Why Doing Cardio is Not the Best Exercise

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.”  ~ Hippocrates

“Cardio” crazed? … Knowing when to lighten up!

Let’s see if I got this right:  you spent much of December feeling guilty about the fat/sugar content of the holiday food you ingested and how little physical activity you did. So you jumped on the same bandwagon many people do in January; you got serious about exercise.

First, I salute you. Getting your health under control is one of the most important things you can do.  But when it comes to exercise, how much is too much? Flinging yourself into a brutal routine simply to “jumpstart” your efforts can send your body into a kind of trauma it may not be ready for.

The secret here is to find the balance between challenging yourself and establishing a routine that can be believably and reasonably sustained.  Did you know it’s possible to do too much cardio? But here is where it gets tricky.

Everyone’s threshold for what constitutes too much is dependent on a number of factors unique to every individual, not least of which are the intensity of your exercise, your fitness level, your age, your health status, how much other activity you do each day, what and how much you eat, how much sleep you get, and what your fitness goals are, to name a few. What might be great for your best friend might be too much for you, and what might be too much for you right now might be just the ticket for you a year from now.

Even though exercise is good for us, like anything we do that “wakes up” parts of us unaccustomed to being used can make our bodies respond to exercise the same way it does to serious stress. This means that too much exercise (especially without enough recovery) can have negative effects on both your physical and mental health as well as your metabolism.

Okay – now STOP!  Stop thinking this is an excuse to give up on the idea of exercise altogether. After all, any of you who know me understand how adamantly I feel about offering your body a balance – in eating and in exercising — that can be sustained over the long term.

Did you know that too much cardio can result in muscle atrophy? In extreme cases, even the heart can suffer from too much endurance training.  So consider the bell-shaped curve and how your goal is to land somewhere in the middle of that curve in order to reap the most health benefits from your exercise routine. This means you must listen to your body. Believe it or not, your body can offer signs that it’s time to cut back or slow down with exercise.  Here are examples of your body screaming at you to lighten up:

  • You feel fatigued throughout the day. No, it’s not the same as feeling your eyelids going half-mast during a boring business meeting. It’s more like feeling as if you are operating within a semi-permanent mental fog. If you are suddenly unable to sit through an entire evening TV show without falling asleep or feel like napping through part of your lunch hour, you may be overtraining and your body is begging you to use those antilock brakes. Even professional athletes permit themselves cycles where they train less in order to permit their bodies to catch up. That restorative time – believe it or not – is just as vital as the exercise itself.
  • Another telltale sign is if you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night, but it doesn’t feel like enough. Insomnia and a decline in sleep quality might mean your body simply isn’t recovering.
  • Your strength, speed, and endurance have gotten worse instead of better. Now let’s see. Did you jump into this routine restricting food portions to levels less than what is recommended you allow yourself each day? Deficits can wreak havoc on getting what you want out of your efforts.
  • You’re getting sick more often than normal.   Are you getting colds or feeling run-down when everyone around you seems fine? If you’re a woman, has your menstrual cycle changed, gotten longer or disappeared? All are signs you need to regroup and get a check-up to see if over-exercise and/or exhaustion are taking a toll.

Most of us who exercise properly rarely fall into these categories, but it’s important to know the signs of overdoing.  That saying about moderation still rings true about cardio. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for a baseline, meaning you can go great guns on some days and ease up on others to achieve that number.  I ask my beginners to give themselves a break when they begin their exercise regimens without sacrificing consistent workouts. Become a bit more patient about reaching those cardio goals and your body will thank you for taking your time to make it more fit.
Did you know I was at my heaviest while doing 1 ½ hour of cardio a day? (I was also on a fat free diet!) Here at Nutrition the Natural Way I specialize in individuals who feel as if they are doing everything right but can’t figure out why they aren’t succeeding in getting more fit. Through customized nutrition, keto nutrition, functional testing, modified ketogenic diet, I offer insights into sugar cravings, constant hunger, hormone imbalances, sleep patterns, body fat gain and near-impossible weight loss. Together, let’s see if we can get to the bottom of these issues, setting you on a course of feeling and looking great.

Feel free to email or call me anytime with further questions! dani@nutritionthenaturalway.com