Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
20 Jun

A Case Against Cardio (from a former mileage king)

We all know that we need to exercise to be healthy.

Unfortunately, the popular wisdom of the past 40 years – that we would all be better off doing 45 minutes to an hour a day of intense aerobic activity – has created a generation of overtrained, underfit, immune-compromised exerholics. Hate to say it, but we weren’t meant to aerobicize at the chronic and sustained high intensities that so many people choose to do these days. The results are almost always unimpressive. Ever wonder why years of “Spin” classes, endless treadmill sessions and interminable hours on the “elliptical” have done nothing much to shed those extra pounds and really tone the butt?

Don’t worry. There’s a reason why the current methods fail, and when you understand why, you’ll see that there’s an easier, more effective – and fun – way to burn fat, build or preserve lean muscle and maintain optimal health. The information is all there in the primal DNA blueprint, but in order to get the most from your exercise experience, first you need to understand the way we evolved and then build your exercise program around that blueprint.

Like most people, I used to think that rigorous aerobic activity was one of the main keys to staying healthy – and that the more mileage you could accumulate (at the highest intensity), the better. During my 20+ years as a competitive endurance athlete, I logged tens of thousands of training miles running and on the bike with the assumption that, in addition to becoming fit enough to race successfully at a national class level, I was also doing my cardiovascular system and the rest of my body a big healthy favor.

Being the type A that I am, I read Ken Cooper’s seminal 1968 book Aerobics and celebrated the idea that you got to award yourself “points” for time spent at a high heart rate. The more points, the healthier your cardiovascular system would become. Based on that notion, I should have been one of the healthiest people on the planet.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t – and that same mindset has kept millions of other health-conscious, nirvana-seeking exercisers stuck in a similar rut for almost 40 years. It’s time to get your head out of the sand and take advantage of your true DNA destiny, folks!

The first signal I had that something was wrong was when I developed debilitating osteoarthritis in my ankles…at age 28. This was soon coupled with chronic hip tendonitis and nagging recurrent upper respiratory tract infections. In retrospect, it is clear now that my carbohydrate-fueled high-intensity aerobic lifestyle was promoting a dangerous level of continuous systemic inflammation, was severely suppressing other parts of my immune system and the increased oxidative damage was generally tearing apart my precious muscle and joint tissue.

The stress of high intensity training was also leaving me soaking in my own internal cortisol (stress hormone) bath. It wasn’t so clear to me at the time exactly what was happening – in fact it was quite confusing, since I was doing so much of this so-called “healthy” aerobic exercise – but I had no choice but to give up racing, unable to train at anywhere near the intensity required to stay at an elite level.

To make ends meet…

…I became a “personal trainer” and I refocused my attention on training average “non-athletic” people to achieve reasonable levels of general fitness and health. Of course, we lifted weights as part of the overall plan (and I will go into greater detail on that important aspect of fitness in a later post), but for the aerobic component of their training, I started doing long walks or hikes or easy bike rides with them. My many clients got the benefit of me actually working out right along side them and I got the benefit of 3 to 5 hours a day of very low intensity aerobic work (well, very low for me anyway). It was refreshing and really didn’t take much effort on my part, but I knew I had to be deriving at least some small benefit from those hours.

Since I didn’t have much time left in the week for my own workouts, once or twice a week I would do a very short but very intense workout for my own benefit, usually sprints at the track or “hill repeats” of 2-3 minutes each on the bike. Lo and behold, within a year, my injuries were healing, I was rarely sick and I was even back to occasionally racing – faster than ever. Something “primal” was happening and it made total sense in the context of the DNA blueprint. I was training like my hunter-gatherer ancestors, building my aerobic capacity slowly and steadily without overstressing my adrenals or my immune system, training my body to derive more energy from fats (and not glucose), requiring far fewer carbohydrate calories from my diet, and building muscle with occasional quick bursts of speed and intensity. I was suddenly both fit AND healthy. My Primal Health system was kicking in and it all made perfect sense.

Humans, like all mammals, evolved two primary energy systems that powered the skeletal muscles of our hunter-gatherer ancestors 40,000 years ago and that would keep us all well-powered the same way today, if we weren’t so bent on circumventing them with our ill-fated (literally) lifestyle choices.

