seen the benefits in terms of my functional strength- I can run for buses/ trains, pound up stairs and am less tired and more energised. I have noticed that I am much less prone to injury than the guys who I play touch footy with as they have none of the functional strength training that I have- rather they go to the gym to just lift weights. Yet apparently all these things are just a ‘waste of time’. …… Surely as a professional in the health field you agree that any exercise is better than none? I fail to see how ‘bashing’ one type of training is in any way conducive to improving the health of the population. Oh, and as someone who is inundated by ‘opinions’ daily- it is never the cardio junkies who negatively comment on weights training. Rather they recognise a need for balance. Why cant weights disciples do the same?

    1. Kat says:

      I’m glad cardio has worked for you Kat 🙂

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