Friends Don’t Let Friends Do Cardio!

*Note from Sarah: Jason Seib is back with a MUST READ article!!

Whenever I tell people to stop doing cardio I always seem to leave them baffled.  The concept of cardio for weight loss is so ingrained in the minds of most people in the Western world that it tends to go without saying that it must be done.  Sometimes people even leave it out when I ask them to tell me about their workout routine because they assume cardio is a given.  In truth, Sarah and I (and Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, and Chrissy Gower, to name a few more of MANY) prescribe no cardio to our clients at all.  Yes, that means Deb did absolutely no cardio to get her results.  I know it sounds crazy, but ask yourself why you believe cardio is beneficial as we take a look at the logic and science behind why it is not.  First the logic, then the science.

Just to be clear, we define cardio as sustained effort at intensities above walking and below sprinting.  Walking and sprinting = good.  Running marathons = bad.

The logic behind avoiding cardio taps into one of my pet peeves, so I’m sorry if I come off a little harsh.  We are so programmed by the “______ Diet”  mentality that it never crosses most people’s minds that the evolutionary perspective used in the paleo diet should be applied to all things that affect our health.  We choose to eat this way because we are pursuing natures intentions for human nutrition, only to strap on our Nikes and head out the door for a 5 mile run without ever considering whether or not this is something we should be doing.  The question becomes, where is the stimulus in nature to engage in this activity?  In other words, what would have caused us to run any more than a mile or two in nature often enough for natural selection to make us great at it and spare us from ill effects?  It wouldn’t take a tiger than long to catch the fastest of us.  It’s funny that in the minds of most Americans you aren’t truly fit until you have attained the useless ability to run 26.2 miles.  An incredible feat, but not one that will ever come in handy.

No doubt I am making a few people angry here, but endurance sports are sports, not methods of attaining better overall health and fitness.  If you enjoy running marathons, then who am I to tell you to quit?  Just understand that running marathons is not good for you.  Neither is playing at a competitive level in most other sports, but that isn’t why we play them.  We play sports because they are fun.  Oddly, the vast majority of runners are not competitive and run because they believe that what they are doing is beneficial to their health, and all other forms of cardio and cardio machines that I am aware of attempt to simulate the same internal processes that we get when we run.  The unfortunate thing is that they do simulate those internal processes.

Now for the basic science.  When it actually works, the “fat burning” effect that is the goal of the cardio-for-weight-loss advocate is mostly due to stress, and even then the results are sub-par compared to exercising in a manner that the human body understands.  When you head out for a run or jump on an elliptical machine for an hour, your body produces the same hormones that make humans great at sprinting.  Cortisol in particular is produced to get you some quick blood sugar for a fast escape or to catch some dinner.  But you never make that quick escape or catch that dinner, and you are never caught and eaten by something scary, you just keep running.  And your body just keeps producing cortisol.  Internally, this is just stress, but we call it exercise and do it 3 – 5 days per week, even though that last little bit of belly pudge won’t go away.  That little bit of pudge is so stubborn because your body is in a panic and it is trying to keep some energy stored close to your organs where it will need it most through this time of hardship.

For the actual studies and data, I can’t compete with Dr. Kurt Harris’ posts here and here.  They are phenomenal and well worth reading in their entirety.  They also contain the hard science that, for me, completely negates any citation of persistence hunting tribes as reason why we are “born to run”.

If you are doing cardio on a regular basis, ask yourself why?  If you are an endurance athlete, then you have a valid reason.  Since most of us are trying to be lean and healthy, then don’t you owe it to yourself to try a more evolutionarily sound training protocol for a few months before you assume that you need cardio?  It’s hard to argue for the necessity of something you have never tried going without.  So what should you do?  Sprint like hell for short distances, walk as far as you want, lift heavy things in as many ways as possible, and mix it all up using high intensity intervals.  If you need further guidance, Sarah happens to have an excellent fitness section in her book.

Comments

  1. says

    I think the greater message in your post Jason is people need to question and test everything they are doing and reading. Even with this blog post. They shouldn’t take it at face value just because you said not to do cardio…but rather access the points you make and then test the idea out themselves and see what happens.

    I think the biggest issue we have is people are too eager to hand their brains over to the first person who steps up to be an expert. Lots of “experts” don’t know what the heck they are talking about.

    Oh and in support of your argument, which I have tested myself, it is 100% accurate. I stopped doing cardio the moment I started doing Paleo and I have never looked back.

    That whole “do 30 minutes of cardio 3 times/week” is one of the greatest urban health legends out there.

    But I do have a question. What would you tell people to do in place of cardio? Just for those who are keen to test out your assertion.

    • Jason says

      I would tell them to “Sprint like hell for short distances, walk as far as you want, lift heavy things in as many ways as possible, and mix it all up using high intensity intervals.” It might be as easy as swapping a half hour of cardio for 3 or 4 all out sprints with rest between. But we can assume that this too will fall short of actual fitness if it is the only thing you do.

  2. Emily says

    So walking. What are we talking. A quick 2 mile walk on my treadmill or a slow stroll. I enjoy walking but you say no chronic cardio. I guess some of us need a little more explanation than others!

    • Jasons says

      Paragraph 2:
      “Just to be clear, we define cardio as sustained effort at intensities above walking and below sprinting. Walking and sprinting = good. Running marathons = bad.”

      And then at the bottom:
      “…walk as far as you want…”

  3. says

    Nice article. It’s really frustrating when talking to friends and trying to convince them to get off the elliptical, etc. They find it hard to believe I get my results from sprinting, lifting weights and practicing yoga – and eating Paleo, of course. :-) I had one friend say, “you don’t need cardio because you are already thin.” But they refuse to believe one of the reason’s I am lean is BECAUSE I don’t do cardio.
    Good job spreading the word.

  4. says

    I do HIIT mix of cardio (plyometrics style like jump squats, pike jump, jump lunges) and bodyweight strength exercises 5 times (usually last about 12-20 minutes) a week and once in a while I throw in some time challenge 1000 jump rope (timing how fast can I finish it). Would this be considered as chronic cardio as well? Just want to clarify it a bit

      • says

        Sorry, I would like to ask for clarification along these lines. I Crossfit 4-5 times a week. I have lost 45 pounds in a year – need to lose another 45 more. Our gym tends to do a lot of grinder WODs…like 3 times last week my time was over 35 minutes for the WOD (add in warming up and strength components – we’re at an hour)….is that ok? I can’t change the way they program (and maybe it’s fine)….shoudl I change the number of days I do it if this is how they program?

        • JasonS says

          Is there another gym in your area? I’m sorry, but that programming is absolutely horrible. My gym is no longer a CrossFit (and gyms like that are part of the reason we left), but we cut almost all of our metcons off at 15 minutes, with the occasional 20 minute metcon happening maybe once per month and always at a lower intensity. Our average metcon is around 10 minutes at high intensity and our goal for every workout is to manage cortisol and oxidative stress. You can try attending less, but I seriously don’t think you should be doing workouts that long even once per week, if ever. I would not expect better health out of anyone training that way.

          • Ryan S says

            It doesn’t mean the gym’s programming is horrible, but the coaching could be bad. A good crossfit coach would be advising the athlete to scale the load or volume so that she is finishing in the desired time (12-18 minutes). 4-5 times per week is great and just because it adds up to an hour does not mean it’s a bad thing. Warm-up, stretching, rolling out, mobility and skills work are all good things to take up that traditional “hour” time slot. Congrats on the 45 pounds and good luck on the next! (Just realizing this is 2+ years old, but I’ll still post…)

  5. Shanon says

    Amen to all of this! I am a former ultra-marathoner turned CrossFit athlete and I have never felt or looked better! Breaking away from my cardio mentality was very difficult, but once I did, my rewards were beyond explanation. I have been freed from chronic fatigue, depression, joint pain, disrupted sleep and stubborn body fat. My only regret is that I didn’t know about the cortisol connection 20 years ago! Could have saved myself so much time wasted on ellipticals, treadmills and trails! Thanks for posting this!

  6. says

    BRILLIANT. the living proof is in the gym… all the strong and lean people are rocking it in the weights room and the unfit ones struggling to lose those last few kilos are huffing and puffing about on the treadmil. I sometimes just want to go and gently take some poor woman’s hand and say…come with me to a better place ( the weights). I feel so sorry for them- all that wasted effort! great article.
    amy

    • K says

      Meh. I’ve lost 15 lbs of fat doing stair climber/elliptical. Didn’t lose any when doing just weights.
      Everybody’s different. Some things work for different people.

      • Liz says

        With all due respect, it’s not “just weights” that gets you amazing results. As Jason explains above, it is the high intensity, short durations with weight; not just weights or just cardio. It’s also not just about losing weight. It’s about being as fit as possible – lean and strong and feeling incredible! :) It’s empowering to push yourself at high intensity, and the results are not just physical. There are amazing mental, emotional and psychological benefits that carry over into your daily life that are priceless. I encourage you to try what he is suggesting in this post (hopefully at a GOOD CrossFit gym or a program like it). Your whole life will change for the better. :)

  7. says

    Thanks for this post, it was exactly what I needed to here. I love the suggestion to take out the cardio and see what happens. I’ve been researching local Crossfit gyms since I read the post. After spending the last 8 months living Paleo, I can only imagine what eliminating my chronic cardio and adding Crossfit will be able to do for me. Thank you!

  8. says

    None of this works for me, none of it. I want it to but it doesnt. I was a big fan of Mark Sisson’s and did the primal thing for about a year, and put on weight, when I say weight I mean fat. I was keeping my fat intake high. Late last year, earlier this year I was doing a lot of HIIT on the bike, I am a cyclist and was training for a 500m track sprint. My legs got HUGE. I am a 48 year old premenopausal female. I stopped training as I had some kind of adrenal crash, which I am prone to as I have been trying to get over adrenal fatigue for the last few years. Middle of the year I stumbled on a green juice diet and lost the cortisol weight I was carrying round the middle and my hips. I cut back on my protein and stopped getting up to pee in the middle of the night. I take GABA and potassium and B6 and I am sleeping a lot better. I got serious about Ashtanga yoga in the spring as well, this maybe helping a lot with everything. As with most things its hard to say what has made a difference and maybe its the orchestra of it. I still juice, and I eat more carbs than I used to and actually feel better for it. I understand the logic and science behind sprinting and eating paleo it makes total sense to me, what doesnt make sense is my body’s reaction to it. I forgot to say, I am on compounded T3 for my thyroid.