The first energy system relied heavily on the slow burning of fats to create ATP (the universal energy currency), keeping us fueled while we were at rest or sleeping, yet also allowing for continuous or intermittent low levels of aerobic activity (think of our ancestors walking across the savannah for hours foraging for roots, shoots, berries, grubs, insects and the occasional small animal). It makes sense. Fats are very efficient fuels that are stored easily in the fat cells and burn easily and cleanly when lots of oxygen is present (as when we are breathing normally). Even if there’s no food in the immediate area, a well-trained fat-burning hunter-gatherer could continue walking and foraging for days without compromising his or her health or efficiency.

The second major energy system we developed through evolution was the ATP-PC system, which allowed for intense loads of work to be done in very brief bursts (think of our hunter-gatherer ancestors sprinting to the safety of a tree to avoid being eaten by a lion). Both ATP and phosphocreatine (PC) are always sitting right there within the muscle cells, with the former providing a quick burst of energy and the latter replenishing the former as it depletes. Together, they are the highest octane fuel we have, but it doesn’t last long. In fact, it’s ATP-PC and adrenaline that allow the little old lady to lift the front end of the Ford Fairlane off her husband when the jack fails. Unfortunately, the muscles can only store about 10-20 seconds worth of this precious fuel to complete life-or-death tasks. If our ancestors survived that quick sprint to safety, however, their ATP and PC reserves were filled again within a minute or two, making available another 10-20 second slot of intensity.

Furthermore, that brief burst of intense energy sparked a small “growth spurt” in the muscle, making it even stronger for the next encounter with the next lion – a true survival adaptation.

(Note: While our energy systems are actually quite complex, varied and interrelated, I have simplified things here to make it easier to “digest”.)

Bottom line: Fats and ATP-PC were the two primary energy sources for locomotion: we either moved slowly and steadily or “fight or flight” fast, and we became stronger and healthier the more we used only those energy systems.

But here’s the real take-home message for us: We did not evolve to rely heavily on a carbodydrate-fueled energy system, and yet, carbohydrate metabolism seems to rule our lives today. Yes, carbohydrate (in the form of glucose) can play a major role in the production of energy in skeletal muscle, but it turns out that the heart and skeletal muscle prefer fatty acids (fat) as fuel over glucose.

Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t regularly ramp their heart rates up for over an hour a day like so many of us do now. Even when the concept of organized hunting came along, it would appear that our hunter-gatherer ancestors relied more on superior tracking ability (using our highly evolved and exceptionally large brains) and walking (using our superior fat-burning systems), rather than on actually “chasing down” their prey. In fact, squandering valuable energy reserves (and increasing carbohydrate [glucose] metabolism by a factor of ten) by running hard for long periods of time was so counterproductive it would have likely hastened your demise (imagine chasing some game animal for a few hours and – oops – not succeeding in killing it. You’ve spent an incredible amount of energy, yet now you have no food to replace that energy. You have suddenly become some other animals prey because you are physically exhausted).

So, what does all that mean for us in the 21st century seeking to maximize our health and fitness?

Well, we know that this current popular high intensity aerobic pursuit is a dead-end. It requires huge amounts carbohydrate (sugar) to sustain, it promotes hyperinsulinemia (overproduction of insulin), increases oxidative damage (the production of free radicals) by a factor of 10 or 20 times normal, and generates high levels of the stress hormone cortisol in many people, leaving them susceptible to infection, injury, loss of bone density and depletion of lean muscle tissue – while encouraging their bodies to deposit fat. Far from that healthy pursuit we all assumed it was! What, then, is the answer?

Knowing what we know about our hunter-gatherer ancestors and the DNA blueprint, we would ideally devise an aerobics plan that would have us walking or hiking several hours a day to maximize our true fat-burning systems and then doing intermittent “life or death” sprints every few days to generate those growth spurts that create stronger, leaner muscle.

However, since allocating a few hours a day to this pursuit is impractical for most people, we can still create a plan that has a fair amount of low level aerobic movement, such as walking briskly, hiking, cycling at a moderate pace, etc a few times a week and keep it at under an hour. Then, we can add a few intense “interval” sessions, where we literally sprint (or cycle or do anything intensely) for 20, 30 or 40 seconds at a time all out, and do this once or twice a week.

