I’ve written about my disdain for aerobic activity, and most notably running, several times. You can find those articles here, here, here and here.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I think some aerobic activity has a place, just not as an effective fat loss tool. Even Dr. Ken Cooper, the recognized “father of aerobics“ agrees with me. Please let me explain.
I have my own gym, but I still see a few clients at a great old school niche gym down the street. The kind of place that is a gym, not a fitness center or health facility. Iron, cable, rubber flooring and sweat. I’ve been a member there since 1978, so I know most everyone, at least by their face or the generic name of “dude”.
Most every morning I’m there I see the same people, like little hamsters on a treadmill, churning their legs at breath taking speeds on a path to nowhere. It dawned on me that I often observe the same sweat soaked people, zombie like in their appearance, fixated on some show on the TV while their iPod blasts something into their ear holes.
This perplexing slog, reminiscent of the unbearable task of Sisyphus, seems strange to me in that these folks feel compelled to drown themselves in a sea of external stimuli in order to accomplish or complete their efforts. I think it’s because of this loss of self actualized awareness that quite often their gait, physical presence and body fluidity displays such imbalance.
It is these same seemingly amorphous people, whose body compositions imperceptibly or never changes, that return with the sunrise each day to get their “exercise Jones“ under the misguided assumption that their ritual addiction to this task is in some form or fashion beneficial to them. As an aside, I find it both interesting and sad that these folks rarely display progress, stay soft and pudgy and quite often gain body fat…especially after Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Oftentimes thirty minutes to an hour of such activity is spent languishing upon the treadmill, bike, stair climber or elliptical, or some combination thereof, before giving a fleeting pass through the gym and hoisting huge 5, 8 or even 10 pound dumbbells.
I have a sneaking suspicion this phenomena is not a San Antonio based occurrence
I can hear the justifications now…“Well Uncle Steve you’re just biased because you like lifting weights. Doing something beats doing nothing any day of the week and twice on Sunday!”
However, here’s how I view this: If you’re going to get a gym membership and actually devote the time to doing something constructive AND that will benefit your physique, and by proxy your mindset, why not then DO something that will provide you with said benefits?
In the words of the inimitable Joe Namath, “If you’re not going to go all the way, why go at all?”
My 10 Justifications For Avoiding Aerobic Activity:
Before I seemingly bash aerobic activity, let’s first define what it is, OK?
Here goes: Virtually any uniform or steady state activity, movement or propulsion that elevates ones heart rate to a preferred level or “target” for a duration of time (typically 20 minutes) or more. The desired target is established by criteria determined through mathematical calculations based upon ones age or resting heart rate.
So far so good?
Here’s why it’s poor use of effort, energy and time…
1. You rust out rather than wear out – It’s called oxidative stress and is akin to your body rusting out, which in turn triggers the decomposition or erosion of tissues. (think joint pain and arthritis) That’s why you need to take your ANTI–oxidants. Oh, and just an FYI…it also makes you a tremendous candidate for cancer and heart attack. Just ask Jim Fixx…
2. A free education in fat storage and production – Cortisol is a necessary component of good health…unless you have too much of it. In which case you’ll likely see a breakdown in your level of muscle tissue and a substantial increase to your bodies capacity for fat storage. Aerobic activities cause an increase and elevated level of cortisol. In effect, you teach your body to store more fat.
Isn’t that great? People perform aerobic activity to assuage themselves from stress and invariably wind up creating more of it because of the resultant frustration from weight gain. Booyah!
3. Low T and depleted HGH for you buddy! – Betcha never thought you’d hear an advertisement for Viagra or Cialis from me, huh? See guys, the cold hard truth is that aerobic activity is a self induced form of chemical castration. Unless the possibility of a reduced libido, depression, anxiety, an increase in “love handles”, belly fat and flabby pecs AND less overall muscle tissue really interests you, continuing with aerobics will lower your testosterone levels so that this may occur. And all of these symptoms are a factor in muscle-wasting which will only serve to make you fat because of the basal metabolic rate decrease.
4. Binging and eating like a pot smoker – Aerobic activities make people hungry! And hungry people quite often eat what is quick, convenient and readily at hand rather than make solid, well thought out choices.
5. Extreme Muscular Fatigue – Ever seen anyone pass out or drop at the end of a marathon or long run? It takes most folks days to recover from these activities. It also makes it extremely difficult to do other more productive forms of activity, like squat or dead lift or row. Aerobic activity often produces muscular weakness.
6. Alteration and transformation of Type 2 muscle fibers (fast-twitch) to Type 1 (slow-twitch) – Ever wonder why a lot of elderly people move so much more slowly? Simple: the loss of fast-twitch muscle fibers. When you lose your capability for explosive power and speed, you get slower, and slower…and slower…
7. From a “return on investment” standpoint, it’s a very poor payoff – So…you just finished an hour long run on the treadmill and are now going to sit down to a large meal of chicken, a baked potato with butter and sour cream and a generous helping of green beans with bacon. Congratulations! You just replaced all of the calories, plus a substantial number more, that you exerted yourself so hard to burn off.
8. No better way to induce repetitive stress problems from your feet to your shoulders – You see, the repeated excessive and recurrent energy exerted throughout your body each time your foot strikes the ground has consequences. Sore feet, bad knees, worn out hips and pain filled lower/upper backs to name just a few. This is exacerbated by two similar, but conflicting, issues: 1) most people’s running mechanics stink and serve only to make a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon happy, and 2) the use overly-engineered running shoes to cushion the feet (because your running mechanics suck and your feet hurt when you run) serve to create a sort of neurophysiologic memory loss. In other words, the padding on the shoes allows you to continue to slam into the ground long after the damage from the slamming has taken place. Sweet!
9. Shortened muscles – Everyone knows that as you get older the need for stretching and flexibility increases, so they take the necessary time to do it…right?
Only freaks take 10 minutes per day and stretch. The rest of us exercise our butts off, then wonder why we can’t touch our toes. Aerobic activities cause a deformation of the muscle tissue from recurring and tedious partial and mid-range movements. The results are inflexibility, a loss of mobility and muscle imbalances. So not only do you become tight, your overall posture stinks and you’re in constant, chronic pain.
10. Fried Adrenal’s – The adrenal glands reside alongside the kidneys and are responsible for the release of adrenaline, your fight or flight hormone. A small amount is released during training, but when the amount of it that makes up the “feel good” portion of the “runners high” is stuck in the “on” position for extended periods, this excessive adrenaline release creates an addictive reaction which equates to fried adrenal’s (adrenal fatigue) expressed by chronic fatigue and depression.
No thank you…
As I eluded to at the beginning of this article, Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the father of aerobic exercise as well as the person who coined the term, completely retracted his statements with respect to aerobic exercise.
After observing an inordinate number of people he had encouraged to perform aerobic based activities die of cancer and heart disease, he backed away from his thoughts on the “benefits” of unnecessary aerobic exercise. His new position now states that anything over 20 minutes has little to no positive return. Dr. Cooper is also now a fan and staunch supporter of scientifically based resistance training.