    • Jason says

      There is no part of anything that we preach here that we expect to work for absolutely everyone. It sounds like you may be finding what works for you, and that is fine. Higher carb is absolutely something that makes some people feel better and even lose more weight, but have you tried it without grains? If you have cut out the grains, you are pretty close to paleo anyway. I agree with Robb Wolf when he said he is tired of Paleo Orthodoxy. Use the framework to make the best decisions you can for your body.

      • says

        Thanks Jason, I agree, it doesnt work for everyone in the same way. When I was hardcore paleo, I could barely walk upstairs, I could feel the atp drain from my legs, and I dont believe it was ‘carb flu’, I dont think it works for me the same way, as you say. I think my endocrine issues has some to do with it, and recently I read that people with thyroid issues need glucose to make T3. Actually on MDA when I was over there, there were quite a few middle aged women that put on weight or didnt lose (by that I mean improve body comp) so I wonder if there is some system alteration that happens to some of us at some point.

        We are mostly grain free, when I say that, I mean that if we do have grains we make sure they are sprouted, ie Ezekiel bread. Other than that no grains. and very little in the way of dairy.

        • JasonS says

          I can’t see anything in the info you gave me that would indicate a NEED for grains. Are you assuming that paleo means low carb? Paleo is not about macro nutrients at all. Paleo is only about food choices. You can technically do paleo on 80% carbs if you wanted, you would just have to use good carb choices, like sweet potatos and yams.

          • says

            Hi Jason,

            Well, yeah I always assumed that a Paleo diet was going to be high in fat, and therefore low in carbs. It never occurred to me that it could be that high in carbs, but that definitely seems to work for me. I havent been strict about grains for a while because well, I figured that the Paleo WOE that I knew was low carb and that didnt work. We dont eat grains regularly, we stay away from legumes and processed foods. Guess I can look into this higher carb paleo WOE. Do you have any links to articles about that? Thanks for freeing my mind!

          • JasonS says

            I can’t think of any articles off hand, because macro nutrient profiles have never been part of the paleo diet so there really isn’t much there to write about, but Robb Wolf has mentioned higher carb paleo on his podcast a few times. Low carb often happens by accident, but paleo is specifically a non weighed and measured way of eating involving food choices that resemble an ancestral diet. We sometimes talk about a low carb paleo approach for faster weight loss, but paleo does not inherently refer to any macro nutrient ratio. Just eat more paleo friendly carbs.

        • says

          Shelley,

          Not that I have all the answers, but you might want to check out perfecthealthdiet.com and the Jaminets’ work. They advocate a “paleo” diet that is lower protein and higher carb than what seems typical in the paleo community. The starches they endorse reach beyond sweet potatoes and yams to white rice, tapioca, and white potatoes. They think gluten and legumes should be eliminated entirely.

          I developed thyroid and cortisol issues after some time on a low carb diet with intermittent fast, and increasing my carbs has enabled me to overcome them.

          Best,
          Bethany

          • faye says

            My mother has hashimotos. AKA thyroid doesn’t work AT ALL. You may want to check to see if you need a different dosage for your thyroid medicine. My mother struggled with menopause for many years and she ended up using natural herbal products/vitamins/minerals to help her cope with menopause and post…. she ended up having a hysterectomy at 55. I will check with her to see what she takes exactly along with her thyroid medicine and see if that would be something you might be willing to try with your medicine. Or at least talk to your doctor about it and see what they suggest. My mother is tiny. 5’9 and 115lbs. Trust me, I’m nothing like her built. I’m 5’8 at 160lbs but at 24% body fat. I’m getting better though! She’s almost 100 percent paleo, but she does have the occasional dairy product. (sorry!) She still has quite a bit of energy, but she walks everyday outside as well as do the walking workout videos at home depending on the weather. Everybody is different and I hope you find some comfort with a couple of my suggestions. Will look into the names of what she takes though!

        • Rachel says

          Hi Shelly,
          I just came across this thread, and even though it’s over a year old, I wanted to suggest a resource that could be very helpful for you, in the event you’re still searching: http://www.paleoforwomen.com/ Stephani Ruper’s point of view is simple: women are biologically different than men, and thus, a on-size-fits-all paleo approach is not healthy for many women. Most women do better on more carbs and shouldn’t fast, for example. I learned about her after she did a guest post on marksdailyapple.com on women and IF. Good luck with all!

    • Travis Nunley says

      You felt that way because of carb restriction. I know. I used to be a successful sprinter and boxer, but after the Army I got out of shape. I fell in love with the Warrior Diet and Paleo, tried so hard to make it work and suffered so much but ended up only with hypoglycemia, adrenal burnout, and 20 pounds of fat gain. I switched back to high carb/moderate fat (non-animal)/moderate protein and switched from CFT/heavy weights back to sprinting and punching every other day. I am back in great shape and have got my brain and nerves straight again. The unfortunate reality is that even though their is so much information and communication about health and fitness these days, we are all on our own.

  9. says

    Great article! I was just hanging out with some marathon hopefuls. I’ve been paleo for almost a year and I’ve learned to shut up unless I really feel like getting into it. I was cracking up because their entire conversation was how to “get through” the feeling of not wanting to run. I was thinking: if you need so many tricks and head games to get you through that feeling, maybe you just shouldn’t run. People are funny. They seem to like the soundbites without really following through to the logic.
    BTW: I have run a marathon. But that was back in my SAD days. Now I’m smarter and much leaner. And really, really happy I don’t ever have to run long distances again.

  10. says

    Thank you. I love this.
    I used to run. I ran high school cross country and continued running through out college and beyond, thinking it was necessary to run 4-5 time a week to be healthy and keep fit. I know through out that I caused my body plenty of stress. Like running while I was exhausted just to get a work out. Ah, if only I knew about paleo back then.
    I just had my second child and am ‘out’ of shape as I did not much more than walking during pregnancy. But this time around I am not going back to my cardio ways to het back in shape. I am taking care of my baby first, trying to get enough rest and doing some fun sprints with my dog, or climbing around on playground equipment with my two year old, or nice evening summer strolls with a few lunges and squats. Just trying to be aware of stress and my bodys need for rest.
    I am going to share this article on my Facebook, maybe someone else will be inspired to be paleo and drop the chronic cardio.

  11. Rebeccab says

    Amen! After years of running, I began doing CrossFit two months ago. I have seen more change in my body in the last two months than I ever saw from running. I was a chronically chubby distance runner…..go figure. Now I am leaning out (also thanks to Paleo) and building more muscle than I have ever had…..even when I was in the Army! Sprints, lifting heavy things and doing short high intensity workouts works for me.

  12. Megan says

    This makes so much sense! And for me, comes at a great time (had just reached out to Sarah to discuss adrenal issues). Well put. Now when I’m walking, I won’t beat myself up for not running instead :)

  13. Ely says

    You discuss exercise for weight loss but neglect the use of cardio in heart health. Granted, if it weren’t for cars and desk jobs we probably wouldn’t need to schedule cardio into our workouts. The heart is like any other muscle and it needs to be regularly overloaded to become or stay strong. Weight training has an element of cardio but I have monitored my heart rate during many different kinds of workouts and have determined for my part that I will not rid of my regular half hour run. I like surpassing other people during activities that require stamina-hiking a mountain, helping a friend move apartments, powershopping. I even see the effects of my cardio training when I’m running suicides during a martial arts class. I find I can outlast the veteran students. So I’m not at all against functional fitness, but I believe if you review ACSM and AMA literature on cardio, they would concur that I have a stronger heart and a lower risk for heart disease than my anti-cardio counterparts. I think it is irresponsible to make a sweeping statement like “friends don’t let friends do cardio” when you are only addressing exercise for weight loss.

    • JasonS says

      I do mention cardio for heart health. Cardio is bad for your heart and should not be done if you would like to maintain heart health. In fact, the reason I wrote this entire post is actually to sway people from doing cardio specifically to keep them from losing heart health. The 2 links to Dr. Harris’ posts, and the accompanying studies, are the proof. It doesn’t make much sense to turn to an organization like ACSM for scientific data when you can actually look at the scientific data.

      And cardio will never compare to High Intensity Interval Training for stamina.

      • Connie says

        I have a question. What about endurance to get into the armed forces? I am thinking hard about enlisting in the Army next year and they have a minimum 10:30min mile as part of the physical testing. Right now, I can do about a 13 minute mile. If I didn’t do cardio, how would I improve my time to be able to pass this test?
        I have not completely embraced the Paleo lifestyle or started a regimen of weight training, but I am very interested in both. I’ve recently lost 20 pounds with weight watchers and understand that I am plateaued on eating food that way( I want to lose about 10 more); I need to up my exercise to become fit and healthier as I want. Any suggestions about the mile, though?

        • Sara says

          Connie — doing sprints will TOTALLY help your mile time. Get yourself to a track, and do 1/4 mile (once around) sprints with an equal amount of recovery time.

          Try targeting 2:00 as your target goal — sprint around the track trying to finish as close to 2:00 as possible, then walk for 2:00 (or 1:00, if you can!). Start with a set of 4, work up to 10. Then work on bringing down your times. If you can do 10×400 at 2:00 sprints, you’ll *easily* break the 10:30 mark.

          Make sure you’re also working on your leg strength (lots of squats, lunges, jumps) and core and upper body strength, too!

      • AnonyM says

        Dr. Harris’ posts do not prove that cardio is bad for your heart.

        What the cited studies show is that those who run marathons are much more likely to have coronary disease than sedentary individuals. This tells us nothing about the effects of cardio at levels between the sedentary and marathon runner levels. It also does not tell us what causes the coronary disease. Is it due to the typical high-carb grain diet of long distance runners, excessive cardio, or something else?

        There are plenty of studies which correlate moderate levels of cardio with reduced CVD.

        Moderate endurance training at 55-75% max heart rate improves your ability to use your fat stores. High intensity interval training improves your maximum strength levels and ability to burn muscle glycogen. The combination of both types of exercise provides nearly ideal fitness.

  14. Tracey says

    I do have Sarah’s book, so I’ve read the exercise section..I still feel lost a bit in regards to coming up with an exercise “program” for myself that hits my entire body. I’d love more on this topic..for example..push/pull exercises etc.
    Thanks!

    • says

      Tracey if I can make a suggestion. Feeling lost is what a lot of people feel, but that should not deter you from trying something and testing it for yourself.

