HomeexerciseRethinking The Need For Cardio- Do You Really Need Aerobics?

Rethinking The Need For Cardio- Do You Really Need Aerobics?


Do You Really Need Aerobics? Rethinking The Need For Cardio


See Kevin’s Video: Don’t Do Cardio To Lose Weight | Understanding Cardio And Muscle Loss

Walk into any major gym in America and the first thing you will see is the cardio equipment. Mention the word  ‘exercise’ and for most people the first images to come to mind are aerobic in nature- running, treadmills, Zumba classes, elliptical machines, Stairmasters and the like. Say ‘weight loss’ and the images get sharper, as it is a commonly held position that you need to do cardio if you want to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight. Gyms are filled with people eager to shed a few extra pounds, and yet in spite of the innumerable  number of hours spent sweating, few ever attain the lean and sculpted look that has become the Holy Grail of our time. Most of us double our efforts after seeing so little in terms of improvement after slaving away doing hours of aerobics in the hope that maybe just a little more of the same will bring us that all-so elusive look. We persist for months, sometimes for years, trying to eat better and train harder until finally, over-trained, frustrated and very often injured, we quit. Relegating ourselves to the ranks of those-who-can’t-lose-weight-because-of-bad-genes. It can be an incredibly disheartening and depressing experience to do so much work and get so little back in terms of tangible changes in your body, but it most of the time has nothing to do with our inability to lose weight. In most cases the blame lies squarely on the fact that cardio is not an efficient method for weight loss and that it simply cannot give you the toned and trim body of your dreams. Millions can attest by their lack of results, that using aerobics as a tool for getting in shape is driven primarily by advertising and misinformation, not results. And yet many experts in the field cling to the idea that cardio is an irreplaceable part of any fitness regime. The science of how our bodies work don’t support this notion, nor do the countless number of frustrated gym goers still waiting to see their six packs. In my practice as a personal trainer in NYC I am constantly amazed by how many other trainers use cardio as the centerpiece of their weight loss programs. The reality is that you don’t need cardio and anaerobic resistance exercise alone can provide superior results in  terms of weight loss, increasing endurance and improving overall health parameters.

Cardio and Weight Loss- The Case For Anaerobic Exercise Over Aerobics



It goes without saying that if everyone who ever ventured out regularly for a run or frequented a cardio machine was able to lose weight and keep it off that we would have had a simple solution to our growing obesity problems several decades ago, (as well as an influx of six pack sporting magazine cover models.) We all know this not to be the case and many recent studies affirm what so many have learned the hard way, namely that cardio is a poor method of weight management. One study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine tracked the results of 58 sedentary overweight/obese men and women who participated in a 12 week course of supervised aerobic exercise. The results were positive in terms of increased endurance and decreased systolic and diastolic pressure but not at all glowing in terms of weight loss. The mean weight loss was only a bit over seven pounds in three months, with most of the group losing barely half of that amount. [1]

The amount of calories burned during aerobic exercise is not as much as we would think as well. Consider the fact that to lose a pound of fat you need to burn 3,500 kcal- which may not sound like much, but to lose 1 lb of fat a 190 lb man would have to run a full 26 mile marathon. To lose 5 lbs he would have to run 5 marathons and a 155 lb woman would have to run even further at a pretty fast pace! Which shows just how extreme the amount of aerobics you need in order to lose weight.  At the far end of the spectrum, endurance athletes and those who devote an enormous amount of time to very long workouts can keep their body weight down, but they won’t sport the well muscled and chiseled physiques that most hold as today’s Holy Grail, and they will gain a significant amount of weight if they ever stop. Which is often the case with endurance athletes who come to me after they stop training when either injury or lack of time prevents them from long distance training and they find it difficult to almost impossible to maintain a low body fat percentage.


Cardio is not an efficient form of weight loss

In terms of fat burning, new research has continued to show that short high intensity, anaerobic type exercise do far more to reduce body fat than conventional aerobic exercise. A study done at Laval University investigated the impact of aerobics versus high intensity anaerobic exercises on body fat using young adults and the findings were quite eye opening. Participants took part in either a 20 week endurance training regime of sustained aerobics or a 15 week high intensity intermittent training protocol. Despite the fact that participants doing the aerobic exercises expended over twice as much energy as the anaerobic group- (120.4 MJ as opposed to 57.9 MJ), those in the anaerobic group lost significantly more body fat than the cardio exercise group.[2] When corrected for the energy cost of training, the decrease in the sum of six skinfold tests induced by the anaerobic exercise was impressively nine times greater than that of the aerobic group.[2]


Many other studies show similar outcomes. A study done at the University of New South Wales inadvertently found that women taking part in anaerobic high intensity interval training burned fat at a rate three times higher than those doing aerobic exercises.[3] This result came from a total of only 20 minutes of anaerobic exercise on a stationery bike, while the second group exercised at a consistent pace in standard target heart rate zones for twice as long. After 15 weeks, researchers found that the women in the high intensity group lost three times more weight than those who rode the bicycles for twice as much time.[3] A testament to the inefficiency of cardio over more intense anaerobic forms of training.  Other studies have found similar patterns with even shorter durations of high intensity anaerobic exercise.