If you are willing to try this new approach, but haven’t sprinted for a while, you may want to ease into it. Start with maybe three or four the first time, resting two minutes in between and, after a few weeks of doing this, work your way up to a workout that includes six or eight all-out sprints after a brief warm-up. An easy few minutes of stretching afterwards and you’ve done more in less time than you could ever accomplish in a typical “80-85% Max Heart Rate” cardio” workout. That’s exactly type of the plan I do myself and that I give all of my trainees now.

Let’s recap:

The benefits of low level aerobic work (walking, hiking, cycling, swimming):
– increases capillary network (blood vessels that supply the muscle cells with fuel and oxygen)
– increases muscle mitochondria
– increases production of fat-burning and fat-transporting enzymes
– more fun, because you can talk with a partner while doing it

The benefits of interval training (sprinting in short intense bursts)
– increases muscle fiber strength
– increases aerobic capacity (work ability)
– increases muscle mitochondria (the main energy production center in muscle)
– increases insulin sensitivity
– increases natural growth hormone production

The costs of chronic (repetitious) mid- and high-level aerobic work
– requires large amounts of dietary carbohydrates (SUGAR)
– decreases efficient fat metabolism
– increases stress hormone cortisol
– increases systemic inflammation
– increases oxidative damage (free radical production)
– boring!

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Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Interesting TED talk which signals that early humans were dependant on running a lot:

    It also deals with the injury-part.

    Jeroen wrote on November 9th, 2011
  2. My tipping point was when the prescription for seborrheic dermatitis stopped working altogether. For years I was filling presciptions for either a topical cream or oral sterroids. Both prescriptions slowly became less and less effective until to point they became useless. Every dermatologist I went, I have seen many over the years, always claimed the same thing. No change in diet will help. They were all wrong. Once I switched to Primal all signs of seborrheic dermatitis are gone. Curing this condition means so much to me, it is not all about vanity. Walking around with flakey skin all over my face (had it really bad) most of the time was affected all of my day to day interactions with other people. Most people will avoid “David the Lizard King”, and that is lizard king in a bad way not the Jim Morrison way.

    David wrote on November 15th, 2011
  3. Excellent! Just read this article and the Primal Blueprint book. With regards to running, it makes perfect sense, common sense even! Take, for example, the marathon run which is 40+km in honor of the guy who, according to the popular story, ran that distance without stopping in order to deliver a message… and then DIED ON THE SPOT. Isn’t it the moral of the story in this case to avoid such strains on one’s life if possible cause it can kill you and NOT to be inspired to emulate the guy?

    Joseph wrote on November 22nd, 2011
  4. Mark: I agree whole-heartedly. I have been a massage therapist for 14 years and I have come to the exact conclusion. I find people causing themselves more problems by overdoing it then under doing it. The exercise machines should be thrown in the ocean. They WRECK people’s bodies. Everybody should get off them. Walking is the best exercise and then I tell my clients to do whatever sport they want for fun, because they will then not be prone to injury the way the machines set them up to be. Walking stabilizes, calms, eases the body into homeostasis. Everybody should walk 3 times per week and that is really the minimum needed for overall body health. Breath, Walk and Stretch. After those are in place then Pilates or core strengthening. I am not big on upper body strengthening, because it usually causes more pressure and tightness which turns into pain.

    Treece wrote on December 4th, 2011
  5. Hi Mark.

    I am a 64-year-old yoga teacher, and am fairly fit.

    One of the places I teach at three days a week is at a University, and I take the metro to get there. It is 1-1/2 miles from my house to the station (I can walk a 15-minute mile).

    I was thinking of walking to the metro and back again, and two of the three days a week, on the way home, (about half way home,) I would change to jogging and doing 6 sprints along the way.

    Is that too much, or does it sound right to you?


    Douglas R Thompson wrote on January 1st, 2012
  6. Back in the day, when I started mountain biking, my strategy was: sprint up the mountain to catch, keep up with, and pass the experienced mountain bikers… go hard ’till I blew up. It was intuitive interval training.

    Then all my MTB buddies said “Nooo your doing it wrong.. just ‘sit & spin.’ You gotta learn to suffer.’