      I set up something for myself called my 5 X 3 matrix. I would choose 5 exercises and do each at high intensity for 1 minute and then rest for 30 seconds or 1 minute before moving to the next. I would record my reps and make notes about what seemed to work for each exercise.

      So that might look like this (with the goal of hitting my whole body)…

      1. Pull up (or some variation of this)
      2. Push up (some variation of this)
      3. Box jump (height varies depending on person)
      4. Dumbbell squat
      5. Kettle bell swing

      In this way, I was hitting most of my body in only 5 exercises that lasted less than 30 minutes.

      You could start with something like that and simply repeat that 2 times week.

      What I found was that I started doing more research and would begin to swap out exercises and add new ones.

      And sarah’s book as tons of ideas to TEST for yourself.

  15. StaceyO says

    I stopped running 2 years ago, thanks to what was supposed to be just a summer-long logistical nightmare. I ran 28-30 miles a week and could do a 1/2 marathon whenever I wanted. Thankfully, I joined a local boot camp run by a trainer who follows the philosophy you discuss in place of running. I used to be a “spindly runner”‘ now I am leaner and so much stronger. He finally got the camp to rally around a Paleo Challenge. In 4 weeks of being faithful, I lost 14 lbs and 4.1% body fat! Having said that, our cave is Paleo now, I will *never* go back to long, slow, ineffective cardio and will keep kicking butt at boot camp. Thanks for the awesome post!

  16. Teresa says

    I love CrossFit and have been doing it for about 4 months. I will never go back to a regular gym! I started Paleo about a month ago, but was not 100% on at all times. I am now 100% and I feel great. I know you say “No Cardio”; however, I love to cycle. It gives me such mental clarity from my stressful work life. It’s basically the only thing I do outside of CrossFit. So, are you saying, no cycling!? I typically ride 100 miles a week and my fuel on the bike is now Paleo. Also, I was training for my second Marathon and I have bagged it! ..Geez, that really put a small on my face :) I dislike running, but was supporting a friend. Look forward to your reply.

    • Jason says

      Yes, cycling is cardio. You just have to weigh the enjoyment you get from it against the potential negative effects.

      There are healthy ways to use bikes to get fit. I regularly do sprint work on a fixed gear bike with my total distance coming in at less than 3 miles and the whole workout lasting about 10 minutes. Great fun, especially if there are some nasty hills involved. Hills are a whole new experience with only one gear.

  17. Bryan says

    And Cycling? I’ve never seen more fit people than avid cyclists. I know when I’m on my bike a lot, any excess weight is GONE. Thoughts?

    • Jason says

      Again, cycling is cardio. As to the fitness level of cyclists, I’m just wondering what you are basing that on. All endurance athletes seem to get wrecked in micro gyms like mine and the one Sarah trains in. If we judge fitness by endurance alone, which we don’t, then these people might seem fit, but we are looking for fitness that allows us to lift big weights, perform a lot of work in a short amount of time, sprint like lightening, AND easily run a 5k (if we wanted to for some strange reason). I’m sure they exist, but I have never met a serious endurance athlete with this capacity.

    • says

      Um…I have to completely disagree.

      I think some fit people are drawn to cycling. But many others do it to try to lose weight, and they will fail.

      I hate to admit my shallowness…but every time we see a group of cyclists, I ask my husband, “Why do the ladies always have big butts?” And many men have a gut. And I’m talking about people that can do century rides.

      So they may be able to go further than me on a bike. Kudos. But I can outsprint them, out pull-up them, and probably have an easier time saving myself if need be. There is nothing functional about cycling.

      • Liz says

        Karen! I’ve often asked myself those same questions about cyclists! Sorry :) I volunteered once for a LIVESTRONG challenge that was a bunch (100 maybe?) miles of cycling. I’ve never seen more out-of-shape looking people in my life trying to do something that I thought only super skinny people would be doing. I figured if they were “trained” to do that then they would look fit, right? RIGHT? ;)

  18. Caren says

    I’m no expert, but I would speculate that cycling mimics the benefits of sprinting and walking – When I’m mountain biking I’m either barely moving my legs or ‘sprinting’ to get my speed up or do an uphill section. Mountain biking, at least, seems to be more of a sprint activity with rest in between. Thoughts?

    • Jason says

      Yes, cycling can be done at speed that mimic walking, sprinting and interval training. When it is done at speed that resemble distance running, like the above posters’ 100 miles per week, it is called cardio.

    • says

      I do too! :). I actually think it’s kinda weird, becuz so many people I know HATE running. But, after a long day at work, dealing with uber annoying clients and people, I love to just take my music, step out the door, and RUN. It relaxes me, and has helped me lose 66 pounds since 09/10. Absolutely adore biking too. If I hated it, I would not do it. I am of the mindset that whatever you choose to do to be fit, you should enjoy it. If you hate it, you are prob not going to get the results you want, becuz you will procrastinate, skip workouts, etc. So, any site that is proclamining “their way” is the only way, annoys me. If you like cardio, DO IT. Why stop doing something you love becuz someone thinks their way is better?

  19. rmhunt says

    What about running 2 miles a couple times a week in conjunction with other more primal style workouts? I HAVE to run because I’m in the military and we are tested on it twice a year. Two miles doesn’t seem like “distance” running to me…but what do you think?

  20. Scooter Schneider says

    Totally not on board with your thinking. Do your studies. How can you preach a paleo diet and then toss away our natural and genetic predisposition for endurance running. Do your home work. We are not sprinting creatures we are endurance animals. I can almost get into the Paleo “Fad” because it makes some sense but we are not monkeys and need to walk everywhere and we are not Cheetahs and need to sprint. Sprinting is a waste of time and if you disagree, go up against any sprinting animal on the planet and instantly find yourself unworthy. Yet, go up against ANY endurance animal and you will quickly find we are the masters of the sport. Stating we are not meant to be endurance animals is like stating eagles weren’t meant to fly.

    Might I suggest a quick read of any of Doctor Phil Maffetones books for a quick education?

    Having said all this, I totally agree with something you eluded to and that is health and fitness are two separate issues. there are many healthy and unfit people and addressing both sides of that equation are critical. Endurance or Aerobic training are critical for fitness. Mental and diet maintenance are critical for health. Without both Health and Fitness you are not complete. Don’t take have the equation away!

    • JasonS says

      We will have to agree to disagree then. I have done my home work. I gave you definitive studies regarding endurance athletes and heart health. Here is a review of a study regarding gait: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100212092304.htm

      And the entire study: http://jeb.biologists.org/content/213/5/790.full.pdf+html

      Again, why would we need to run great distances? If we are meant to be endurance runners because we can train to do so, then we are meant to have 1000 lb back squats, too. But I can find no reason why nature would select for that. I realize 2 tiny groups of people have been shown to run great distances without ill effect, but we don’t have any comparison data among these people. We all have a friend whose grandma smoked 5 packs of cigarettes per day and washed them down with a gallon of whiskey and still lived to be 163, but we don’t prescribe such behavior to those who wish to live long.

      • JasonS says

        To add to my previous comment, Andrew at Evolvify once stated regarding the persistence hunting argument that there may indeed have been selective pressure for some people, in some places, to train themselves to run down game, only to drop dead at 50. Nature has no investment in us past the years of reproductive fitness, so it doesn’t care about late-in-life diseases like heart disease. Of course, most of us have loftier goals.

      • Damon says

        You base your achievement of fitness on the idea of natural selection. However, in the Western World we don’t toil and labor and battle for our lives anymore. We sit at desks and eat food already prepared for us. Wouldn’t natural selection now be weeding out those who could not sit at a computer for hours at a time while ingesting mass quantities of synthetics?

        But what if humanity was not the result of natural selection? How do you redefine your methodology for the born-again Christian client who doesn’t believe in macro-evolution?

        • Jason says

          No, natural selection would not “now be weeding out those who could not sit at a computer for hours at a time while ingesting mass quantities of synthetics” because these things don’t kill us during the ages of reproductive fitness. You can drink nothing but Mountain Dew and eat nothing but cupcakes and still have 10 kids. There are no genetics to pass on if an intervention doesn’t kill the weak before they can breed or give an advantage to the strong that they can pass on to their offspring.

          I cannot argue with faith, but there is no need to redefine the methodology either. Try it. If it works, figure out how to reconcile it with your faith and move forward. There is nothing here that cannot be explained by Christianity.

    • says

      I’m just not sure you can make sweeping generalizations about who is or is not genetically programmed for endurance. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I am not. I am a sprinter by nature, always have been, always will be, and I’m so relieved I can give up the farce that endurance is the only marker of fitness.

  21. Rachel says

    At 44 with 5 kids, I mountain bike, road bike, hike, ski, swim, and yes run. In addition to lifting heavy and doing Crossfit every day. I also teach full time at a major University where I have to jog across an enormous campus to get to various classes on time. I weigh the same as I did in college, eat a variety of foods and enjoy a huge variety of activities. Oh and my five kids are amazing athletes because they can run. Just sayin’

    • JasonS says

      Awesome, but anecdotal. Something resembling a scientific study would require proper training with and without cardio to see which were more beneficial. But if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For you, it sounds like it ain’t broke.

  22. Cat says

    You all should really stop misusing the word LOGIC. Learn how to actually use the word correctly before u say ur using “logic” in order to deduce why cardio is bad and your not actually using logic. As a philosophy major it makes me question what u have to say and makes me think its just you rattling off bullshit like all the other fad diets!!!

    • JasonS says

      From dictionary.com: the science that investigates the principles governing correct or reliable inference.

      Also: reason or sound judgment, as in utterances or actions: There wasn’t much logic in her move.

      And: convincing forcefulness; inexorable truth or persuasiveness: the irresistible logic of the facts.

      Pretty sure I’m missing something if I’m using it incorrectly. “Is it logical that cardio is good for humans?” How is that incorrect use of the word logic?

  23. Leah says

    I completely agree with your post but what recommendations do you have (or can you direct me to) for people that shouldn’t run or sprint? I have been told due to chondromalacia and ligamentous laxity that running is really not a good thing for me so I have been doing walking intervals. When I tried air squats my knee flared up even more. I used to walk an hour a day and have stopped that but would really appreciate advice for modified exercises as not all people can sprint and swing kettle balls due to orthopedic limits.

