Since the 80’s America has had an obsession with low intensity running, also known as “jogging”. But is this form of exercise really healthy? If we take a long hard look at the physiques of most avid runners, who usually have the skinny-fat or emaciated look down, we come to question the real health benefits to running. And there may be good reason to put the running shoes away.
Recently, the American Research Society published an article citing several studies that have shown that excessive cardiovascular activity does indeed lead to muscles loss. “Muscle mass is the major source of caloric usage for the human body” stated Tommy Belt, a personal trainer in The Woodlands Texas. “The more muscle mass the body has on it, the more calories you burn while at rest. So it’s counter-productive to exercise so much, regardless of the type of exercise, that you begin using your muscle tissue as fuel”.
But Don’t Body Builders Do Hours of Cardio?
We know that physique athletes like body builders love their stair steppers, treadmills and stationary bikes, so how do they maintain muscle mass? If you look at how this group uses cardio to condition you will immediately notice a difference between them and the typical runner: low intensity and moderation.
That’s right, 30 minutes of low intensity exercise such as walking on a slightly inclined treadmill is going to use fat oxidation as its primary source of fuel. Now compare that to someone jogging at a 5-minute mile pace for an hour – that’s a much greater energy expenditure but this increase caloric need doesn’t come from fat, it comes from the break-down of your own muscle tissue!
But I’ve seen sprinters with huge muscles?! True, but again you must look at HOW they train. They sprint at 90-100% of their max speed for only a brief time, usually less than sixty seconds. Then they rest. And they will only do this for a few rounds. So the difference here is the level of intensity is much higher, but the amount of time or volume or work being done is much lower. Add to that the fact that sprinting actually engages way more muscles that jogging and you have a recipe for not only fat burning, but muscle building.
Which brings me to the final point of this article. STOP JOGGING! Yes, I know you love your slow jog around the park. I know it may relax you but it isn’t as healthy as you have convinced yourself. If you’re really concerned about your health and not what just “feels good” to you then I recommend a combination of walking, sprinting and weight training.
How do you combine these activities for the best possible healthy benefits? Since low intensity exercise will utilize fat for fuel, I recommend take a 30-45 minute walk in the mornings on an empty stomach. This type of exercise will not hinder any training you intend on doing later in the day so you are free to EITHER weight train or do some type of sprinting/running. Hill sprints are one of my favorites. Alternate the sprinting days with the weight training. A typical split would look something like morning walks 6 days a week with 3 days of strength training and 3 days of spring training. Take the seventh day off from all activity and just rest up by stretching and performing mobility work.
You see, you don’t need to stop running completely – you just need to be smart about how you train. Follow these tips and you will not only avoid burning up muscle during your cardio sessions, you’ll actually start toning up and adding lean mass which equal more calories burned throughout the day.