What is cardio?

First, let’s define what we mean when we say ‘cardio’. Generally speaking, cardio exercises are those that increase your heart rate and breathing rate for an extended period of time. This includes activities like running, cycling, swimming, rowing, and jumping rope. The goal of cardio is to challenge your cardiovascular system and improve your endurance, so you can perform physical activity for longer periods of time.

The two camps

As mentioned. There are two camps in the fitness industry when it comes to cardio. Well, 3 actually. Camp 1 is pro cardio, camp 2 is against and camp 3 choses the middle ground.

Let’s explore their opinion:

Camp Pro Cardio:

The people who are all for cardio argue that it’s essential for overall health and fitness, as it helps to improve cardiovascular health, increase endurance and stamina, and help in weight loss. They believe that doing regular cardio exercises, such as running, cycling, or swimming, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.

Fair enough.

Camp Against Cardio:

The camp that advises against cardio, argues that cardio is not necessary for optimal health and fitness, and that it may even be detrimental to muscle growth and strength.
They believe that strength training and resistance exercises are sufficient to improve overall health and fitness, and that too much cardio may lead to overtraining, fatigue, and a reduction in muscle mass.

Camp a-bit-of-both:

To make it easy, there are also some experts who say that a balanced approach that incorporates both cardio and strength training is the most effective way to reach optimal results. They recommend doing a combination of cardio and strength training exercises, as well as incorporating other lifestyle factors such as healthy eating and stress management techniques.


Who’s right?

We’re sure you’re curious who’s right in this discussion. What out for the spoiler alert: it depends, as it is with most things in the fitness industry.

So, let’s look at the arguments for and against doing cardio first:


Reasons to Cardio

Here are some of the key reasons why you should cardio:

  • Cardio improves your cardiovascular health.
    When you do cardio, you challenge your heart and lungs to work harder, which can improve your heart health, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Cardio burns calories and helps with weight loss.
    If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, cardio can be an effective way to burn calories and create a calorie deficit.
  • Cardio can improve mental health.
    Many people find that doing cardio helps to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and boost self-esteem.
  • Cardio can increase endurance and stamina.
    This is probably the effect that cardio is the most known for. If you’re training for a sport or event that requires endurance (or if you want get better at climbing the stairs in your house), doing cardio can help you build the stamina you need to perform at your best.


Reasons to not Cardio

Now, let’s look at the reasons why some are against cardio:

  • Cardio can be boring and tedious.
    Let’s face it – running on a treadmill for an hour can be mind-numbingly boring, and many people find it difficult to stick to a cardio routine for that reason.
  • Cardio can be time-consuming.
    If you’re short on time, spending an hour on the elliptical may not be the best use of your precious minutes.
  • Cardio can be detrimental to muscle growth.
    A big argument against cardio is that it can interfere with muscle growth and strength gains. This is because cardio can cause the body to break down muscle tissue for energy. And the result of that is less muscles
  • Cardio can lead to overtraining and fatigue.
    If you’re doing too much cardio without enough rest and recovery time, you may be at risk of overtraining, which can lead to fatigue, injury, and burnout.


To cardio or not?

So, both camps have pretty solid reasons why they are for or against cardio. This is not going to help us decide.

Let’s take a closer look at of goals one might have and what kind of training will suit that best:


Goal 1. “I want to gain lots of muscle and don’t mind gaining fat.”

Do we hear… dirty bulk?! A so-called ‘dirty bulk’ is a process of going into a caloric surplus by eating mostly high-calorie foods. The focus is putting on as much muscle weight as you can, a.k.a. eat, train, eat, repeat. Yes, you’ll gain fat along the way, but once that disappears during the cut, all your toned, new muscles will come to show! Patience is key here.

Answer: To cardio or not while doing a ‘dirty bulk’?

It might surprise you, but performing cardio exercises during a dirty bulk is more than recommended. Not only will it improve or keep up with your endurance level, but you’ll also be more likely to stay somewhat leaner, while your muscles grow at the same high rate. Ultimately, your nutrition, apart from your protein intake, is about calories in vs. calories out, and the 200-300 kcals burned during your cardio sesh shouldn’t be in the way of growing those hard-earned muscles. The chances of consuming too little calories to properly grow are little during the dirty bulk phase. Keeping up with your health and fitness is very much encouraged. And it’ll be easier to transfer into your cutting training plan as well. No downsides here!

