Opinions

The Obsession With Long Duration Cardio

By: Julie Schmidt

Whenever you walk into a gym, you will undoubtedly spot multiple people utilizing the treadmills, ellipticals, or bikes. These people will most likely run, walk, or cycle for 30-45 minutes before ending their daily workout and going home. They believe that the most effective and beneficial type of exercise is long duration cardio, such as running or cycling, which is why they rely heavily upon such workouts as their regular source of exercise. Women and men with the goal of losing fat and gaining lean muscle will usually turn

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straight to long duration cardio training. This is most likely due to the constant misrepresentation of weight loss exercises portrayed by movies, TV shows, and promoted by supposedly credible health and lifestyle journals. The generations before us, such as our parents and grandparents, were told that long duration cardio was the best and most practical way to exercise, making it a staple in many homes today.  The image of running on a treadmill or something similar is heavily ingrained within the minds of weight loss hopefuls and fitness buffs. However, long duration cardio is not as effective as people may believe.

The cardio workout that most people turn to is some form of running. There is a fitness myth that running will burn fat and make you stronger which is only partially true. Running will surely help you burn excess fat in the beginning, but since it is a monotonous type of exercise, the body grows accustomed to the muscles worked during the exercise. In other words, after doing the same type of exercise for a long period of time, the muscles no longer get pushed to their limits and no longer fatigue. Muscle fatigue resulting from a difficult workout session is a good sign and indicates that your muscles are getting stronger. Many people, after running on a treadmill for days on end, no longer feel their leg muscles fatiguing when they run, leading them to assume they are getting stronger. Unfortunately, that is not the case. In their case, the absence of the fatigue is a sign that their body has essentially grown immune to the workout and is no longer being pushed to its limit. Thus, running is no longer building strength at this stage. Another distinction to be made is the fact that the more muscle mass, the faster the metabolism, and the faster the metabolism, the more weight lost. If muscle mass is not being built, then the metabolism slows down, and weight will not be lost.

To those who spend 30-45 minutes on long duration cardio every day because they want to lose weight or gain lean muscle, there are other options that will actually yield the results long duration cardio is thought to produce. HIIT, high intensity interval training, is an effective alternative to long duration cardio training because it incorporates various types of exercise at different degrees, ensuring the muscles do not grow lazy. It provides more benefits in the long run because, as exercise physiologist and athletic trainer, Scott Weiss, says, “HIIT burns more calories during and after a workout than continuous aerobic training”(Weiss). Instead of running for 30 minutes straight, HIIT has people switching from high intensity to low intensity exercises for 30 minutes. For a few minutes, you may be putting all your effort into a form of high intensity exercise, such as squats, box jumps, or pushups, with a one minute recovery period in between. The recovery period may be a complete rest or could include a low intensity skill, such as walking, jogging, or a slow set of sit-ups. The high intensity exercises after every recovery period usually vary to build new muscles.

HIIT is a very successful type of workout for those hoping to build muscle, and if not HIIT, then keep switching up your workout routine to keep your muscles from getting used to the movements. Hopefully, soon you will walk into a gym and see people doing more circuit training and HIIT than long duration cardio.  

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