    Ok, so I did. But lo and behold, I got slower. Only when I went back to interval training, mixed in some plyometrics, did I launch back into some speed. And I feel better and have more fun. It’s fun to “shoot in spurts.” haha. Cheers, recovered chronic-cardio’ers!

    Luke Terry wrote on January 6th, 2012
  7. Dear Mark…I am new to your site. A friend led me to your newsletter and free cookbook downloads…and now I’m here. Yea! I’ve been reading all the comments and notice most are from young athletes. Well, I am not young and not an athlete, although very active…Still working as a hairstylist and feeling pretty ok. I’m a 70 yr old lady who still feels young and always thinking young. I’m 5’4 and weighed in today at 148.5….I have a vision of getting rid of this never ending mid-section. I have been doing Leslie Sansone walk/jog dvd’s and def feel better after… I like the idea of your blueprint and getting back to true nature with eating habits. I’ve been doing something like this for a while and trying hard to stay clear of whole grains, going gluten free…blaming it for skin breakouts I’ve had for the past 2 years. Not sure it’s working though. Do you have any recommendations for a senior in getting fit, loosing weight and building strength especially in my core and legs. Thank you for all you are doing to help us get fit and healthy.

    Liz wrote on January 8th, 2012
  8. I’m a 29 year old female, and I find that a 2-4 mile run and stretching a few times a week offers me a huge stress relief, not to mention that sweating is a great form of natural detox. Personally, I find a tempo run a lot less abrasive on my body than weights and sprints.

    Kelly wrote on January 23rd, 2012
  9. Burn calories from either carbs or fat. It does not matter as long as you burn enough in absolute value. It takes longer to burn equivalent fat calories than carbs calories from high intensity exercise. Being fit and athletic requires a balanced exercise routine. Weight lifting alone is not natural while running is. If you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen.

    Benis wrote on January 31st, 2012
  10. I’m not arguing that you’re wrong, but I have to say… I feel so great after a hard cardio workout, and fear I wouldnt get the same satisfaction from the low level cardio taking over. That said, I used to do primarily interval workouts in college, with weight training, and was at my healthiest weight and overall condition then, so like I said, not arguing that you’re wrong about the superiority of this primal plan in terms of health benefits.

    Annie wrote on February 29th, 2012
  11. No doubt you are right. But it ain’t that big a deal either, everyone that is not type A (like you and I), knows this. My dad told me 35 years ago (holy crap!!) what you are saying when he would see me exagerating everything. But I could not help myself. As a matter of fact, I have done my most intense stuff as I turned 50. It also took being this old before my intensity-seeking personality got the better of me. I have backed off some, but I wonder if when you go with your gut everything still works out. The injuries I developed were definitely intellectually driven (I had never run before and took on running marathons); I DECIDED, i wanted to achieve this and I did, but I never enjoyed it. At least not the exercise itself, sure, I enjoyed the achievement. Instead I have played soccer very intensely for the last 40, never missing more than 2-3 weeks. It is super-intense and 2 hours but never more than twice and usually just once a week. Weird, but I stayed in shape with that, can feel recovery takes a couple of days but I enjoy the shit out of it and don’t really have to make myself do it. Maybe that is the real guidance, not coming up with a method but repeating the things that feel “right”.

    Wobet wrote on March 20th, 2012
  12. Mark,

    I realize this is an old article, but I’m going to ask my question anyway. Like many Americans, I have a desk job. Throughout the day, I look for ways to walk more. I park at the end of the lot, take the stairs, walk to a coworkers desk instead of emailing, etc. But it only adds up to so much. I perform resistance training 3 times a week and do HIIT twice a week. That adds up to less than 4 hours of intense exercise per week. Given that I spend such a huge portion of my day sitting, I’m wondering whether I can add more exercise to my routine. In the past, I performed 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity cardio before breakfast. Not only did I shed quite a lot of fat, I also felt great afterwards and never saw signs of overtraining. Do you think it would be wise to reintroduce this type of cardio, perhaps for 30 minutes every morning, I actually enjoy it and feel like it would make up for sitting around all day. It would be moderate intensity, nothing extreme.

    BigNoseDog wrote on March 29th, 2012
  13. I agree that low intensity is the best for fat loss and maintaining muscle mass, but if you like to do something with high intensity, then why not? I think that primal lifestyle is all about learning from our ancestors. They certainly didn’t pay attention to low intensity/high intensity exercises.