Dispelling The Myth Of Cardio’s Afterburner Effect

For years the party lines for using cardio to promote fat loss have that that increased activity burns more calories- which is true and not at all in dispute and that aerobic exercise elevates the metabolism for prolonged periods after the training session. As standard an idea as this has been for many, it has not stood up to the test of scientific scrutiny, nor has it helped produced a new generation of trim and slim waistlines. The afterburning effect sought by cardio enthusiasts is really what scientists call excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or EPOC. Exercise brings about a change in the equilibrium of our body (See our article on responses to exercise stress here) our body will always do its best to revert to a resting state of homeostasis and this requires an increase in the amount of oxygen (EPOC) which is needed for our bodies to return to its normal state and adapt to the exercise performed. As a result, there is a measurable increase in metabolism and fat burning after exercise. [3,4,5] This increase was originally thought to occur only with aerobic exercise, but studies have shown that it actually is far more prevalent in anaerobic exercise of sufficient intensities.[2]


Cardio And  Heart Health- Dispelling The Myth That You Need Cardio For A Healthy Heart

Weight loss aside, you must need some form of cardio to increase your endurance and to keep your heart healthy, right? Again, the science disagrees with what has become practiced convention. Aerobic exercise can indeed increase lung capacity and strengthen the heart muscle which is related to a decrease in cardiovascular disease[6] but it isn’t the only way to do it nor the most efficient.  With regards to your heart and lungs it should be noted that



It is physically impossible to train your muscles without working your heart as well. The two are not disconnected, yet this basic fact of physiology is often overlooked in discussions regarding aerobic exercise requirements. Any improvement in muscle mass and strength brought on by anaerobic exercise of adequate intensity will correspond with an improvement in cardiovascular health parameters as well. The impact of a high intensity workout to your cardiovascular system should not be underestimated, and those who argue that it doesn’t stimulate your heart and lungs have simply never executed a compound resistance movement to a point of momentary muscular failure or beyond. Needless to say, a high intensity set of squats to even close to the threshold of muscular failure leaves even the most conditioned of athletes gasping for air. You can’t work muscles at high intensities without significantly elevating your heart rate.


Cardio Is Not The Only Way To Increase Endurance

Cardio is not the only way to increase endurance

The idea of a need for repetitive steady state aerobic exercise to improve endurance has been a constant theme in modern sports medicine, however this theory also fails to hold up to the rigors of scientific testing. A study done by Martin Gilba of McMaster University in Ontario found that short, anaerobic high intensity bouts of exercise produced far greater improvements in endurance as compared to conventional aerobics and not only in terms of performance but also with regards to molecular changes in mitochondria related to increased endurance.[7] In one group participants were made to cycle as hard as they could for 20 to 30 seconds for a total of two to three minutes per session while the other group rode a stationary bike at a sustainable pace for 90 to 120 minutes. Each group trained three times a week, and at the end of the two week study both groups showed almost the same increases in overall endurance, with the high intensity anaerobic exercise group having slightly better aerobic performance over their aerobic exercise counterparts, even though they only trained for six to nine minutes a week in while the other group had trained for an weekly average of five hours.[7] Similar findings have been reported in studies by the National Institute of Health and Nutrition in Japan and many experts in the field of sports medicine have begun to question the validity behind the theory of sports specificity for increases in endurance and performance given the new findings on anaerobic high intensity training.[8]


Anaerobic Exercise Conveys The Same Benefits As Aerobics If Not More

So what about the other benefits of aerobic exercise? Pretty much all of them can be replicated or improved upon with resistance exercise of adequate intensity. High intensity anaerobic training has been shown to:


Cardio Won’t Give You ‘The Look’

You won't get a body like this from cardio- you need to lift weights
You won’t get a body like this from cardio- you need to lift weights


It should be said that the toned and defined look sought by most gym-goers is unattainable from simply doing aerobic exercise. As with all steady state type movements, the body quickly adapts and learns to burn less and less calories the more the exercise is continued and there are no profound changes in body fat or muscle mass as there is no stimulation intense enough to bring about an adaptation response in skeletal muscle. No matter how hard you may think that aerobics class may be or that session on the bike was- it can’t make profound changes in the way you look the way weight training can as there is no continued overload. Doing aerobics in conjunction with weight training doesn’t always give the best of both worlds either as the extra work can have a counterproductive effect on your weight loss efforts, since the added workload can lead to overtraining and consequently less results than you would get from resistance exercise alone.


