#1 Most Popular Workout is also #1 Waste of Time (and May Actually Hurt You)

Posted in: Exercise

Susan Ohtake, CPT

Do you have time to waste? I know I don't!

And I don't have time to get injured either.

That's why I very rarely recommend running or long, boring repetitive cardio to anyone.

Unfortunately, the most popular "get in shape" and "fat-burning" exercises could be hindering you and thousands of others. This possibly detrimental and non-beneficial exercise is...long, boring cardio. Here's why...

Is Cardio More Trouble than it's Worth?

For years now, cardio has been the "go to" for fat burning and running is the very first time to get in shape exercise people think of.

We've seen the "heart rate zone" charts on treadmills. We've watched others try couch-to-5k programs (or similar). But the reality is that, compared to shorter, more intense, interval-based workouts, running and long cardio is simple just a waste of time.

Plus...you can end up hurt.

By doing long periods of cardio, you put yourself at-risk for all of the following:

Damaged Joints

While exercise in general doesn't damage your joints, overuse and improper use can. For example, individuals who first start working out tend to over do it to because they haven't given the body time to adapt. In addition, doing the same exercise everyday is extremely taxing to your muscles and joints. It's important to perform different workouts with varying intensities, to prevent joint damage. You should avoid making the treadmill or elliptical a part of your every day routine.

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress occurs when your cells become damaged from free radicals overwhelming your antioxidant defenses. If you exercise for long periods of time and at a high intensity (e.g. cardio), you may create more oxidative stress than your body can handle. This leads to an increased risk of cancer and heart disease, which is what a person who's desiring a healthy lifestyle is trying to avoid.


In 2011, a study found that long-term endurance running significantly increased the volume of calcified coronary plaque in marathon runners. These results were shocking, as most of us would assume that athletes would be healthier, but it shows that we're all at-risk of heart disease. This further suggests that intense cardio is not the end all, be all of exercises.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is characterized as an irregular and fast heartbeat. Those who have it are at a greater risk of having a stroke. Surprisingly, a study found that atrial fibrillation is significantly higher in athletes than non-athletes. Another study even suggested that moderate exercisers were at a much lower risk of atrial fibrillation than distance runners. While its symptoms may go unnoticed when you're younger, atrial fibrillation becomes more problematic as you age. This is why it's crucial to choose exercises that do not require long-term vigorous exertion.

Choose a Faster, More Effective Workout

Instead of long, boring cardio and running, I recommend intensity-focused interval training. With short, effective workouts, you can pack an hour or more of time spent running into just 20 minutes of exercise.

Intense interval training, pared with a sensible diet, can effectively reset your metabolism to melt calories long after your workout is over too (thanks to "afterburn").

Use your "me-time" wisely and ensure that its used in a way that will maximize your mental and physical health...not increase your chance of injury.

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