In the past month, I have read 4 magazine articles and numerous internet posts stating that “Cardio” is bad for you. I have also read more than a few that state cardio training makes you fat and eats up your muscle. The common factor in each of these articles was that they recommend high intensity interval training “HIIT” and/or strength training as the best method for staying slim and in shape.
I dislike marketing that runs down one item in order to make another item look better. This is basically what is happening in these articles. A well structured program will include some steady state work, some intensity, strength, balance, and flexibility training. If you do nothing but HIIT training, you increase your chances of injury and many people just don’t want to work that hard everyday. Doing only strength training will make your skeletal muscles stronger but does not develop the same improvements to your cardiovascular system as cardio training will.
The “muscle wasting” caused by cardiovascular training is simply atrophy of unused muscles. Many marathon runners do not bother to lift weights or train their upper body. Bicyclists often do the same. I do not ever see a serious runner or cyclist that has fat legs. The reason is the leg muscles are utilized, therefore they receive the most metabolic benefits.
Your heart is a muscle and so are the arteries and veins. In order to keep them in good working order, they need to be challenged like any other muscle. Not to the breaking point of course, but enough that what once seemed difficult is no longer hard. Ideally a combination of steady state training, HIIT, strength, flexibility, and balance training will help you to live the life you choose and allow a better quality of life.
The bottom line is that each of these modes of exercise have their place. I will not stop running, biking, hiking, etc. because the latest magazine states that it is not a good enough form of exercise. These are things that I love to do and they improve my overall physical fitness level. Exercise should be a part of daily life and it you force yourself to do something you don’t like, odds are you won’t be doing it for the long haul.