Now it would be inaccurate to say that aerobic exercise is without merit- as such a statements fly in the face of countless studies that show very real benefits to doing it, but it may not be the only path to optimum health and fitness. I personally have not done any aerobic type exercise over the past 23 years and during that time I have been able to distinguish myself as a successful drug free bodybuilder, maintain year round body fat percentage of 6% all while  sustaining an extremely high degree of cardiovascular conditioning. I have personally trained endurance athletes such as triathletes, marathon runners and distance cyclists and helped them increase their performance times using only three ten minute high intensity weight training a week and no cardio exercise whatsoever. Add to that twenty years of helping dozens of fitness models and bodybuilders get into contest winning shape using only high intensity training and proper dietary practices and the  hundreds I have helped lose anywhere from 30 to as much as a 100 pounds- all without the use of aerobics or steady state exercises.

You don't need cardio example- Jenny Bohlstrom
Bikini competitor and Naturally Intense Trainer Jenny Bohlstrom got into amazing shape without any cardio- just high intensity weight training.

The appeal of cardio is easy to understand, as it requires little in terms of instruction and women for one tend to find it less intimidating than weight training. Cardio exercise are also easy for researchers to study, as creating controlled exercise protocols for groups is far less involved and costs far less to supervise and execute as compared to anaerobic type resistance training. Logically there are more aerobic exercise studies than anaerobic ones, which explains the initial bias towards cardio over resistance exercise in terms of weight loss and health benefits, but as more studies emerge using resistance training, we are learning that it can be equally beneficial and far less time consuming. There are also entire industries based on aerobic exercise- gyms, home exercise equipment, exercise classes and even the sneaker industry all invest heavily in promoting it, while there is very little in the way of promotion of weight training as dumbbells don’t sell gym memberships- cardio machines do. Nevertheless if you are serious about getting into great shape or looking for a more efficient way to improve your health and fitness, high intensity training might be a better fit for you over cardio. So get off the treadmill and pick up the weights if you really want ‘the look’ and don’t forget to watch what you eat as neither aerobic nor anaerobic exercise can negate the ill effects of an unhealthy diet.


High Intensity Bodyweight Training: Ballistic Pushups & Dips!

This was a tough one!

Starts out with ballistic push ups (like clap pushups but without the clap as my wrist is still not 100%) nonstop for 20 reps, then all out on dips for 10 reps.

To say it was painful would be an understatement, but you just have to push through and keep on going.

Still training, hope you are too and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #chestday #chesttraining #naturalbodybuildingtips #pushups #dips #bodyweighttraining #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #calesthenics

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Kevin's Unconventional Biceps Training- 3-6 Minutes a Week!

In this video I go over my biceps training using the Naturally Intense High Intensity Training protocols that helped me go from having arms measuring 11.5 to 12 inches to 18 inches drug free!

It's an unconventional approach for certain, but it's one that's helped my arms grow and the hundreds of men and women I have trained over the past 30 plus years.

Now, my success isn't due to being genetically gifted, as it took me the better part of 11 years to get my arms up to those measurements.

Which is significant as it works and been been proven time and time again to work for the average man or woman trying to grow their arms without drugs.

It's my hope that these high intensity training protocols can help you as much as they helped me!

Click on my bio link to see the full video on my YouTube channel and thanks as always for taking the time to look at my work!!! Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #armworkout #bicepsworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #biceps #armtraining #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #barbellcurls

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At the Lancaster Classic Day 2 Elimination Rounds Against European Champion, and World Record Holder Leo Pettersen @leo_barebow_archer

I don't talk much about it but I'm also a competitive barebow archer (surprise!) and last Saturday I had the honor of making it to Day 2 at the Lancaster Archery Classic in the Barebow Division, as I made the top 64 out of 267 competitors and had a chance to shoot with some of the greatest barebow shooters on the planet!

I didn't make it past Leo, but it was a real rush to be there and a huge thanks to my coach, Joe MyGlyn @prolinearchery for helping me get there.