Experts recommend about 2 to 3, 20-30 minute sessions a week. Ready to grow stronger, bigger, AND healthier?


Goals 2. “I want to gain muscle and burn fat at the same time.”

While opinions may differ, gaining muscle and burning fat at the same time is surely possible. But it takes dedication, precision, patience, and the right training and nutrition plan! While diet and your weight training plan both play the main part in this journey, don’t underestimate what some cardio exercise can do for your progress.

Answer: To cardio or not while doing a lean bulk?

Yes, yes, yes! While excessive cardio can stand in the way of building muscle, adding a moderate amount of cardio exercise after your regular lifting sessions can help to maintain your cardiovascular health and keep you fit. Cardio improves the heart’s ability to pump blood and increases oxygen uptake into cells; meaning you’ll build a stronger heart! Therefore, having a stronger heart and an improved endurance level, means you will be able to train even better with the real heavy weights. In addition, a fit person burns more fat at rest than an unfit person, so doing cardio while bulking can help to effortlessly keep you lean. Plus, those few hundred calories burned during your cardio sesh can be a helping hand to stay lean. Just make sure to hit that protein intake!

Aim for 3, 30-minute sessions a week, and get into your best physique yet!


Goals 3. “My main focus is wanting to lose fat”

You might think cardio is the main thing to put your mind to right now, but it might not be your best bet when on a fat loss journey. While diet and exercise both play a significant role in losing fat, you might want to explore your fitness options. Did you know that the more muscle mass you carry, the more calories you burn at rest? And don’t worry, weight training is not going to make you look bulky!

Answer: To cardio or not on a weight loss journey?

Cardio is great for improving endurance and burning calories, but have you looked into strength training? While both forms of exercise bring their own unique benefits, strength training is super beneficial on your weight loss journey, even when you’re not looking to gain muscle. In the bigger picture, strength training allows you to burn a greater amount of calories, meaning it’ll take less effort to lose fat over time. So yes, including cardio in your training plan is a great idea, but broaden your horizon and hit some weights along the way.

Experts estimate about 5 cardio sessions a week, combined with 3 sessions of strength training. Of course, this is an estimation, and over time, you’ll figure out what works best for you and your schedule. Show us you’ve got this!


Goal 4. “I want to improve my overall health.”

Moving your body and putting in the effort to challenge your physical limits provides massive benefits for your mental and physical health. Any effort is better than none; cooking up a healthier dinner, switching to a standing desk, or going on a walk during lunchtime. All of these minor changes can add up to be huge improvements to your overall health.

Answer: To cardio or not when improving your overall health?

Most definitely! The number one benefit regular cardio offers is improving your internal health. Both mentally and physically, incorporating cardio into your daily life is a great way to contribute to your overall health. And the best part? There are limitless options to choose from. Whether you’re a competitive bodybuilder, a busy parent trying to juggle your time, or anyone else with good intentions towards your health, there’s always an option that should work for you and your schedule.

Ideally, perform 30 minutes of cardio, 5 times a week.


So, What’s the Verdict?

As with most things in the fitness world, the answer to whether or not you should do cardio depends on your goals, preferences, and individual circumstances.

If you’re trying to improve your cardiovascular health, burn calories and lose weight, or build endurance and stamina for a sport or event, cardio can be an effective and worthwhile addition to your exercise routine.

On the other hand, if you’re primarily interested in building muscle and strength, or if you find cardio to be boring and tedious, you may be better off focusing on resistance training and other forms of exercise that align with your goals and preferences.

Ultimately, the best approach is to find a balance that works for you. Incorporating a mix of cardio and strength could bring the best of both worlds. Who knows!


Train a day for free at TrainMore

Feeling inspired to hit the gym after reading this blog? We get that. Whether you’re team ‘Cardio’ or not, at the gyms of TrainMore you can exercise how ever you like. Test out or treadmills or check out our weights section. We’re sure that at our gyms you can find everything you need for your fitness journey. Want to try it yourself? You can! At TrainMore you can get a free day pass to train at our gym. So, sign up right now!


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Now tell us, in what camp are you?


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