Why I Don't Do Cardio

By , Robin Young, Founder of Fitness Savvy
I have a confession to make: I don't do cardio.

As someone who works fitness industry, it often comes as a surprise to people when I share this information. My aversion comes down to the simple fact that I don't enjoy cardio, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I used to run or spend hours on the exercise bike, and I still have a free-standing punch bag I used to use at home. Unfortunately, when I first started trying to lose weight, the novelty of being out of breath, sweating insane amounts and aching all over wore off quickly. After only a few weeks, I was done.

I want to stress that cardio exercise has many benefits, and keep in mind that the best workout is the one that actually happens! However, if, like me, the thought of long hours on the treadmill puts you off, there are alternatives; ones which I personally find to be more fun and enjoyable. This means that I go to the gym regularly and look forward to it as part of my lifestyle—something that never would have happened had I stuck with the cardio workouts I was doing.

Why Is Cardio so Popular?

From those running groups you see jogging around your neighborhood to yet another HIIT studio opening around the corner, there is no denying the popularity of cardio. The truth is, cardio has been promoted to a level where it now sits on a throne, wears a crown and looks down its nose at everything else in the world with a smug grin. Cardio is king and won't be dethroned any time soon, that much is certain. So how did it get there, and why? There's some myth and some fact behind the answer to that question:
  1. Cardio burns calories fast. If calories burned is your only measure of success, it's true that you'll burn a lot of calories participating in cardio activities.
  2. Poor advice. Unfortunately, as with every profession in the world, some personal trainers can be bad. Sometimes, in their quest to conquer your weight-loss goals, the bad ones opt for the quick win. However, while the scales show you have lost weight, there's a chance you've lost muscle.
  3. The alternatives will make you big and bulky. For those who look at the weight room as a one-way ticket to Hulk muscles, sticking to cardio feels like a way to avoid this possible outcome.
  4. Fear of injury. Lifting weights with poor form can cause injury. Some trainers are either not qualified or not competent to train their clients in proper form.
  5. Health benefits. Regular cardio will keep your heart and lungs healthy, as well as helping to lower blood pressure and improving insulin response.
The main lesson here is this: If your personal trainer has you hitting the treadmill five times per week while weights sit gathering dust, you need a new trainer.

Maximizing Your Gym Time Without Cardio

I go to the gym five or six times per week. I'm often asked what I do if I'm not glued to an exercise bike or treadmill. The answer to that is simple: I'm lifting weights. On average, I burn around 250 to 350 calories during an hour or so of weightlifting. Admittedly, that is fewer calories burned than using the treadmill, but the overall benefits are superior.

If time is a limiting factor you may find yourself asking, "What is the best use of my time?" While cardio workouts have many benefits, if you could only choose one form of exercise, I always recommend choosing resistance training.

Many studies support the positive benefits of resistance exercise. When you take up regular weight training, you can expect to not only see changes in your body composition, but you will also benefit from better posture, improved balance, stronger bones, improved insulin sensitivity and more.

When lifting weights, you will commonly perform compound or isolation moves. Compound lifts are those that employ multiple muscle groups. In contrast, isolation moves predominantly use a single muscle group. For those looking to maximize their time, compound exercises allow you to get the biggest bang for their buck. Multitasking moves, such as the squat or deadlift, require two or more muscle groups to work together, much like our muscles function in real life. Win-win.

To make the best use of your time in the gym—or at home with your own set of dumbbells—add a few compound lifts to your routine:
  • Bench Press: works the chest, shoulders and triceps
  • Squat: works the quads and glutes
  • Deadlift: works the back (traps and lats) and glutes
  • Overhead Press: works shoulders and upper back
  • Pull-ups: works the lats, biceps and upper back
  • Rows: works upper back, shoulders and biceps

Why You Should Do Cardio

If you're reading this and thinking of ditching your current cardio routine, don't be too hasty.

First, if you enjoy your daily runs, spins or swims, keep on doing cardio! The most important thing about exercise and diet is to make it a permanent lifestyle change, not a temporary fix for your health. In order to make this a permanent part of your life and routine, you need to enjoy the activity.

Although running and cycling don't tend to build muscle, cardio exercise does come along with its own list of health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of coronary heart disease and a lowered risk of diabetes.

Consider mixing up your runs or other cardio activities with some kind of strength training to keep your muscles guessing. If work and errands and kids keep your calendar full, high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a great option if you need to fit a full-body workout into a few as 10 minutes.