Thanks as well to my good friend @sean_chan33 for all of his help from the very start, to my line buddy Aaron Shea for taking the shot and showing up to support!

My thanks as well to rob_kaufhold for putting on and promoting one of the best archery tournaments on earth!

Thanks also to to everyone who took the time to send a supporting word and I am looking forward to next year!!! #naturallyintense #barebow

#lancasterclassic #lancasterarcheryclassic2024 #lancasterarchery #archery #fitover40 #barebowrecurve #targetarchery

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Dumbo, Brooklyn circa 2004

This shot was taken as part of the promotion for my Naturally Intense DVD and was about a year after my last bodybuilding competition.

It was a grueling photoshoot.

We started at about 10 am and finished around 4pm and I was completely spent, but the more we shot the sharper I looked, so we kept on going.

It's nice to look back from time to time and as tired as I was, we all had a blast!

My thanks to @stephanie_corne_artwork, @https://pulse.ly/itgnag2dec and @ftaz1 for taking the shots!!!

Thanks for watching and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #throwback #fifthavenuegym #5thavenuegym #drugfreebodybuilding #naturalbodybuildinglifestyle #gymlife #gymmotivation #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #bodybuilding #blackandwhite #instablackandwhite #bnw

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Can You Build An Impressive Physique Training Only At Home?


I stopped training in commercial gyms as of March 2020 and have been training at home ever since.

Initially I was admittedly worried that I might lose some of my gains or not make as much progress, but that certainly wasn't the case.

I've consistently continued to improve with my high intensity workouts and muscles have no idea where they are training.

As long as the criteria of adequate intensity and overload are met, there will be an adaptive response and your muscles will get bigger and stronger.

So don't worry at all about where you train, focus instead of what will be the best way for you to always be training!

Thanks for watching and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

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Kevin's Three Day Training Spilt!

For the past 33 years I have trained three times a week with Naturally Intense High Intensity Training workouts lasting 10, 15 to 20 minutes max.

It's a training split tried and testes not only in it's helping me realize my goal of becoming a successful natural bodybuilder, but it's also helped hundreds of men and women over the past three decades.

I have tested just about every possible training split imaginable and for this particular style of high intensity training, this particular grouping consistently yields fantastic results.

I hope it helps you as much as it's helped me over the years and thanks so much for taking the time to look at my work.

Keep training hard and Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#trainingsplit #3daytrainingsplit #threedaytrainingsplit #naturalbodybuilding #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuildingvideo #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #naturalbodybuildingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #bodybuilding #highintensitytraining #highintensitytrainingtips

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405 Stiff Leg Deadlift for 7 Reps! High Intensity Training.

First leg workout of the year and already pushing it!

I haven't done a stiff leg deadlift over 315lbs for about 3 years at this point, and I did my last set with 315lbs and comfortably got to 10 reps and decided I had far too much gas left in the tank and that I should go up in weight.

So I did.

I figured I might get a solid 6 reps in, but I made it to 7 and I think I could have gone on to get a full 10 reps BUT that's when good judgement prevailed.

As a bodybuilder having not trained this heavy for so many years, the shock of this much weight would be more than enough to stimulate muscle growth, and doing more reps wouldn't yield any greater returns, only increase the likelihood of injury.

It's not about the numbers, it's about training to a point where you achieve your goal, and it's important to have a goal in mind as a bodybuilder based on increasing muscle mass rather than hitting a particular number.

Besides, if in my 20's I never did more than 405lbs on a stiff leg deadlift, it doesn't make any sense going heavier than when I am almost 50!

Could I deadlift more at this point?

Absolutely but just because you can doesn't mean you should!

So keep those weights in a good working range, keep it safe and as always Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#hometraining #homeworkout #homeworkout #roguerack #highintensitytraining #naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #fitover40 #naturalbodybuildingvideos #backworkout #naturalbodybuildingtips #backtraining #highintensitytrainingtips #drugfreebodybuilding #fitoverforty #deadlift

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Turning 50 in a few months...

Not much of a big deal for me as I still feel pretty much the same but I hope that my example helps show what can be done with a lifetime commitment to eating well and training consistently!

Thanks for coming along on the journey and as always, Excelsior!!! #naturallyintense

#naturalbodybuilder #naturalbodybuilding #healthylifestyle #fitover40 #drugfreebodybuilding #naturalbodybuildingmotivation #natty #fitness

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Related Articles:

Aerobics & Strength Training- Does It Help Or Does It Hurt?


Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to network TV, Kevin Richardson is the international fitness consultant for UNICEF, natural bodybuilding champion, creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Personal Training and one of the top New York City personal trainers.