  24. says

    I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see this idea catching on. I was the kid who could kick anyone’s a$$ in PE in school, but as an adult, everyone started training for marathons and my body just wouldn’t allow it. I’d get to about 6 miles and start racking up injuries.

    A few years ago, I attended my husband’s first (and last) marathon, but I decided to run the 5K as I waited. I ran really well, averaging 8:47 mile times, and was feeling pretty good about myself. One of my husband’s running buddies told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll run a marathon someday!” Grr…I really hope someday that endurance won’t be the measure of fitness anymore. Besides, I look better now than I ever did trying to run and run and run.

  25. Stacey says

    Woah, people are getting really hostile about this, haha.

    People, keep it simple. – Do what works for you and what you enjoy! As long as it’s not totally screwing you over on accomplishing your goals, that is.

    I road bike on the collegiate level. From a totally paleo/primal point of view, it’s not favored. But I LOVE it. It makes me HAPPY. So does running, walking, and sprinting around campus, or hitting the stair stepper at the gym on days when I’m working with a limited amount of time (or it’s raining and I just can’t get outside) and blasting some tunes from my iPod. Biking and running more so for the experience – It’s social, I get outside, breathe some fresh air, get my vitamin D, “escape”, all that good stuff. But overall, I LOVE doing cardio to get in a good sweat, and with all of my school work and everything else going on, it’s really just a huge stress relief for me.

    That being said, for my mental state, I kind of “need” cardio. It’s what makes me happy, helps me to de-stress, allows me to accomplish various things (vitamin d, social aspect, getting my dose of nature for the day, etc) and I feel great doing it, so… I do it!

    Do what makes you happy, as long as you’re looking, performing, and feeling the way you want to. If you’re not, you can still do it! Just tweek it. Maybe do that activity once or twice a week instead, or instead of running the neighborhood, sprint from light post to light post or something. Change it up, experiment, and have FUN with it!

    • danielle g says

      Thank you Stacey!
      I was starting to get frustrated reading all of these posts because I love Paleo but I also love to run, walk, cycle, swim, and anything else that I find truly fun. These are my outlets for stress when I feel it, but more importantly I just love feeling my body move. I had major back surgery 10 years ago and couldn’t walk for 3 months – now when I run, walk, swim, cycle, etc. I feel so lucky and grateful.
      My goal is definitely to try a CrossFit type of workout, because honestly I can’t say anything about that till I try it. Maybe after I do I will be a convert, but in the meantime I love doing all these things that I never thought I could do.
      :-)

    • Kathy N. says

      Totally agree Stacey. I had a client that walked into my club, well should I say waddled. 53 years old, and she had arthritis in her knees and a bad shoulder. Very fit in high school til she got arthrits. Tried to send her to the pool. “Nope, not putting a bathing suit on”. So I trained with her for a whole year. Weights, rowing, biking, finally swimming, elyptical, and now training her for a sprint marathon. She lost 100lbs from June to June. Me sending her to a nutritionist after 6 months of training. She just had a double knee replacement and recovered and was back working out in 6 months. She says I’m her hero, but I think it’s the other way around. I think, a variety of things helped this woman out. Cardio was one of them. I love to run, but I am a seasonal runner and an avid weight lifter. I show my clients everything. I think crossfit is horrible on your joints. Even though I love squat thrusts and plyometric moves. I have friends that joined a crossfit gym and lasted maybe a month, because they either hurt their knees or shoulders. I’m not totally against it, I just think it’s all in how you mix things up. Go for whatever makes you happy, but mix it up. And Challenge yourself.

  26. Robert says

    So do you think the HIIT of Crossfit raising your heart rate can have the same ill effects or is that somehow different than running? Thanks!

    • JasonS says

      Totally different than running because of duration. But of course that implies that your CrossFit is actually ran by good coaches and your metcons are kept to reasonable lengths.

  27. Erin says

    I’ve been running about 3 miles, 4-5 times per week for the last 5 years. I just figured that doing this would be a good way to stay in shape, so I kept doing it even though my body composition didn’t change the whole time, I have gained weight over time, and I looked and felt worse as the days went by. However once I eliminated grains, sugars, and starches from my diet, and switched to mostly walking those 3 miles, with some sprints and floor exercises mixed in, I feel like I have done a complete 180 in my fitness level. I don’t have any measurements or empirical data, I am just on a journey to find the healthiest way to live, and see the results in the way my clothes fit, the way I feel about myself, and how “healthy” I feel. I don’t really feel like doing the serious research so I read up on what people like Sarah, Mark Sisson, etc. have to say about these subjects, and everything I’ve integrated has worked!! Thanks so much for your work! :)

    • JasonS says

      Nice work, Erin. It’s really not that difficult. Read the research or find a pro that you trust to interpret it for you, apply the basic framework to your life, and then experiment to see what works for you. Keep an eye on how you look/feel/perform and get on with your life.

  28. Brooke says

    Good Morning!
    Great articles BUT I think your title is very misleading. I totally understand what you mean by cardio in the sense of cardio alone or distance cardio but to say that friends don’t let friends do cardio is misleading. Almost every crossfit workout is a cardio workout!
    I think for people that stumble upon this you would be better off clarifying and saying distance cardio or cardio for a period of time versus sprinting.
    For someone who has done several half marathon’s and ran track and played sports in college I can definitely get behind you when you say cardio for distance like that will absolutely wreck your body. I’m 29 and now can barely run 3 miles without my joints screaming at me!
    But I also have to say that once I started doing crossfit, I realized how out of shape I was in a cardiovascular sense despite all those miles. I was always out of breath when doing our WOD’s and for those gyms that do a lot of metcon… that’s almost all cardiovascular.
    Now I know we are talking about the same thing but I think for people that don’t participate in cross fit or are new to this paleo life style it might be confusing to say stop doing cardio.
    I also know that my husband who is a huge endurance athlete (biking, running 100 milers, and also level 1 certified and endurance certified) those distances actually make him better at crossfit, but he has to keep up both.
    When he runs those distances and does crossfit his body and over all health is much better than when he just does cross fit and paleo alone. I can this with 100 percent conviction because their whole seal team has had human studies preformed on them and everything from vo2 max, blood levels, muscle endurance and body fat percentage are all better when he does “cardio” as you say.
    I think your article is a good article but I also think that everyone is so different that you can’t quite make a blanket statement that no one should be doing “cardio”.

    • JasonS says

      I have to stick to my guns on this one. Anecdotal cases aside, I have yet to lay my hands on an actual scientific study that shows cardio as more beneficial than the sprinting/lifting/HIIT type of protocols that most of us paleo geeks recommend, at least not when considering overall health.

      As for body fat, I found this study on http://www.gnolls.org:
      http://publications.ki.se/jspui/handle/10616/39168

      J. Stanton’s quote of the study:
      “…The nine subjects were elite ultra-endurance performance athletes, all men. They had an impressive exercise background with 3-9 years of regular extreme endurance exercise and recent merits from national and international championships. … The group had a body fat content of an average 16.9% (range 10.8-26.1) of body weight, which is typical for males of their age.”

      And his commentary:
      So much for the hypothesis that exercise, by itself, is enough to lose fat. If international ultra-endurance champions still carry a “typical” load of 17% bodyfat, how can the rest of us hope to attain the physique we’d like?

      To your other point, CrossFit can absolutely be cardiovascular and cardio-resperatory training, but I’ve never heard anyone call it “cardio”, or confuse any other type of training with “cardio” for that matter. The mainstream public defines cardio as toiling away like a hamster in a wheel and I’m just trying not to be confusing by getting too technical. Point well taken, though.

      • AnonyM says

        You continue to use examples of extreme endurance cardio to “prove” that cardio is bad, ignoring any possibility that there may be some middle ground that is beneficial.

        We can also ask the question, where are the studies that show sprinting/lifting/HIIT type of protocols are better than *ALL* cardio protocols for overall health? As far as I am aware, these studies also do not exist. You can’t have it one way but not the other.

        BTW, I’m not saying that sprinting/lifting/HIIT are bad, in fact I agree that they are very good. What I am disagreeing with is your conclusions that ALL cardio is bad. That conclusion can not be made based on the available scientific data.

  29. Damon says

    If this was a Wiki article you be asked to provide supporting facts, or at least to clarify some of your generalizations:

    “The question becomes, where is the stimulus in nature to engage in this activity?”

    Actually, where is the stimulus in nature to do what you propose? It simply doesn’t exist unless you live in a tribal setting in the jungles of South America or other similar setting.

    “It’s funny that in the minds of most Americans you aren’t truly fit until you have attained the useless ability to run 26.2 miles.”

    Please provide the survey you are quoting from. I have never heard this before in my life, and I have run marathons.

    “Oddly, the vast majority of runners are not competitive and run because they believe that what they are doing is beneficial to their health…”

    Vast majority? Every runner I personally know runs because they love to run. Some may believe it aids in keeping them fit. I only know that they LOVE to run. Same thing with cycling. Every cycler I ride with rides because they LOVE to ride, not because they’re concerned about fitting into a smaller size of jeans.

    • danielle g says

      Yes Damon, I have to agree with you there. I know when I don’t run regularly my body starts to shrink and yes, I get skinny, but I don’t feel as good and just like how I feel when I do run. I love running and how it feels, and the extra couple of pounds makes me feel healthy and strong. I’m not trying to damage my body and rest if I feel sore, but I feel like this combined with a healthy Paleo diet (I have been following Paleo for Athletes) I can have my running and feel good, too.
      We’re all on our own journeys, and change is inevitable. I might love running now, then find something else later. I don’t like the idea that people should “hate” cardio if they like it, but I suppose it’s great for the people that don’t.
      What I don’t get is how people who loved something like cycling or distance running at one time in their lives can change, then turn around and speak so negatively about it. Didn’t you love it at one point? While you were doing those things would you appreciate people telling you it was all just a horrible idea if you enjoyed it? If you hated it, well good thing you sstopped but most people I know who train for races or just engage in whatever thing they do does it because they LOVE it. It’s great to change our minds, but please have a little compassion for those that are still on their own journey. The title of this blog definitely attracts some attention, and I really love Sara and this site but this blog was a little disturbing.
      Nevertheless, I think common sense and an open mind are good things and that’s what I’m taking from this. I still have plenty to learn.
      Cheers

      • JasonS says

        I think the people who have quit running and now speak so negatively about it are the people that got into it because they thought it would improve their health and fitness and then realized there are more productive avenues. I also think they have earned their opinions because they have tried it both ways. If you have tried a training regimen of heavy lifting, high intensity interval training, and sprinting and you can still say you got better results in your overall health and fitness as a distance runner, then I absolutely have no qualms with that. Otherwise there really isn’t anything to discuss. If someone doesn’t want to test these things out, then this post clearly isn’t for them. Their mind is made up.

