Let’s continue the conversations about cardio in today’s 5-minute read, so I can explain why heart-rate training is appropriate for everyone, regardless of your health and hotness goals.
This topic was suggested by my friend and Ninja Rebecca, who did our inaugural round of Snatched Project X 3 years and has been wearing her MyZone heart rate monitor ever since. Rebecca just took MFF’s new Heart & Swole class with me and reminded me that we could all use a few reminders about WHY heart rate training is beneficial and what to use it for.
Okay, let me address something big here:
Regardless of your training goals, cardiovascular fitness is important.
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 31% of deaths each year, or 17.9 million deaths per year, are from Cardiovascular Disease. Of those deaths, 85% are from heart attacks or strokes.
Regardless of your training goals, having a healthy heart and blood vessels is important for your health, wellness, quality of life, and ultimately survival. That means that if you’re trying to get shredded and have a 12 pack, if you’re trying to deadlift a school bus, if you want to be a world-class athlete, or if you’re exercising for your mental health – cardiovascular fitness matters.
I’d actually venture that cardiovascular fitness matters more than any other aesthetic or performance goals that you have because quite often our pursuit of those hotness goals means we forget to prioritize our health.
That might sound surprising for most of you in this community, but I say with love, that the fitness industry as a whole tends to operate with very black-and-white, reductionist thinking.
For example, the fitness generation that I was born into grew up thinking that the most beneficial use of cardiovascular exercise was fat loss. Hell, in school I learned about the “fat-burning zone” which is when your body preferentially burns fat at lower heart rate intensities. When marketers got their hands on this data, it turned in to “cardio for fat loss.”
Then with the rise of functional training and interval training, we learned that cardio is not the most effective form of fat loss. If fat loss is what you’re after, check out Alwyn Cosgrove’s Hierarchy of Fat Loss. It’s basically a road map to getting lean.
I’m 100% on board with Alwyn’s Hierarchy, and Mike’s focus on interval training for athletes, but I need to point out that too many people in the fitness industry have turned this scientific prioritization of nutrition and strength training into, “Don’t do cardio.”
I think that some of this is compounded by a misunderstanding of what legendary strength coach Mike Boyle talks about in his infamous Death of Aerobic Base Training video. Athletes who are practicing a sport 3-5 times per week, should have a de facto aerobic base upon which interval training builds fitness, but most sedentary people don’t have that fitness from which to start.
Yes, in the Hiearchy we start by addressing the quantity and quality of food that you’re eating, followed by strength training, and cardio comes lower on the priority list. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do cardio, it just means that cardio is not efficient for fat loss.
So, don’t do cardio for fat loss, but do cardio because you don’t want to have a heart attack or a stroke. Do cardio because you don’t want to die.
Does that sound too dramatic? I’m not saying that you’ll die if you don’t do cardio, but real talk: Regardless of any aesthetic goals that you have, I think it’s essential that everyone includes dedicated strength training and dedicated cardiovascular training in their exercise programs.
Another Ninja named Mike once sent me a picture on Instagram from a bodybuilder who was showing off their 12 pack and bragging about the fact that they don’t do any cardio. That person may look fit and get lots of likes on the internet, but I’m sure that their cardiologist would have some choice words about how they’ve designed their fitness plan.
Doing cardio isn’t for aesthetics like taking progress pictures, and it’s not for a performance like tracking progressive overload – it’s literally so that you don’t die young. It’s for survival.
As much as I love the nuances of exercise science, I’m a realist – basically doing ANYTHING is going to be beneficial for your overall health, but if you were looking for maximum efficiency, high-intensity interval training based on your body’s response to exercise is going to be the key.
- You can do something that’s low-intensity and unstructured, like walking your dog.
- It can also be something that’s low-intensity and structured, like practicing sports skills by yourself.
- Maybe it’s higher-intensity and unstructured, like playing the sport in a competitive setting.
- Perhaps it’s higher-intensity and structured, and that would be MFF’s Kickass Conditioning or Heart and Swole classes.
If you’re interested in tracking any type of exercise with a heart rate monitor, my recommendations are the Polar H10, Polar H7, and Wahoo TICKR X. In a nutshell, every single one of us can benefit from having dedicated cardiovascular exercise in our exercise programs. Not because it’ll help you look a certain way naked, but because it’ll help you live a healthier and happier life.
That’s it for this piece about the universal importance of cardiovascular training. I’m curious about what experiences you’ve had with cardio, so leave a comment and let me know.
As always, you can head over to Instagram and watch my #HGTV if you’d like to read these words. Cheers!