When it comes to cardio workouts, there are generally two camps of thinking: one is that cardio training will make you lose your hard earned “gains” , and you’ll become skinny with no muscle mass or strength. The other argument is that cardio is essential to physical fitness–that without it, you could have all the muscle mass in the world, but to accomplish basic life’s tasks can be much harder than it should be. In effect, strong, jacked dudes (and ladies) can barely walk up a flight of stairs, yet they might be able to bench twice their weight.
So what’s the right answer? Should cardiovascular development be a fundamental part of your weight loss plan? The answer, of course, is absolutely yes. But the key is to find a healthy balance between the two. Aerobic (cardio) and anaerobic (strength training) exercises are hands-down most efficient when combined.
What Is Cardiovascular Development?
Let’s take a step back for a moment. When we talk about cardiovascular development, we’re addressing the entire package–strengthening the heart itself, which then improves your blood flow, can reduce inflammation and help your entire body function optimally. Cardio development truly is one of the best things you can do for yourself, whether you’re looking to lose weight, get toned, or simply be the healthiest version of yourself possible.
Before you can improve your heart health, you have to first know your starting point. If these symptoms sound familiar, you might need to step up your cardio game:
- High resting heart rate. If you wake up in the morning after a good night’s sleep and your resting heart rate is in the 70s, your heart’s already overexerting itself, yet you are expending very little energy.
- High blood pressure. When your heart isn’t conditioned properly and has to put in extra work even while at rest, high blood pressure often results (there are multiple reasons why you might have elevated blood pressure, but poor cardiovascular conditioning shouldn’t be one of them). This can come along with its own set of health problems, including increasing your risk for developing heart disease.
- You’re tired all the time. If you constantly feel drained and unmotivated, it’s possible that your heart simply can’t pump enough oxygenated blood to your brain. Your body feels depleted, even when you’re not exerting yourself.
Why Does Cardio Development Matter?
The truth is, whether you want to lose weight or increase your muscle mass, cardiovascular development matters. If you think of your body like a car’s engine, efficient cardiovascular system allows for easier fuel delivery and removal of waste products. Sure, you can build a bigger engine, but if you don’t have enough gas to run it or can’t deliver gas efficiently, what good is it? Even for those who are already in relatively good physical shape, you will eventually plateau unless you are following a strategy to keep your body performing at a higher level.
In a nutshell, here’s why you need cardiovascular development, no matter what your goals are:
- Cardio helps your system recover faster. Honestly, most people just can’t handle weight training, because their system is so inefficient that their body can’t recover quickly enough to be able to repeat the effort. Their heart rate will stay sky high and just won’t be able to come down fast enough to perform the next set.
- Anaerobic training puts your body in a constant state of stress. If you’re only allowing your body to perform anaerobic activities, you’re never giving it a chance to flip the stress switch off. It’s constantly trying to repair itself, yet you’re not giving it the tools it needs (hint: cardio) to efficiently recover. And this chronic stress can create downstream cascade of health problems like inflammation, poor nutrient absorption, and low energy production.
- Cardio lowers the cost of energy. As the saying goes, there really is no such thing as a free lunch. When you perform an activity, whether that’s walking across the street or running a marathon, you need to have enough energy available to expend. If you’re running on an inefficient system with poor cardiovascular health, the cost of that energy production is going to be much higher than it would with a properly functioning cardio system.
The Bottom Line
Despite conflicting viewpoints on the subject, the fact of the matter is that cardiovascular development is a crucial component of your overall health and fitness program and ,as such, needs to be seriously considered before embarking on your new exercise regime. Does this mean that there’s no place for strength training? Of course not. But what it does mean is that in order to excel at anything, be that weight lifting or weight loss, you’ve got to condition your heart first.