  30. Natalie says

    Jason – have you heard this Ted Talk about long distance running? He makes some interesting cases, that speak to REALLY long distance running, much longer than sprints. It speaks directly to your question about what in nature WOULD cause us to run very long distances. I think it’s worth a watch.

    Christopher McDougall: Are We Born To Run
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-iGZPtWXzE

    • Jason says

      Yes, I have seen it. I have also read the book “Born to Run”. There are some compelling points made. Unfortunately, I have to side with the studies.

  31. says

    I am with Rachel – and with Stacey, and Damon simply hit the nail in the head. I might be looking leanest now that I am off-season of my running (ultrarunning at that) and doing loads of weight training (although I do “cardio” as well per every definition, just not as much as usually), I happen to LOVE running! I guess the question is – why are you (anybody) doing it (in terms of staying fit)? Just for the sake of looking good, fitting into clothes, ridding of diseases (all good goals in their own right)? How about a passion? Can anything last if it is for the goal that is outside the heart? I mean, I always lifted weights, but simply as a supplement to run better – and now that I picked a goal to compete in a show, I can’t wait for it to be over. I’ll keep doing it after that as well, but I will certainly stick long term with what my soul desires, and it is not a number (keep in mind, my numbers are pretty strict to begin with).

  32. Xen says

    I’m curious what this view point thinks about long distance running as described in the book “Born to Run.” In it the author talks about a tribe that is still largely an actual tribe (non-civilized), and how running 50 miles to them is nothing at all. Even their elder members have no problem running long distances. The author also talks about an individual that spent time in Africa with a few members of a tribe, and how in one instance in particular they spent hours running, chasing a prey animal. The purpose was for it to exhaust itself due to the humans constantly chasing it without rest. This example ended up supporting a previous hypothesis that suggested that humans are such great endurance runners because it was an evolved trait that aided in hunting. I’ve also heard that sometimes human hunters/scavangers would (possibly) have to jog for hours at a time looking for prey. These tribal examples seem to go against what you’re saying in this article, that endurance running (what humans are considered to be great at) is actually unhealthy. I’m curious how these two view points fit. Obviously tribal people didn’t do cardio to burn fat. Cardio being a great fat burner is at least somewhat myth, no argument there. But unhealthy? Seems like others are just as curious about these two seemingly contradictory views.

    • JasonS says

      It’s simple,
      1) a couple of tribes do not a study make.
      2) we have no comparison data from these people if they did not run.
      3) because we can train ourselves to do something does not mean we were designed to do it or we would see selective pressure in nature to develop 1000 lb back squats.
      4) the actual clinical trials (like the ones I linked) show damage incurred by running, which negates all anecdotal situations for those of us who think in terms of scientific proof.

  33. JasonS says

    Like I have said throughout this post and comments, if you love running you should run. My point, a point made soundly by the studies I have referenced, is simply that running is not something that anyone should be doing if they expect better health and weight loss. So keep your passions. I’m only asking that you don’t deny good science and argue that something is automatically beneficial because you enjoy it or because it “works for you” when you have never taken a scientific approach and trained without it to really see what’s going on. In my entire career I have never converted a runner to a more evolutionarily sounds method of training without them achieving dramatic improvements in their fitness after the running was removed. Absolutely anyone and everyone has the right to disagree with me, but my experiences, as well as the experiences of more than a few of the top selling names in fitness today, will not change. The bottom line: we are working with multiple clients, before and after running. We are not basing our opinions on our love or hate for running or on the group of runners we run with every weekend who have always been runners. There is also no benefit to us in telling you that cardio is bad if cardio is not bad. The anti-cardio cartel will not be writing me a check for this post. If you love running, you are going to get up tomorrow, put your shoes on, and go run. So be it. But if my post converts someone, based on the science I have referenced here, to a state of mind in which they realize that they do not need cardio, there will be no penalty to you as a runner. I am not using deception to build a bigger team of non-runners so we can beat you runners at flag football. I am simply stating a perspective that is backed by actual scientific studies that says cardio, while fun as hell for many people, is not the fast track to health and fitness and is likely harmful on some level as demonstrated in the above studies.

  34. Stacey says

    I have not tried Paleo yet, but it I know someone that has have much success with it over the last several months. What I know at this point is that I have gained 40 pounds in the last two years (I am 46 years old and at about 44 I seemed to lose control), I have what seems to be chonic inflammation in my body and nearly everything I eat makes me bloated. I have had tests for Celiac, they found chronic inflammation in my stomach lining (gastritis) but no signs of Celiac in the intestinal track. I even had a colonoscopy early to see if there was a problem there. I am ready to give this Paleo thing a go. I have read through about 3/4 of these posts. I plan to buy a book and give it a read. One of the things I DO agree with here is that running is fun, but I realized a few years ago that it is NOT good for my body. In fact, it seems that when I really started getting serious about running, that’s when all my pain problems started. I am so happy to read here that THAT’s OK to not have to run!! Thanks for all of the inspiration here!

  35. says

    I don’t think it’s so cut and dry. The study did not look at the runner’s diets. Maybe they were eating nothing but that sugary glucose packet crap and it was causing the heart disease. To say flat out that cardio is bad and runners are stupid is just as closed minded as other people treat paleo eaters.

    • AnonyM says

      Ding ding! We have a winner….

      See my reply to Jason previously. There is so much unknown about those studies that making the sweeping conclusion that “cardio is bad” is laughable.

    • JasonS says

      Why would they look at the runners’ diets in a study about whether or not running is bad for you? The scientific method says add or remove ONE thing and look at the results for the study group in comparison to the control group. Improving their diets would only tell you how much paleo can help you get away with running more than you should be. For that question, see the link in the post by danielle g below. Yes, endurance athletes can be successful on a paleo diet.

      • AnonyM says

        Why? Because we know because of various scientific studies that diet can have a huge effect on health outcomes. Ignoring diet in any health study is just plain ignorant and is in fact unscientific, as science has already shown us that diet is very important.

        Improving their diets would only tell you how much paleo can help you get away with running more than you should be.

        You have assumed that running on a “paleo type diet” is harmful, without scientific evidence of such and “more than you should be” has not been quantified.

        A more correct conclusion from the study is to say that people would be better off to never run marathons, rather than to conclude that all “endurance” running is “bad”.

  36. Bebe says

    I confess, I lie to my friends and say that I run 5 miles 3 or 4 times a week. I HAVE to get outside because I spend so much time cooped up with my research (I’m a grad student) but what I actually do is walk 5 miles 3 or 4 times a week with brief spurts of running as fast as I can. If I try to run the whole way, it makes me crabby and it’s just not fun anymore. Walking, and running the fun parts (scrambling up a hill, dodging tree roots a top speed down a hill) makes me happy. So, if I understand what you’re saying here, I’m actually doing this the right way and can quit feeling guilty about pretending to run?

    • Stacey says

      I love this post!! I do the same thing….walk, sprint, walk sprint….(then lie to the runners) :) it feels better! But the die hard runners think I’m just a big wimp! I feel good knowing that what I am doing sounds like the right thing for me. :)

  37. says

    I am on a time crunch and want to lose as much weight as I can. My BIG goal is to lose 60 lbs. I’d like to lose as much of that as possible in the next 30 days. What is a realistic goal–and what do I need to do to achieve that? Thanks for this info–it changes my perspective on SO many things!

    • JasonS says

      In our 4 week On-Ramp program in my gym we have seen as much as 22 lbs of fat lost. Clients train 3 days per week learning new movements and then completing short high intensity interval training workouts that are always less than 10 minutes. The only thing we usually ask them to change in their eating habits in that first 4 weeks is to give up grains, although they are required to attend a nutrition class and some of them end up on full paleo by the end. 10 lbs of fat loss is pretty common. We try to keep people off the scale, but it takes them a while to get their head around that concept, which is the only reason we know how much they lost.

      I would highly recommend that you aim for health rather than a fat loss goal, and you definitely should reconsider putting time constraints on your fat loss. Fast fat loss often tends to be temporary fat loss. Remember, get healthy and you will look great. Trying to look great without concern for improved health will probably leave you frustrated.

  38. ACope says

    So is CrossFit good or bad? I thought I read somewhere in all this info that it was good but then read the opposite later on. Help! What about something like P90x at home if there isn’t an option or funding for a gym? Thanks for the help!

    • Jaime says

      I think I can answer this for you, having listened to every single podcast they’ve put out and having read most of The Paleo Coach.

      CrossFit can be good or bad. Depends on the gym/trainers/etc. If metcons (metabolic conditioning workouts) are kept short (usually < 10mins) and intense, it is a good thing. 30-40 minute WODs done several days a week is a recipe for disaster.

      Having done 2 bouts of P90X (one sprinkled with "Insanity" DVDs on non-weightlifting days), I can say that it's probably too much. It is (relatively) high intensity done for at least an hour 6 days a week. Your cortisol levels and your free time will thank you if you forego P90X and try the methods mentioned in this article.

  39. Faye says

    YAY! Thank you so much for posting this! What a relief! I used to run (sometimes) off and on for years thanks to the Army. Unfortunately I ended up having a hip injury at 19 due to running. Not kidding. At 27 I’ve been in the best shape ever after having a child and working with a trainer who introduced me to the Paleo lifestyle. Also his workout routines were crossfit style but mixed with a lot of different things as well. usually we never worked out for more then 45 minutes (depending how well I was doing sometimes it would be cut down to 20-30 minutes). Also, I’ve been able to have more flexibility in my hip working with him for the past 3-4 months. I started at 173lbs at 33.1% body fat June 1, 2011 and as of Sept 1, I am 158lbs at 23% body fat. Due to not overdoing on the cardio or at all. Mostly walking on my own time with lots of different inclines outside. I live in Seattle so not exactly hard to find/do. :) Plus, I only workout aka go to the gym 3 days a week. It’s refreshing to see an article where you don’t need to spend 2+ hours a day 5-6 days a week at a gym. You don’t need to if you’re eating right. Thank you very much for this article and I am grateful for all your refreshing and amazing recipes you post on your site! :)

  40. Dave says

    I can’t disagree with anything you said. In fact, you bring up a great point about running long distance not being consistent with real life, in nature, scenarios. So couldn’t you say the same thing about full range of motion exercises? What ‘natural’ everyday events current day or in ‘paleo’ days did man ever need to do a squat all the way down or dead lifts or 30 pull-ups or a burpee or even a push up?

