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Stop all the Cardio

December 11, 2012

Everyone knows that cardio is good for you. So clearly if some cardio is good for you then more cardio is even better for you, right?

Wrong!

marathon running cardio heart healthRecent research has demonstrated that too much intense cardio is bad for you and can damage your heart. A study was done in Britain comparing the hearts of older male athletes, younger male athletes and healthy older non-athletes. They found that the older male athletes showed signs of fibrosis, which is scarring of the heart muscle. Neither the younger athletes nor the healthy older non-athletes suffered from fibrosis.

About half of the older athletes had fibrosis. Not surprisingly the ones who had fibrosis were the ones who exercised the hardest and longest. Excessive cardio not only risks the health of your heart but also wreaks havoc on your hormones. Running a marathon reduces your testosterone by 50% while more than doubling your cortisol both of which are bad for your health. Testosterone not only allows healthy sexual function but also slows the aging process, and is responsible for building muscle mass and maintaining bone density. Cortisol is a stress hormone that leads to accelerated aging, weight gain and loss of muscle.

How to do cardio the right way

Hiking Photo Beautiful Lake in Forest

Not only is hiking healthy but it also allows you to take beautiful pictures like this one I took of a lake this weekend.

Although too much intense cardio is bad for your heart, moderate cardio will benefit your greatly. Some of the benefits of cardio exercise include lower risk of heart disease, reduction in blood pressure, lower LDL, higher HDL and improved insulin sensitivity. The best way of exercising without overdoing it is to move often at a slow pace. Walking and hiking are some of the healthiest forms of exercise. You can burn plenty of calories without putting excess stress on your body; Mark Sisson recommends you walk for 2 to 5 hours a week. In addition to walking, you should also do sprint intervals once every week as well.

An interval is where you alternate between exercising at an intense rate and exercising at a slow rate to recover. My standard interval workout is 25 minutes on the elliptical runner. I warm up for 5 minutes, then sprint for 60 seconds followed by a 90 second recovery jog. I do a total of 6 intervals then cool down for 5 minutes. I do all of my intervals on a bike or an elliptical runner to avoid the impact. I think that running intense intervals on a treadmill last year is how I herniated a disk in my back.

Not only does interval training not damage your heart, it also has several health benefits. Intervals improve aerobic capacity faster than endurance running, burns fat instead of muscle, increases your HGH and improves your metabolism. So stop all the chronic cardio then shift to hiking and intense interval training.

From → Exercise

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