I just found a great article that expresses so clearly what I have come to understand about the supremacy of weight training over cardio exercise. Not only is lifting healthier and more effective, but cardio is downright dangerous and unnecessary for fitness and/or cardiovascular health.
The article is great, but don't stop reading there. The comments are just as full of information as the article itself. Drew Baye writes:
I recently posted a link on Facebook to Arthur De Vany’s Top Ten Reasons Not to Run Marathons, to which a friend who runs replied,
Everyone has their opinion. I run because I like to. Not because I want to run 26.2 miles every day or even 13.1 miles every day. I think it’s a stress reliever and I truly enjoy it. I’m sure this study was done on people who run extreme distances all the time. I’m sure you think your way of training is the best and I’m also sure it’s great for a lot of people. Exercise of any sort is better than sitting on the couch eating potato chips =)
Contrary to popular but uninformed opinion, something is not always better than nothing where physical activity and exercise are concerned. In fact, many activities people perform for exercise or health reasons do more harm than good.
The goal of exercise is to stimulate improvements in fitness, and should not undermine health in the process, as Dr. Doug McGuff stresses in Body by Science. However, activities like jogging, aerobic dance, plyometrics, and others exposing the body to high peak and impact forces are often recommended as exercise despite carrying a significant risk of injury or damaging health in some other way.
In the case of running, doing nothing would definitely be better. Since jogging is a very slow, very inefficient, very poor way of improving cardiovascular conditioning and burns few calories for the time invested, very little benefit would be lost by quitting, compared to the benefit of preventing long term damage to the feet, ankles, knees, hips and spine and associated degenerative joint conditions, not to mention the likely pulls, strains and tears.
If everybody in the world stopped doing what they consider to be exercise today, the net result would be an increase in average health over time and a decrease in traumatic injuries and joint problems, since what the majority consider to be exercise involves repetitive, high force or high impact movements, often done inattentively and with sloppy form.
A person’s enjoyment of an activity may justify performing it, but then they should call it what it is, recreation. While recreation is certainly a matter of opinion, exercise is not. Different people enjoy different activities, but the principles of exercise are the same for everyone, and I happen to know for a fact the principles my training is based on are the best. They produce improvements in all general factors of fitness equal to or better than any other method or activity, and they do so more efficiently and more safely.
Another popular but wrong opinion implied in her reply is people should base their exercise program on their recreational preferences. Exercise is the application of a physical stressor to stimulate an adaptive response, and should be performed in accordance with how the body handles and responds to stress and using movements based on muscle and joint function, and not in accordance with the conventions or movement patterns of some recreational activity. While a physical recreational activity may have an exercise effect, this is not the same as being effective exercise.
I suspect part of the reason for this is it allows people to tell themselves and others they’re doing something healthy, without actually having to engage in the extremely demanding physical and mental work characteristic of real exercise. Most people do not find real exercise to be fun. It is brutally hard work.
I am not saying people shouldn’t run, walk, cycle, or perform other activities they may enjoy just because they carry a risk of injury or are not relatively effective methods of exercise. I enjoy practicing various martial arts and doing parkour, both of which carry a significant risk of injury and neither of which I would consider exercise. Just don’t do something primarily for fun and pretend you’re exercising.
If you truly value some form of physical recreation, a separate, real exercise program will enhance your enjoyment of it by improving your performance and your resistance to injury. Exercise in accordance with proper training principles, then apply your improved fitness to the enjoyment of your chosen recreational activities, but don’t try to mix recreation and exercise – it takes the fun out of recreation and the effectiveness out of exercise.
To read the full article and the comments, click here.