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Cardio is Dead; Long Live Cardio

 Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Have you seen recent headlines telling us to “forget cardio exercise as it’s a waste of time” followed by “include cardio in your workout routine nearly every day!”

Queen of Quardio Quymberly Steps Lively!

Mamma mia. What are we to do if we want to get more fit? Are you confuzzled yet? I know I get overwhelmed by the barrage of seemingly conflicting advice.

Just the other day an email arrived in our Fun and Fit inbox entitled: “Newsflash: Cardio is Dead.” As a longtime fitness pro and proponent of aerobic exercise, I was bothered by this announcement in a cranky, “oh, great, now people will exercise even less” kind of way.

Is cardio really “dead?” Or are we going to be soon if we stop doing aerobic exercise and drop even more activity from our lives?  For years we’ve been told to work out aerobically 5-6 days per week. Now we’re told to forego it. What fitness tips should we follow and what is hype we can safely ignore?  How can you know what actions to take (aside from reading our blog and sending us your questions to address)?

What’s Really Being Defined?

One trick is to check definitions and terms before accepting the headline or sound bite. What is really being touted? In this example, the article discussed the difference between long, slow, steady state endurance exercise compared with intervals of high and mid-intensity cardio. The gist of the argument was that long duration, low intensity cardio doesn’t train the heart to build resistance to stress. To reduce the risk of heart disease, we need to alternate intense exertion with active recovery periods.

Long Live Queen of QiDANCE Alexandra

Now we’re getting somewhere. We are really comparing Steady State Cardio to High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) relative to stress resistance. Two considerably different types of workouts. The low and slow cardio approach was once crowned queen of all “Fat Burning Zones,” which has been rightly sent to the “Dying Myth Zone.” Certainly a ton of studies and headlines have courted the new ruler, HIIT. (HI)It’s alive!  But is the former type really “dead?” Or as the participants in our group fitness classes say “just tell me what I am supposed to do. Is low intensity cardio out and high intensity now in?”

Which brings me to the second key question we need to pose when faced with bold, exciting, eye catching, sparkly-flashy headlines:

What Are Your Goals?

No Cars, but lots of Cardio here!

Sticking with this example, why do you do cardio workouts in the first place? To lose weight? To reduce menopause symptoms? To complete a marathon? To avoid those darn heart attacks that run in your family? To climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower … and back down… after swimming there from New York and across the English Channel?

Your particular, personal, prioritized goals will guide you through the maze of confusing headlines. Let’s say your top goal is to lose weight for an upcoming trip. Then high intensity cardio might be your best choice and the low, slow cardio needs to retire before you do. But what if a high priority is to stay cognitively aware and sharp as long as possible? Then low intensity cardio is NOT dead and may be what keeps you sharp as you live longer and smarter. For brain boosting, casual cardio rules! Love live cardio! For the pounds-away program, long live the other cardio! Can you see why you have to be willing to spend a little time and attention when faced with the latest and faddiest media bites?

Tempting as it is to believe headlines, the juicy bits are in the details: what’s really being discussed (definition of terms) and who is this news really for (goal dependent)?  Option three is also good:

Ask Fun and Fit/ Kymberly and Alexandra

That’s why we write this blog — to help solve your workout dilemmas and answer your fitness questions. By the way, if you want to really rock out at sorting through information overload flotsam and jetsam, read Understanding Studies from our friend and fellow FitFluential Ambassador, Tamara Grand.

So hail to the queens of cardio (well, yes, I do mean my sister and me, and YOU too!) Play well and work out successfully in the cardio court that is right for you.

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