    What I’m getting at, is if one wants to build muscle and most importantly avoid injuries in the short term and long term, all they need to do is load heavy weights to stress the muscles enough in the strongest range of motion. There is no need to do full-range of motions. For more information, look into Pete Sisco’s, Static Contraction training at http://www.precisiontraining.com/

    But, as you said, and I completely agree with as well, if one enjoys running long distance, go for it. If you like cross fit, do it. If you like yoga, pilates, lifting heavy weights, jazzercise, do that too.

    However, honestly and it’s ok if you severely disagree with me here, but I get tired of everyone touting that cross-fit is the end all methods of workouts. That’s great if you love it and drink the kool-aid but stop trying to get us non-crossfitters to join.

    • Nicole says

      Hey Dave, have to pick up a heavy box? Or in paleo times, climb a tree/mountain/whatever? Squat to go to the bathroom? Full range of motion exercises have a lot of use, back then and today. Just because you don’t want to do it, don’t knock the validity of it. Go work you leg muscles and leave the real training to the rest of us.

  41. Nan says

    I guess I am a little confused by this post. I’ve read Sarah’s book and Robb’s book and it seems like you do prescribe ‘cardio’ but just not in the sense of the word understood by most Americans. In my mind, walking is cardio and so are short sprints. Just so I understand, do you simply mean that we need to do ‘interval’ cardio instead of long, sustained cardio? Thanks so much for the clarification! I really want to do things right as I’m still starting my Paleo journey.

  42. Steve says

    Good post. I do think there are a couple inherent evolutionary and anthropological things that stand in the way of making this a hard and fast truth. There is ample ethnographic information that supports occasional running by hunter gatherer groups. If we think of this in term of hunting and pursuit it makes sense that the occasional hunt (especially in the interest of cornering herds) would require long distant running. We are talking about people who are simply capable of doing these activities. It is easy to get an occasional needed activity confused with a regimentation, but in the wild we hardly ever talk about rigid regimentation. I can’t disagree that sprinting and range of motion makes more sense and probably replicates that day to day of the paleolithic much better than just running 5k everyday (although it does work for the tarahumara). However, there is some room for the occasional run (especially in the woods!) in a feral life.

    • says

      I agree that the presentation of the above information is pretty misleading in its presentation as inarguable fact. Actually, from an evolutionary standpoint we likely owe part of our success as a species to our ability to run for long distances. Persistence hunting is posited to be one of the first methods by which humans were able to hunt large animals during the day. In fact, this method is still used in some areas of the world. And regardless of any opinion, it is agreed upon in the scientific community that the endurance running capability of humans is completely unique among related species. Such a specialization would be extremely unlikely if it did not provide an evolutionary advantage, regardless of what you think that advantage would be specifically. So, yes, you can be healthy without endurance training, but PLEASE do not spread inaccurate conjecture as fact.
      Also: “The evolution of marathon running : capabilities in humans.” Sports Med. 2007;37(4-5):288-90.
      “Walking, running and the evolution of short toes in humans.” J Exp Biol. 2009 Mar;212(Pt 5):713-21.

  43. Andrew says

    This is an unbelievably myopic and reductionist post. Aerboic activity is healthy for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with weightloss. The whole world does not have an eating disorder, despite the fact that the Paleo world does. Not everyone’s life or activity revovlves around weight-loss! I know its hard to believe, but its true. Let me point a few reasons why tens of millions of Americans enjoy “cardio”

    - Competition and the enjoyment of racing, competing, and beating a personal best.

    - Runner’s high/stress relief/positive emotional wellbeing (there are literally dozens of research articles on the anti-depressive and anxiolytic effects of aerobic exericse…. walking won’t do the trick, it has to be elevated hear-rate. I’m sure sprinting could compare)

    - Enjoyment of the sport! Yes, people actually ENJOY running and biking. I am one of them. If I had to do Crossfit every day for the rest of my life I would probably kill myself. Being outdoors, in the sun and jogging for 2 hours for me is fun. Ditto for a long all-day bike ride. I can’t think of a better use of time and I certainly would prefer it to just hitting the gym and doing an intense 30 minute crossfit type activity and sitting on my ass the rest of the day. Some of us will never be happy with that set-up..

    So, if your entire life revolves around weight-loss, I’m sure sprinting is a better use of your time. But if you enjoy endurance sports, enjoy competition, enjoy outdoor recreation in nature (trail running, mountain biking, etc.), there is little more dreary or boring that working out in the gym, no matter how intense it is.

    Personally, I’m not happy unless I’m out hitting the trails or on my bike at least a couple of times a week. No paleo and no crossfit (even though I do both) will ever have the effect that these outdoor endurance-based activities do.

    • Jones says

      Don’t just expose yourself to the opinions that you already hold that you want confirmed, folks. If you want science and logic behind why cardio is beneficial, read Spark by John Ratey.

    • says

      gyday mate;

      i agree…..endurance stuff is good on many levels…..but as long as you realize the benfits also have side effects both short term and long term that may not be enjoyable.

      no one gets through long term endurance activities without damage…but the same can be said of intense crossfitters…..almost any activity can become tricky …

      if you are more aware of the pro’s and con’s i reckon you will be able to cope with either….but i still cringe when i see overweight people smashing themselves with long distance slow jogging on hard ground…there is definetly a smarter way….

      i dont know one high level or elite athlete that does not overtrain and have the flu every winter…or a cold..or an injury….

      the body can do amazing long distance events..it does adapt..but thats also a evolutionary response..not a way to define your existance ..it just cant maintain extreme aerobic movements…

      but, do what you enjoy…regardless.

    • says

      She’s not attacking people who LIKE endurance activity, and choose that as their sport. She’s attacking the CW notion that this type of activity makes you healthier….it doesn’t. If one chooses long distance events as their sport, they have to understand the health repercussions – the same goes in any type of sport.

    • Jean says

      The title “Friends Don’t Let Friends….” is apt: because it evokes the drunk driving maxim. And runners/bikers are addicts. To the runners’ high. The cost is joint wear and tear and you WILL pay later, as I did. I meet so many 40-something marathoners with double hip replacements and double knee replacements. Compulsion is compulsion and obsessive behavior can never be considered mens sana en corpore sano.

      Find another way to lift your spirits. Sprinting does give a great deal of exhilaration without the repetitive stress and prolonged cortisol response (which HURTS heart and blood vessels, by the way, negating the “cardio” of cardio.) And who needs the carb cravings and cortisol belly?

  44. says

    Excellent post. As a cyclist I have to confront these issues all the time. Usually, I adapt my riding by using HIIT or hill repeats, and keeping it short. I also make sure to lift weights and walk or hike. Long high intensity miles is no where near as effective as training this way, and may in fact be counterproductive.

    The persistence hunting argument seems weak to me. Why run all day when you can scavenge or ambush hunt? There are much more calorically efficient hunting methods that would have produced selection pressure against persistence hunting.

    • Anon M says

      Have you ever tried scavenging or ambush hunting? Do you think a small band of humans could drive off lions, hyenas, etc. from a carcass? Ambush hunting only works where game is extremely plentiful. Anyone who has ever hunted game with a bow and arrow understands that waiting for game to come within archery range can take an excessive amount of time (i.e. days/weeks). Persistence hunting works because it is highly effective.

  45. Greg says

    All my scientific experience lies in a totally unrelated field, so I do not feel confident to judge on either the evolutionary nor health related theses regarding aerobic exercise. But after reading your post and some additional searching I found two opposing views on the topics and feel they might help to provide some perspective:

  46. Scott says

    Jason, good post.

    Dave, full range of motion movements are ubiquitous in everyday life today and in the Paleolithic age as Nicole pointed out. To add a few more examples: ever fall down and have to stand back up (try that without a full range of motion squat and sit-up), ever have to pick up anything off the ground like a box, child, bag of groceries, etc. (try that without a deadlift), ever put that box or bag on a shelf above your head (try that without a full range of motion shoulder press), ever have to climb a ladder, fence, wall, tree, mountain, etc. (try that without a full range of motion pull), etc., etc., etc. . . . . .

    Steve, although you tried to disagree in the first sentence of your post, the rest was pretty much in agreement with the article. Long distance running would be very “occasional”, i.e. rare in nature.

    Andrew, you too tried to disagree in the first sentence of your post, then pretty much all of the points you make agree with and repeat the article. To reduce your points bullet-by-bullet: (1) Both you and the article agree that “Cardio”, as defined by the article, is fine as a sport and for fun; (2) you introduce a red herring by talking about “aerobic exercise”, which is not the same as “Cardio” as defined by the article, and you further support the article by agreeing that sprinting is healthful; (3) again, you and the article both agree that long-slow distance “Cardio” is fine sport if its what you enjoy doing, and your incongruous introduction of CrossFit and indoor gym training into the discussion is a is a humorous straw man. When the author advocates walking and sprinting, what makes you think indoor gym and CrossFit training is relevant to the discussion? Since you only offered points that you agreed with and no (relevant) points that you disagree with, I assume that makes you “unbelievably myopic and reductionist” as well? If you want to try to disagree, at least stay on topic and try to avoid non-seqiturs and logical fallacies.

    Greg, don’t let Andrew throw you off track with his “aerobic exercise” red herring. The article is specifically talking about long-slow distance “Cardio”, not all aerobic exercise. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see the opposing points of view you mention (looks like you forgot to or were unable to post the links to your sources).