    Barbara wrote on March 31st, 2012
  14. Found this article really informative and enjoyable to read it was really interesting, i learnt alot :)

    pacific_1920 wrote on May 10th, 2012
  15. One of my biggest qualms with this inculpation of chronic cardio is the incorrectness in defining low aerobic work. Hunter gatherers were much fitter than we are now. Their low aerobic work would be equivalent to a 7 min/mile run, based upon research of the most efficient running pace (for a male, in this case). I understand not wanting to nudge people in the wrong direction, but there should at least be some room for improving our aerobic fitness. I’m sure most people, if trained at a purely aerobic running (e.g. nasal breathing throughout the whole run), would be able to improve their aerobic strength significantly. WIthout too significant a stress placed on the body.

    lenny wrote on June 28th, 2012
  16. Great post, I totally agree! Here’s why: 5 Reasons To Ditch Steady State Cardio

    Slower metabolic rate – Traditional cardio tends to break down lean muscle tissue, it’s this loss of lean muscle that results in a slower metabolic rate.
    High cortisol release – This causes a breakdown of muscle tissue (slower metabolism) and increases fat storage or deposit fat, specifically around the abdominal region.
    Lowered testosterone and HGH levels – Low T-levels are associated with lowered libido, depression, anxiety, increased body fat and decreased muscle tissue. This contributes to muscle-wasting and lowers the basal metabolic rate. This means men get fatter by performing steady state cardio because they lose muscle and lower the hormones that allow them to burn fat.
    Poor time efficiency – Interval Training is superior to steady state cardio for calorie burning and fat loss. From a time efficiency stand point, you can burn more calories in less time using interval style training.
    Extra potential joint stress – Running injuries are common as the impact, stress and repetitive movement pattern often affects the hips, knees, ankles, and feet of distance runners.

    Bladen baird wrote on August 6th, 2012
  17. This is an interesting article. Thanks. I could relate to a lot of it.
    I personally feel much better now than a year ago when I was training for a marathon. Walking, barefoot running short distances, subtle changes in diet and lifestyle and more strength training have been much better for my health and well-being.
    It is also interesting to note that inflammation is now being linked to depression, as well as the diseases you mentioned in the article. Perhaps excessive endurance training and misinformation is also contributing to an increase in this disease in society? What are your thoughts?

    Darryl Fry wrote on September 11th, 2012
  18. In many ancestral traditions, there is a saying : “what ever you do do it moderatly”. So the article is probably wright

    Saidi wrote on December 3rd, 2012
  19. The immunocompromised part especially I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few years that was the next research “bombshell.”

    The establishment touts exercise as a way to boost your immune system, but as a teen the biggest hinderance to keeping up a regular exercise program for me was that after a couple weeks of consistent cardio I’d end up with a cold. I’d push through but feel like crap, so I’d be forced to stop to recover…then be off the wagon, and a couple months later when I mustered up the motivation to exercise regularly again, the whole cycle would start over.

    Piper wrote on February 13th, 2013
  20. Hi Mark,

    I have been getting into a primal diet, with ups and downs, since November now. Prior that I had been a vegetarian for over 20 years! Abut 3 years ago I started running and totally fallen in love with it. Lost nearly a stone and started getting into swimming and cycling. At my peak performance I weighed 58 kg ( the lightest I ever been) but still had that stubborn belly fat.
    There were health reasons for which I had to change my diet, but I also had discovered a cross fit and needed to increase protein intake as I was too weak to perform. That was when I started to pay more attention to what I eat and started paleo diet ( I have cheat days thou!).
    At the moment I weigh over 64kg and still have this stubborn belly fat(!), Now, I am aware of muscles being denser than fat, so I assume that’s the reason for my weight going up ( but is it thou?!). However, I don’t feel or look any leaner than before. My waist is still the same, my back got actually bigger (swimmers shoulders) and let me put it that way; I can’t squeeze in many of my dresses any more.
    Now, it is mind boggling, as I do not know what to do to burn that stubborn fat but still be able to perform in my races ( half marathons, swimming )?
    I am probably over training (5-7 day/week) but I do have rest periods and my trainings aren’t all at the same intensity ( on average:1 long run+1 track session, 2-3 easy runs,1 long swim+1 high intensity swim and 2 crossfit sessions ).