Do You Really Need Cardio – The Argument Against Aerobics References:

1. Beneficial effects of exercise: shifting the focus from body weight to other markers of health, N. King, M. Hopkins, P Caudwell, J. Stubbs, J. Blundell. The British Journal of Sports Medicine 2009

2. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Tremblay, A. et al., Physical Activities Sciences Laboratory, Laval University, Quebec, Canada Metabolism.1994;

3. Bahr R (1992). “Excess postexercise oxygen consumption–magnitude, mechanisms and practical implications”. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica. Supplementum

4. Bahr R, Høstmark AT, Newsholme EA, Grønnerød O, Sejersted OM (September 1991). “Effect of exercise on recovery changes in plasma levels of FFA, glycerol, glucose and catecholamines”. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica

5. Bielinski R, Schutz Y, Jéquier E (July 1985). “Energy metabolism during the postexercise recovery in man”. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

7. High-intensity Interval Training: A Time-efficient Strategy for Health Promotion. Martin J. Gibala, PhD, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada Current Sports Medicine Reports 2007

8. Specificity of training adaptation: time for a rethink? John A. Hawley-J. Physiol. 2008

9. Singh NA, Clements KM, Fiatarone MA. A randomized controlled trial of progressive resistance training in depressed elders. Journal of Gerontology Medical Sciences

10. Doyne EJ, Ossip-Klein DJ, Bowman ED, Osborn KM, McDougall-Wilson IB, Neimeyer IB. Running Versus Weight Lifting in the Treatment of Depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

11. Martinsen EW, Hoffart A, Solberg O. Comparing aerobic and non aerobic forms of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression: a randomized trial. Comprehensive Psychiatry

12. Singh NA, Stavrinos TM, Scarbeck Y, Galambos G, Liber C, Singh MA. A randomized controlled trial of high versus low intensity weight training versus general practitioner care for clinical depression in older adults. Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences

13. Pedersen BK, Saltin B: Evidence for prescribing exercise as therapy in chronic disease. Scand J Med Sci Sports 2006

14. Extremely short duration high intensity interval training substantially improves insulin action in young healthy males- John A Babraj , Niels BJ Vollaard , Cameron Keast, Fergus M Guppy, Greg Cottrell and James A Timmons

15. High-intensity resistance training and postmenopausal bone loss: a meta-analysis.Martyn-St James M, Carroll S. Osteoporos Int. 2006

16. Influence of exercise intensity on abdominal fat and adiponectin in elderly adults. Coker RH, Williams RH, Kortebein PM, Sullivan DH, Evans WJ.Metab Syndr Relat Disord. 2009

17. Effect of exercise training intensity on abdominal visceral fat and body composition. Irving BA, Davis CK, Brock DW, Weltman JY, Swift D, Barrett EJ, Gaesser GA, Weltman A.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Nov;40(11):1863-72.

18. Resistance training in the treatment of the metabolic syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of resistance training on metabolic clustering in patients with abnormal glucose metabolism. Strasser B, Siebert U, Schobersberger W.Sports Med. 2010

19. Resistance training in the treatment of the metabolic syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of resistance training on metabolic clustering in patients with abnormal glucose metabolism. Strasser B, Siebert U, Schobersberger W.Sports Med. 2010

20.  Graf Ch., e.a.: Fachlexikon Sportmedizin: Bewegung, Fitness und Ernährung von A-Z, Deutscher Ärzteverlag, 2008, p. 209, ISBN 3769112237, here online

21. Reuter P.: Der grosse Reuter: Springer Universalwörterbuch Medizin, Pharmakologie und Zahnmedizin, Birkhäuser Verlang, 2005, p. 1300, ISBN 3540251049, here online

22 Woolston, Chris. “Ills & Conditions – Athletic Heart Syndrome”. CVS Caremark Health Information. 17 January 2007

Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardsonhttps://www.naturallyintense.net
Featured everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to CBS News, celebrity Personal Trainer NYC and with over 2.6 million readers of his blog, Kevin Richardson is the creator of Naturally Intense High Intensity Training, one of the top lifetime drug free bodybuilders of his time, the first International Fitness & Nutrition Consultant for UNICEF, 2020 and 8 Time Winner of the Best of Manhattan Awards for Personal Training and a world recognized authority on high intensity training. Kevin has helped thousands, from celebrities to CEO's over the past 30 years achieve their fitness goals with his 10 minute high-intensity workouts done just three times a week in conjunction with his holistic nutrition approach. You can learn more about about his diet and training services at www.naturallyintense.net

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