  47. Jordan says

    I love this. I rarely post, but read your blog regularly. I have always been a long distance runner, but since I started eating Paleo I stopped (except for sprints). I haven’t missed it one bit! I did it to keep in shape, but was ALWAYS hungry. I lifted and wanted to get toned, but never saw much change at all. I’m not sure why I stuck with it for so many years. Perhaps, trying to be hopeful of ONE day seeing the transformation. Anyway, since I started eating Paleo and stopped the long distance running, I lost fat and SOON started seeing shape/tone to my arms and muscles on my abs! I have three children (youngest at 12 months) and this has been the best shape I have been all my life!!! The reason I am responding today is because of a comment I received from another women. She said, “Wow, three kids and you look like you are in great shape! Are you a runner?” In all my YEARS of running, I was never asked if I was a runner and/or that I looked in great shape. I responded, “No, I’m not a runner, but I do lift weights!” I was so happy and immediately was reminded of this post. I can’t agree enough about cortisol…I never got rid of the excess fat around my tummy (I was always slender, but I would have described myself as being skinny fat) and was always hungry. It was frustrating to be hungry because I wanted to lose the excess fat, but was just replacing the burned calories or more back into my body. I was in a vicious cycle. So thank you all you Paleo bloggers out there that have made the transition not only for me, but my entire family so easy!!!! I look strong, but even better I FEEL strong and healthy!!!

  48. says

    Hmmmm…..no cardio, huh? Did you know a well-conditioned person can run 200 miles, rest a day, and run 200 miles back the other way. This would kill a horse. There must be some reason we can do this, don’t you think? I would guess you just don’t have enough information. The Kenyans, who are the greatest money racers today, run up to 12 miles to school as kids, and then back again. An American track coach said the best thing we could do to even the playing field would be to buy them buses. The Tarahumara, also famed runners, typically run miles to several different fields, work the fields, and then run home again. Apache men, women, and children outran the American cavalry for 30 years over rough terrain in order to survive. What is my point? Although I have run 4 marathons and dozens of road races, not to mention hours and hours jogging in the mountains and deserts here, I agree. I don’t think it is necessary. I did it because it was fun. I don’t run any more. Now I’m doing weights. I think it is fun. So a person needs to do what is fun, as well as addressing his or her fitness needs. To state cardio is “wrong” or not “evolutionarily sound” is incorrect. We are amazing long-distance creatures when necessary although, as you noted, not very fast.

    • JasonS says

      Did you know a well conditioned person can Back Squat 1000 lbs? Completely natural for the human animal or a trained state?

    • says

      …….what person has done this?????

      tell me…..who has run 200 miles one day..then rested one day..then run back another 200 miles????

      please tell me……

      are you really serious mate?

      why do you post comments like this??

      they are non sensical…..

    • Amy says

      A well conditioned horse can run that far as well. The key is “well conditioned”–in both horses and people. Please look up endurance riding. But I digress…

  49. Mitch says

    Hi Sarah,

    I hated this post. There are so many maddening statements and irritating demonstrations of your obvious bias towards Crossfit (due to your own background) that I refuse to link to it. I found it very disappointing, and very negative, regardless of it’s accuracy.

    Studies showing increased heart damage risk don’t really relate to your cortisol discussion, your “evolutionary” argument is very poorly thought out (Tigers? Really?) (and I think Matt LaLonde has convinced Robb Wolf that this is a stupid argument, why not you?)

    By the way, here’s a quote from your linked articles which does nothing to support your argument: “IIRC cortisol levels go up during long hard runs, and blood glucose levels are also likely to be higher than ideal throughout due to the Cori cycle/gluconeogensis/constant Gatorade intake…these are just the first two culprits off the top of my mostly-uninformed head. ”

    i.e. your expert isn’t supporting your statements.

    That being said, I’m not disagreeing with you, entirely. I just think your article is lame considering your target audience is *people who run*.

    • Sarah says

      I don’t even have a target audience, not sure where you got that statement of *people who run* as my target audience. I’m simply hoping to share information with folks. Jason Seib actually wrote this article which I was happy to post. Do we all have to agree, no, but making assumptions and being mean is not who I am or what I want to even be a part of. My feelings were hurt reading your comment and it’s my deepest wish that we could all communicate a bit nicer with one another. I have no agenda but to try to help people become healthier. I’m sorry if you didn’t like this article, we can all have our own opinions and I’m fine with that by I’m sad by all the mean spiritedness in a lot of these comments. I have not yet chimed in but reading your comment was kind of the last straw and well, I’m just sad, is all… I am not affiliated with Crossfit, nor do I coach Crossfit. I was certified in Crossfit but I don’t even train in the true Crossfit fashion, if you want to call it that. Again, sad sad sad but the nature of the comments around here lately. Thanks for chiming in but please, let’s all play nice.

      • Elizabeth says

        Sarah, I’m sorry that people said ugly things in this discussion. I have throughly enjoyed exploring this website and finding all sorts of paleo recipes…they have really been helpful. To be honest this is my second round doing paleo…I did it once and did not really know what to cook and kind of gave up, but after I bought your cook book, it has made being on paleo sssooooo very easy. I am back in the game! Thanks for that!

        On to the cardio vs. weights issue….

        I found all different points of view interesting. I actually incorporate both cardio and weights into my weekly workouts. I did my first triathlon several years ago and only did cardio when i trained. I was in college at the time and worked a part time job for a lady who did crossfit all the time and told me to give it a shot. I did. I found that on some days the workouts would take me about 45 mins and on others they would only take me about 10mins which i never thought was long enough to workout because i was so used to doing an hour and a half of cardio. So i still continued to do cardio but only did about 30mins at a time after my crossfit workouts (most of the time i ran but sometimes i would swim). I spontaneously just signed up to do another triathlon and when i did it, i dropped a good bit of time from my first triathlon and they were only a few months apart.

        So what i am trying to say in conclusion is that I feel that I benefit from both cardio and weights. Doing crossfit made me so much stronger and it gave me that extra boost to get through the race. I also found that the crossfit workouts do still incorporate a lot of cardio, but yes it is in small intervals…burpees is a great form of cardio and so is jump roping. They both make me happy. I never really lifted before and i have grown to really love it and see the benefits it has on my performance. My cardio has gotten better and I am doing less of it. I find one of the most beneficial things is doing a quick treadmill workout where i will run at a pretty fast pace for about 10 minutes and then for another 5 mins I will increase the slope significantly and then run at full speed on the slop for 20 secs and then hop to the side and rest for 10 secs and repeat that until the clock stops. I have found that that has really helped with my cardio…..A LOT.

        I have not done any scientific research to really get to the root of what is better for my body healthwise but i enjoy doing both and it works for me and i am going to continue doing both!

  50. Eliz says

    Hi Sarah and Jason – Thanks for this article and the info. I was whole foods for about a year, and shifted to a paleo diet about 5 months ago. I love your book, Sarah, and am trying to get my husband of 1 year and 6 total kids on board (my 4 kids are taking it better than his 2)!

    My question is about working out with an old injury. I am 46 years old, 5’5, 112 lbs with about 16% body fat. I do not want to lose weight and don’t do much cardio except brief treadmill hill walking for warmup. I am pretty muscular in my upper body and abs, but I have a reconstructed knee with severe arthritis, tracking problems, etc. So my lower body is thin but very lacking in tone. Have been in and out of PT for many years and try to keep my quads strong and hamstrings stretched. So here is my question: If a client came to you in the gym asking for a satisfying and effective lower body workout but could NOT do squats, lunges, box jumps, sprints, what would you suggest to help tone those thighs and get strong in my lower body? I know the stronger I get the easier it is on my knee, but isometrics and straight leg lifts are not cutting it! I’ve tried a personal trainer who suggests modified squats, and I’ve even gone to a cross-fit like gym in the area but they wouldn’t train me. You may not have any additional suggestions, but I figured it was worth the post! Thanks!

  51. Mark says

    Look at our grandparents generation. Most of them were thin, and they weren’t doing cardio, that’s for sure. They ate healthier and walked more often, and that is why they were skinny. Plus, they were eating real food, and not this gmo infested garbage we call food today.

    We have an “all or nothing” attitude when it comes to exercise these days. We are constantly being told by the media that we must perform hours of cardio a week to achieve weight loss and keep our heart healthy. Recreational running didn’t become popular until the 70′s and 80′s. After that, running injuries were occurring all over the place. After several failed attempts at running — due to knee injuries — I decided to walk 5 miles a day, life weights 3 days a week, and change my diet. It not only made me lose weight, but it has also helped to keep the weight from returning.

    5 miles might be too time consuming for busy people, and I completely understand. Instead, try just 2 or 3 miles. Save the 5 mile walks for your days off. You would be surprised at how much of a difference it will make when combined with a healthy diet.

    Finally, do not diet or count calories. Dieting rarely works. If you are hungry, eat. Your body knows when it needs fuel. I never allow myself to go hungry for the sake of losing weight. It is key to alter your diet with foods that burn slowly, leaving you full for longer periods of time. My diet consists of, but not limited to, brown rice, whole wheat breads and pastas, sardines, oatmeal, bran cereal, skim milk, frozen vegetables, dry beans, tuna and olive oil. All of those foods are cheap and healthy. I eat until I am full. Your digestive system will also thank you.

    • Bob Z. says

      I would agree that previous generations burned more calories based on their lifestyles and did not have access to the horrendous “junk” foods that today’s society does. So, as my previous post outlines, they were picking up better caloric expenditure through lifestyle activity, hence, more calories burned.

      I would strongly, strongly disagree on not counting calories and planning out your diet in detail if you are trying to lose weight. It comes back to Calories In/Calories Out. So, you can not violate that science. You have to take in less then you burn to lose weight. So, you must calculate the amount of calories you are taking in from food, and how many you are burning up daily. Once you do it for awhile, you will be very good at knowing the calorie values of just about everything you normally eat and parceling out the right amount. But to shoot from the hip, you can end up amazed at how many calories you are really taking in until you know exactly what the portion sizes look like when weighed or parceled out. Being over your maintenance level at all, even by 100 calories, and you will not be losing weight. That can put a person in a very frustrating place as they are eating far less then they normally do, but weight is not being lost because they just don’t have the numbers quantified. You can not manage what you can not measure.

      I know this first hand from being able to reach 5% body fat levels, REAL 5% levels for physique contests, tested accurately via multiple site caliper testing via trained pros. So, be sure to know your calories in and your calories out, no guessing.

      Thanks,
      Bob Z.
      P.S. Please contact me if anyone would like more help.