While it's not always necessary to do cardio, especially if time is a limiting factor or cardio workout anxiety prevents you from going to the gym at all, the key is finding balance and activities that keep you challenged and engaged. Remember that just because something is the hot trend, doesn't mean it will work for your body or your schedule. For me, cardio is not something I prioritize, and that's okay for me and can be okay for you, too. 

About the Author 
Robin Young is a writer and founder of Fitness Savvy, a UK-based website dedicated to producing informative health and fitness articles and guides. 

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thanks... Report
I don't mind cardio. I do need to add strength training more regularly. Right now it is haphazard at best. Report
Whatever works for you, make it okay. Move and it's a win win, Report
As in all things:balance. Cardio is only one part of fitness. Report
"The truth is, cardio has been promoted to a level where it now sits on a throne, wears a crown and looks down its nose at everything else in the world with a smug grin." --- this is not truth, it is an opinion. Strength training is important; however, if my trainer told me they did not do cardio, I would find another trainer. Report
Thank you for the catchy title. It made me read the article. In fact I enjoyed the article. I am one that doesn't mind cardio but I did like the bit about the combination exercise. I recently read another spark article that mentioned the same idea. It has cut down my time at the gym! Thank you. Report
I've heard that before....if you only do one thing, do strength training and I understand that. Since I have time and the desire, I do a mix of weights, cardio, balance, stretching....for me, each have their own place in fitness...but like he said, the best workout is the one you enjoy and will actually do! Report
I guess something is better than nothing and I am convinced that a good workout plan needs strength training but, for me, a balance between strength and cardio works best. I also do some Pilates and yoga to round it out. To each his own, though. Report
Thanks Report
Seems like the another extreme to me, a mix of cardio and strength exercise is a more moderate approach. With out any cardio he is missing a lot of benifits Report
A mix of cardio and strength seems to work best for me. Report
I love cardio and must rethink my plan to include weights. Report
I like doing YouTube Senior fitness by Tona; and some other senior fitness routines. These mix strength & cardio together. And I can keep up for the most part. Report
Great info. Last year I started doing strength training only 2 days/wk to help build lean muscle. Report
Sounds good to me... lol The only cardio I truly like and can spend a lot of time doing is swimming. Love swimming. I like to strength train, I don't spend an entire hour doing it, but then i'm just starting out. I do fear bulking up if I do it too much, though. Report
I enjoy cardio and weight training. Report
Interesting. Report
interesting thank you Report
Good info--I do Cardio every day---I will rethink this! Report
Only need two or three cardio sessions a week Report
I love cardio that is also muscle toning - like swimming Report
Interesting...thanks for sharing! Report
Loved this article!! Report
I use my desk cycle and rower for cardio, that is all. The rest of the time I use my dumbells, ball and resistance bands and I love them. Report
The boldness of endurance is the underline to almost every success. - Mary Anne Radmacher 1/31/18 Report
This is why I prefer Jazzercise. I get 30 minutes of cardio, plus weight work and floor work. PLUS two warm-up routines, and a stretch cool down. It's a healthy, fun 55 minute program. Report
Oh boy, if cardio were only running or plunking my buns on an exercise bike...I’d hate it too. Funny thing happened as I lost weight, gobs of fat, and gained muscle, I began to enjoy cardio and strength training. Honestly! Like so much so that if too many days pass without a heart thumping cardio session, I miss it. Cardio for me is STEP, cardio kickboxing, or some HITT whatever. Repetition kills my exercise mojo, so I constantly mix things up. Limitless workout options on YouTube and sparktv are invaluable as I sweat exclusively at home. Earning the shower and the endorphins after cardio? Yes please. A resting heart rate that rocks, and being able to run up flights of stairs...my proof that cardio is suuuuuuch a win for me. I love it! Report
Most of my workout consists of cardio and I know, I need strength training as well. Thanx for the motivation. Report
Interesting. Report
Good information Report
I do many things I do not enjoy and cardio is one of them! Report
Gotta do the lifting to tone and build strength. Builds strong bones, too. Report
Enjoyed this and have given it much thought Report
Appreciate the info! Report
Wow, what great information! Report
Thanks for the ideas Report
Interesting Report
I do both weight training and cardio but I definitely enjoy weight training more. Report
great information Report
Great info Report
Good information. Report
Some great suggestions that I can use in the gym Report
Great article and very useful information. I'll surely reread it several more times. Report
I've never been a huge fan of cardio even when I was young and very fit. Thanks I always felt odd until up to now, Report
Interesting. I'll keep doing cardio, but I am starting to enjoy my strength workouts more. Report
Thanks for the interesting article :) Report
thanks Report