Because of many emails we get from you readers concerning aerobic exercise ("cardio"), it's time to talk cardio and it's relative importance in an overall fitness regime. Just how important is cardio? We've all read about the success components that bring a fit and healthy physique. Sound nutrition coupled with resistance training and cardiovascular exercise will bring about physique changes that will create a great body, even for the over 40 crowd. But, how important are all three of these elements?
We all agree that nutrition provides the foundation from which we build. Add in resistance training and now we're talking muscle mass. Lean, sexy muscle mass that gives our metabolism a natural boost. But, cardiovascular exercise... just how much is necessary to achieve a Legendary Physique?
Diane: I'm always getting emails from readers with this question. "Is it true that Richard never does cardio?" It's true. Just like Draper, Richard works very hard in the gym and doesn't cheat on his diet. Never during his competitive days and rarely now will Richard be engaged in what he calls "recreational eating." A spoonful of cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving and Christmas were his big splurges. As a result, Richard maintains a year-round low bodyfat level that affords him the luxury to skip cardio. His efforts are concentrated on building mass. Even after-dinner walks on the fabulous Florida beaches leave Richard moaning that he is burning up too much muscle.
When speaking with Dave Draper this summer, Dave stated, "I think cardio is over-rated." Dave kept his body lean through resistance training six times per week and an incredibly clean diet. During Dave's book tour this summer, he was asked about cheating on his diet. The Blond Bomber continues to have an enviable physique because he constantly eats clean. When pushed about a cheat food, Dave replied, "a bran muffin."
A bran muffin? Most of the world would look at today's oversized 1200-calorie bran muffin as a controlled portion of health food. But, not Draper. A bran muffin is his cheat food and as reported in this week's edition of his newsletter, cleaning up at his gym serves as his cardio.
And it's not just the babyboomers like Draper and Baldwin. For instance, top IFBB bodybuilding pro Dexter Jackson had this to say recently:
|"You see, I do not get out of shape... I never go over 10 pounds my bodyweight... I am different from any other bodybuilder you know. I don't do no cardio, no abs, nothing like that. I train three days a week, an hour and fifteen minutes per day."|
On the other hand, a number of bodybuilders are no longer maintaining a level of leanness in the off-season and do rely on cardio and other means to lose fat. Magazine ads pushing Hydroxycut show an off-season Lee Priest with 60 plus pounds to lose. Ronnie Coleman was a guest poser at a Florida contest several months ago where spectators saw many extra pounds of adipose tissue added to his Mr. Olympia frame.
Richard: Because my cardio-nut friends used to give me a hard time about doing no cardio, I used to return the favor. They thought they were in great shape, but I could get them in the gym and kill them in a short time with a few leg extensions and high repetition squats. They would be breathless in a very short time and then puke their guts out though I hardly broke a sweat nor was out of breath. I would say, "Gee, I'm sorry. I thought you said you were in shape!" I also drove them nuts warning them about how dangerous running was for the joints, and many of them did suffer injuries because they ran too far, too often, on hard surfaces. If all this wasn't bad enough, I couldn't help teasing them about having pockets of fat while I had rock-hard abs and veins running across my muscles!
So where does that leave us regarding cardio? First let's dispel some myths.
The Myths Of Cardio
Myth #1: The only way to increase cardiovascular fitness is through aerobic exercises such as running or dancing. FALSE: Recent research has declared that weight resistance training does have cardiovascular benefits.
Myth #2: Weight training, because of all that straining, can lead to heart problems. FALSE: Recent research has declared that weight resistance training in fact reduces the incidence of heart disease.
Myth #3: The more you run or do aerobic exercise the healthier you will be. FALSE: Over-training in any sport is dangerous and can lead to injuries and exhaustion.
Myth #4: Aerobic exercise is the only, or at least the best, way to lose fat. FALSE: Lots of fat people run; cardio or any type of exercise must be combined with proper nutrition to lose weight.
Now that we've covered the myths of cardio, let's talk reality. Cardiovascular exercise provides a great method of burning excess calories for those of us that do splurge a bit when it comes to nutrition. For our babyboomer readers that are over 50 and experiencing some metabolic slowdowns due to aging, cardio will allow you to continue to maintain your lean bodyfat levels. And for women facing the triple whammy of a slowing metabolism due to age, hormonal fluctuations from menopause and the female body's natural tendency to add fat pockets to the hips, butt and thigh area, cardiovascular exercise provides the ammunition to fight the battle where we babyboomers redefine the aging process through lean and fit physiques. Never, never give up! Just fight harder!
So where does that leave us? Read the following as Diane answers the question about cardio in a response one of you out there in cyber land!
Dear Diane and Richard,
I'm trying to find a balance between trying to maintain an eating plan with lots of protein and healthy carbs and having a social life. I've found that I can enjoy a once a week meal with a few drinks and dessert if I put in my cardio time during the week. But, I'm getting confused about what kind of cardio is best. Also, could you tell me how often and how long each cardio session should last.
It's easy to understand your confusion. Duration, intensity levels, age and weight all have influence on the "best" form of cardio. In addition, reports with contradictory information make it difficult for you to choose.
In 1978 the American College of Sports Medicine published a report that the public should get their hearts revved up at least three times per week through vigorous activity such as running. The Center of Disease Control states that 60 minutes of cardio is necessary to maintain their current levels of bodyweight.
But, recent recommendations reduce the duration and intensity to 30-minute sessions at moderate levels. So, what's the startling new evidence that allows us to reduce duration and intensity levels? NONE. The American public refused to embrace the 1978 guidelines, so in an attempt to reach more of the public, expectations were lowered. No wonder people are confused.
Add to the confusion that the lower your bodyweight, the more cardio you'll need to burn the same amount of calories, leaves many of us at plateau levels when going through weight loss cycles. In other words, the closer you get to your goal, the more cardio you'll need.
The Mayo Clinic provides an example of various body weight levels and the amount of time required to burn 100 calories.
|Activity||125 pounds||175 pounds||225 pounds|
|Bicycling, 6 mph||18 minutes||13 minutes||10 minutes|
|Bicycling, 12 mph||13 minutes||9 minutes||7 minutes|
|Jogging||15 minutes||11 minutes||8 minutes|
|Jumping rope||13 minutes||9 minutes||7 minutes|
|Running, 6 mph||11 minutes||8 minutes||6 minutes|
|Walking, 3 mph||32 minutes||23 minutes||18 minutes|
* The Mayo Clinic Health Letter. February 2003.
Sample Cardio Prescription
- Keep cardio fun! Skiing, biking and roller-blading take the drudgery out of cardiovascular work.
- Plan variety in your routine. Change the duration and intensity levels to avoid boredom.
- Set goals for each cardio session. You'll be more efficient and effective as you approach each session.
- Keep you bodyweight in check. This way you'll only need to engage in these activities for cardiovascular benefits, rather than burning many excess calories.
Richard and Diane
Many, many thanks to our readers that continue to send photos of their incredible physique transformations, as well as those babyboomers that have maintained Legendary physiques throughout their lifetimes. We will continue to feature you in upcoming columns to serve as inspiration to your peers. If you have photos or a story to share with our readers, click here.
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Copyright 2003. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved. The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.