Five Cardio Myths Exposed

The FIRM Master Instructor Team by The FIRM Master Instructor Team | July 25th, 2012 | 8 Comments
topic: Fitness, Healthy Eating, Weight Loss

By The FIRM Master Instructor Annie Lee

Are you confused by all of the information out there about cardio fitness and how to do it so that you get the best results?

“Eat before your workout — No, don’t eat before your workout!”

“Running burns the most calories but walking burns more fat!”

“Work out for 30 minutes a day or don’t bother working out at all!”

It’s enough to put any girl off her workout routing. That’s why we’re getting to the truth behind some popular “cardio myths” — to help you sort out the fact from the fiction.

1. You only burn fat when you’re exercising in the “fat-burning zone.”

You’ve probably seen it on cardio equipment or heard people talking about working out in the “fat-burning zone.” Or you may have heard that you need to work out at a low to moderately low steady-state intensity to burn more fat. Physiologically that does hold some truth, but ultimately a pound of fat equals 3,500 calories, and when you exercise — at any intensity level — you burn calories.

Of course, the more calories you burn during your cardio workout, the more fat you’ll lose. To burn more calories, add interval training and up the intensity of your cardio workout. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that the most effective fat-burning cardio utilized interval training. The study showed that after two weeks, subjects increased their fat oxidation (burning of the fat) by 36 percent during the interval training exercise. It has also been shown that the post-workout benefits, fat oxidation and energy expenditure of interval training are significantly higher than with steady-state training.

2. The only way to increase or improve your cardiovascular fitness is through aerobic exercise such as running, walking or a step class.

This is not always true. Strength training can be just as aerobic when properly executed. We at The FIRM often use Peripheral Heart Action (PHA) sequencing (alternating upper- and lower-body sets with no rest in between) to make strength training more aerobic. Try doing 12 reps of these strength training exercises in a row without stopping: pushup, squat, overhead shoulder press, reverse lunge/dip and triceps kickback. You tell me if you’re not aerobically challenged!

3. You have to sweat a lot to get the most out of a cardio workout.

Have you noticed that the sweating rate is different from person to person? During or after a workout, some people look like they stepped out of a pool and then there are others who merely “glow.” Sweating during your cardio workout is really not indicative of how hard you are working. It is merely a mechanism that the body uses to cool itself. For example, during my warm-up I sweat like I just ran a marathon; that’s just the way that I am: a “sweat-er.”

4. If you don’t have 30 minutes to do cardio, then it’s not worth it.

I don’t know why people think that if they don’t have 30 minutes for cardio, they might as well not waste their time. Fortunately, any time you do any cardio or exercise you burn calories. Think of your exercise as accumulating throughout the day or even week. So even if you only have 10 minutes for cardio right now, you still have plenty of time. Because — guess what? — the next 10 minutes you do cardio and the next will accumulate into 30 minutes of burning calories! Not only that, but if you know that you only have a limited amount of time to do cardio, then you might even work out harder by upping the intensity, which would burn more calories. At the end of the day it is the net result of caloric expenditure that matters, so every minute counts.

5. To get the most benefit, do cardio on an empty stomach in a “fasted state.”

There are many different schools of thought on this one. Some believe that in order to “tap into the fat” (here we go again …) you have to do cardio on an empty stomach. Their theory is that if you do not have anything to burn from your previous meal, then it is easier for you to burn fat. Then there are others who say you need energy/fuel to do cardio, therefore you should eat before you work out. To put it simply, we are all different, and therefore our needs are different. It’s about listening to how your body feels. If you haven’t eaten anything for two hours before your scheduled cardio workout and you are starving, then you may want toy fuel up with a light snack. But then again, there are individuals who feel sick when they eat something prior to their workout. There is no concrete rule on this one, so stop and take a moment to think about how your body feels.

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  1. Good advice.

    Mary Prokop | August 10th, 2012 | Comment Permalink

    Anonymous | September 21st, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  3. Awesome blog. I always tell my clients that if you properly do strength training, it will have cardiovascular benefits, so we’re very much on the same page here. Funny enough, it doesn’t work in reverse. Doing aerobic exercise will not have strength benefits (and will actually make you weaker if you do it exclusively and/or excessively).

    Actually this article explains it pretty well:

    To take it a step further, if you do strength training through a full range of motion, it will have flexibility benefits. But the reverse isn’t true. Doing flexibility exercise will not give you strength benefits.

    Once again, kudos to you on a very good post.

    Igor | November 4th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  4. Very nice article. Although this 5 “myths” have their benefits too. People you need to try everything and get some diversity in your training. There isn’t only one thing that will get you results. There is no golden rule. You have to mix them all and find a formula for yourself.

    gymtherightway | November 5th, 2012 | Comment Permalink
  5. I’ve found an exercise that combines some of both, rowing. I get the aerobic exercise overall but the technique involves both legs and arms to do the movement. So it’s like lifting weights…

    AH | March 1st, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  6. thanks cardio i love it.

    linda | May 11th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  7. That’s something good to know, I remember that I read HIIT is about 9 times more effective than traditional cardio; the part I like the most of HIIT is that it can be done in a lot of ways, mixing exercises in circuits, mixing periods of running as fast as we can with periods we walk, playing a sport such as soccer, voleyball, etc. And it can be done in little time. So, if you get bored of HIIT is because of lack of imagination. Thank you very much for the info =D

    - Elizabeth

    Full Body licious | October 19th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  8. These are the most common myths that I have heard, and I am really happy that someone is writing about it. I have heard so many different things about cardio workouts, but i believe that lunges and squats are the best exercises to lose weight.

    abhijit sarkar | November 5th, 2013 | Comment Permalink

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