  52. Andy says

    Lots of comments, love the passion. I think the thing a lot of people overlook is “moderation” in all activities to avoid repetitive use injuries and maintain optimal health. Runners run too much, CrossFitters do other stuff too much! The bottom line is that results are the definitive proof, stray from results into passion and opinion and you just lost the argument. I have not seen an endurance enthusiast that under any definition of health is better off than me. I do functional fitness training about 4 times a week, which includes a small amount of running/sprinting as well as lifting and gymnastic movements. People defending running are 99% of the time also people that have dedicated a good portion of their life to it and used it to shed some weight. It is hard to accept the idea that after all this time it might not be good in volume. Running is their drug, it gives them the adrenal high and makes them feel healthy because of the social acceptance. It also means they can eat crap and the run it off, right? Oh yeah, most still don’t want to take their shirt off in public :)

  53. says

    Hey Sarah,
    Thanks for all the info you post and for inspiring me to eat and live better. I’ve been checking your blog now for about 8 months, and though we are not totally paleo, we embrace the ‘fundamentals’ and strive to be ‘more paleo’ if that makes sense.

    Really just wanted to post to say thank you for sharing and sending a virtual hug, since it seemed to be an appropriate time… we all need one now and again!

  54. britt says

    AGREED! So true. I love when I run across people who are telling it like it is. American culture hasn’t the slightest clue about health and fitness. They think they should eat less and jog. No wonder so many are fat.

  55. shauna says

    Most people who run do it because they like it… and for the runner’s high. As far as the stress thing, people like a little bit of fear and stress every once in a while. It’s why roller coasters and scary movies are popular. Duh. If you wanna say we don’t need to run, sure, but if someone likes running, why stop them? I’ve never known a fat runner.

    You don’t mention any possible effects on heart health here though…

  56. says

    Running marathons is healthy for you! Most people run to hard. According to a long term study of runner and reported by Jeff Galloway (look him up and you’ll see his credibility) he is in his 60′s and has the knees of a 19 year old. He’s been running his entry life.

    I’ve participated in endurance sports for the last 6 years, finishing 8 Ironman triathlons. In my observation (I agree my universe may be limited) at age 55 I’m WAY more healthy than 99.9% of those I see.

    The key I think is to go at a true aerobic pace. Most people only think that their aerobic workouts are aerobic when in fact they are anaerobic. I use a heart rate monitor in all my workouts (except swimming) to insure my workouts are aerobic.

    Keep up the good work and God bless you!

  57. Ricky says

    I would say train the way you want to look. If you want to look skinny and a little malnourished, train like a marathoner.

    If you want low body fat but great muscle tone, train like a sprinter.

    • says

      Absolutely! Bradley Wiggins is a hero over here in the UK right now, having won the Tour de France and then, a couple of weeks later, an Olympic gold. And every time I see him cycling I am struck by how skinny his forearms are – I mean, really skinny. Nothing wrong with that, and if he’s living a fulfilling life by riding that’s great – it’s his life, his choices, his personal take on happiness. But it probably isn’t actually good for his later health and longevity, so if you want to live long and have general fitness, don’t copy him!

  58. Bob Z. says

    I think cardio training is necessary on just about any weight loss program and I have 26 years of experience training people of all demographic backgrounds as well as myself. In theory, yes, you can lose weight without cardio per se. The number one rule of thumb in weight loss is Calories In/Calories Out. You must be using more energy each day then you are taking in. If so, you will lose weight. The problem is that many dieters are simply not going to be able to reduce their caloric intake to a level that induces sustained, key word here being SUSTAINED, weight loss while ensuring all critical nutrients are being ingested daily. They are going to give up, feel absolutely terrible most of the time, increase their risk of many long term degenerative health problems, and potentially damage their overall metabolism in the process.

    If you were to average out various ages, sex, heights, weights and body fat percentages across the entire population, and were to come up with an average BMR, it may be around 2,000 calories per day. Keep in mind, everyone’s BMR is different however, but I will use this number as an example. So one would burn 2000 calories a day doing nothing over the 24 hour period.

    Next we would look at how many calories an average person burns from their normal daily activities. Again, I will use a population wide average of say 400 calories per day.

    So, using the above numbers, to lose weight, one would have to be eating less then 2400 calories a day. Believe me, the typical person is not going to be able to eat say 2000 calories a day consistently to begin with, let alone be able to make a perfect balance of food choices to get the proper daily nutrition, while only seeing about 1 pound of weight loss every two weeks in the aforementioned example. It is simply not realistic.

    So, the key is to add exercise to the equation, thereby giving you the increased caloric expenditure you need to come up with a more sensible, and just as importantly, more realistic way of eating to meet your weight loss goals and to have some psychological satisfaction as well as insurance you are not damaging your health long term. Adding cardio and weight training would be ideal. One may even add a few pounds of muscle as they reduce body fat which would also increase one’s BMR calculation, a second benefit on the caloric expenditure side, and a lasting one that allows more caloric expenditure on rest days.

    When you factor in the plethora of other health benefits to exercise, specifically cardiovascular exercise, personally, I think it is just foolish not to have an exercise regimen in your life that is tailored to you as a person. Sure, most people are not going to have to run 26 miles a week, but, a safe, well designed exercise program is a must for anybody.

    Thanks,
    Bob
    P.S. Please contact me if you would like further help.

  59. Linda says

    Wow. Who knew that a blog about cardio would bring out the worst in people! Well, I have my opinion as well and basically I think that everyone is sort of correct in their view. 15 years ago I was able to run about 7 miles a day, I ate a lot of sugar and carbs and I my weight was fine. I was the “cardio queen” and rarely lifted a weight because I was afraid of getting big. Yes.I was a walking 80′s workout cliche. Then I got a little older (I’m 46 now) and all the things that I was doing when I was younger didn’t work PLUS my ankles, knees and back were screaming at me. Now I am an 80/20 paleo girl who still indulges in fun food from time to time but I never job – but I do still do cardio but only 2 days a week along with weights – like P90X kind of weights twice a week and the bulk of my “work out” is long walks about 4 miles a day. I take a day off entirely. I am thinner now than ever and I am not eating a thousand times a day like I used to and I’m not in pain.

    It seems to me that you should do what works for you and makes you happy. I believe that this article was to help people that were trapped in their own insanity of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. She is offering an alternative and some will find success and some will not. We don’t need to beat each other up over it.

    Peace out…

  60. Katie says

    I would have to say, despite the argument of cardio..make sure you’re lifting your weights.
    I’ve seen my biggest results from hitting the weight rack.
    Cardio-wise..I say do what you love.
    I personally like sprinting, and the occasional 2 miler.
    As far as what is healthier..I’d have to side with Jason. I personally often ache too much to lift or do much else when I do chronic cardio (I used to be an avid runner).
    But you do what you love. Maybe switch up your five miler every now and again for some sprints. Or vice-versa. Just keep it interesting and fun!

  61. Jenn D says

    Ugh. I hate the implication that in order to be “really” fit, you have to “look” a certain way. Over the years I’ve lost 150 pounds, I am SUPER fit and SUPER healthy but my skin is messed up so I don’t necessary LOOK as fit and as healthy as I am because of loose skin and pockets of stubborn fat.

    Just because a person isn’t super lean and trim doesn’t mean they aren’t super healthy. Are we going for aesthetic here or actual health and fitness.

    With that being said, I hate chronic cardio and rock the weights and kettlebells.

  62. Kerri says

    You mentioned on Sat. How cardio wrecks the thyroid can you lead me to links or a summary of how that happens.
    Thanks

  63. says

    I LOVE this post! Thank you! I did chronic cardio for years and never saw any change in my weight or body composition–now have been eating a much higher fat Paleo diet and doing CrossFit only once or so/week and my muscle tone has majorly improved!

    Would love if you would add a graphic (with text) to this post so I could pin it on Pinterest and it could get passed around even more!!

  64. Kris says

    I found this article after I googled “Why am I not loosing weight while doing cardio”

    I am overweight..I have been doing low carb for about 2 months. I lost about 29 pounds in those 2 months..didn’t exercise at all, just cut out all the sugar, bread, junk….

    I decided that I wanted to run a 5k in October (for breast cancer) so I started with a program that one of my co-workers recommended…couch to 5k…seemed easy enough so I did it…2 weeks in..weight loss-none…inches lost- none!

    Thanks for this article..after “snooping” around on your sight my eyes were opened to a lot of things!!!
    Think I will take a week off from jogging and see what happens…
    Any other suggestions???

  65. Kati says

    Hi,
    I just read your lovely article on ditching cardio. I’m concerned about lifting heavy weights that take any engaging of the core, as I developed diastasis recti after carrying twin boys full term about three years ago ( 15 lbs and 7 oz of babies)! What type of movements would you recommend for someone in my position, if not long, low level movement slow jogs? I am planning on having it repaired in about a year, but need to drop abdominal fat first and maintain for awhile. I suspect that I am not your only reader in this situation. And I have my primal eating dialed in as well.
    Any advice would be much appreciated!!!
    Thank you

  66. says

    I liked this article there is only one problem with it. I’ve looked at the studies saying that cardio is bad for your heart. Both studies had really small sample rates 100 for one and 25 for another.

    Many other major studies have showed cardio greatly decreases CVD risk. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa021067

    but just assuming these studies are right and running marathons causes heart attacks lets look at the benefit’s vs cost of promoting cardio.
    .5% of americans run a marathon every year. That’s roughly 1.5 million people. and lets say 30% of them are more likely to have a heart attack. That’s 450,000 runners at increased risk. I think this would be an exaggeration, but this is just a thought experiment anyway.

    Now lets look at obese americans which make up 35.4% of the population that’s 111 million.
    Let’s say only half of them respond to exercise advice. (50 million) and of those half will do low intensity cardio like walking or running if you tell them to exercise. (25 million) Now lets say 2/3rds of this group will stop exercising if you tell them cardio will kill them. (16.6 million)

    In the first case you’ve promoted cardio and you’ve caused an increased risk of CVD for 450,000 people many of which would keep running for the other benefits of running despite your warnings. In the second case you’ve endangered 16.6 million people who will be less likely to exercise if you tell them cardio will kill them.

    I’m not saying cardio is the gold standard of health, but I think dissuading people from doing the most common and easily accessible form of exercise is at best misguided and at worse irresponsible.

  67. Natalia says

    Most gyms in my country are living proof of this post.

    You will see no women whatsoever (except from me, of course) lifting heavy. All of them: CARDIO or cardio classes. And all men in the gym, lifting heavy, ripped and getting nowhere near the treadmill (mostly because they are lazy and it’s boring). Of course men eat more than woman and so forth.

    So basically women here are doing all wrong… extreme diets + cardio. Way to go if you want your body into survival mode hanging to every bit of fat available and burning muscles for your cardio workout… SKINNYFATSOS =P

    I know better ;)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>