    I feel a little bit demotivated at the moment, and with all the mixed messages re cardio pretty lost!

    Any thoughts on the subject would be much appreciated.
    Tank you.


    Angiep wrote on March 23rd, 2013
  21. I am aware that this is a past article, but there have been recent (Aug/13) scientific studies that confirm this I enquired into this topic because i have been intrigued by it. As a 40 year old woman who’s exercise is regime, for the most part has been weight-based since the age of 18, I am in great shape. My body also bounced back quite quickly after having 2 children. Long cardio sessions have never really interested me, I found it boring, I would push myself to do cardio simply because i thought i was doing the right thing. During the times i did do long cardio sessions i found it stressed my body, I experienced fatigue and i also consumed more. This article makes complete sense. In fitness follow the golden rule ‘listen to your body’. Love your work Mark!

    Dinah wrote on August 12th, 2013
  22. Ever heard of a guy called Ryan Hall? Haile Gbrselassie? No?
    Well just google them up. I wouldn’t consider these guys “underfit”

    But well, of course, us serious runners and other sports people do interval training too… just that with less than in 45 minutes we are just at the start of our warm up.

    What about a nice 10 miler with 8x 1mile intervals ?
    Or a Yasso800 anybody?


    Bah, boring…. XD

    Enric wrote on September 25th, 2013
  23. I know that running can cause harm to your feet, knees, ankles and feet. Especially running on concrete. My heart is excellent too, and I do not exercise. The great pitcher Sachel Page said he never ran. Always took a slow walk to the mound. Our bodies were not created to endure stresses from outrageous exercise. You will pay for it in the end.

    Lawyer San Antonio wrote on September 27th, 2013
  24. Just want to share my routine in case it helps anyone. I’m also looking for constructive criticism.

    30 minutes HIIT cycling- 12 mph for 6 minutes, 18 mph for 3 minutes, repeat

    45 minutes of Ashtanga Yoga (some call it power yoga but I do traditional Ashtanga)- alternating standing and sitting series

    Rarely, 45 minutes of pilates instead of yoga- traditional mat Pilates, mostly ab and leg work

    Previously I was doing the same HIIT cycling routine but one hour per day and very infrequent yoga. I reduced the cycling to avoid chronic cardio.

    Based on this article and some conversations with friends about chronic cardio, I’m thinking of changing my routine to:
    15 min low intensity cycling and 45 min yoga 5 days per week
    30 minutes HIIT cycling with 30 minutes pilates 2 days per week
    1 day off every 7-10 days

    Feedback welcome! Thanks

    Casey wrote on November 1st, 2013
  25. Thanks for this. I just got my spin bike and I’ll be trying out interval training on it!

    Jonathan wrote on November 29th, 2013
  26. Mark, I fully agree with the use of interval training as part of one’s workout. I started training in August, once every 3 days doing a 1/8 mile run (almost an all out sprint) and had the following results: HDL increased from 40 to 53 (has never in my life been taken and shown over 40), 1.5 mile run time increased by 1:30 in 7 weeks’ time from 14:12 to 12:42 and not only did my 1/8 mile time increase from 1:09 when first starting to a low of 40:81 (avg for 6 sprints was most recently 43.8), but I have been unable to get my heart rate above 164 (I’m 46 years old). When I started it was normally around 180 with a high of 194 one day – you can really feel it at that rate!

    Have not been eating primal but intend to do so as part of my new year’s resolutions and cannot wait to see what the results are.

    Mark wrote on December 24th, 2013
  27. It is beyond me how someone can sustain 80-85% max heart beat anyway.. for me, everything else (either muscles or breathing) will give up long before I can reach even a 140 pulse.. and never in my life have i even tried to work out for more than an hour continuously…

    dido wrote on January 2nd, 2014
    • I am not in excellent shape, I’d say I’m average to a bit above but I can easily get my pulse up to 170-180. I don’t try to sustain it, I run 1/8 mile intervals, basically sprints, then walk the other 1/8, then sprint again, etc. 6 times, takes abt 25 mins total but only abt 5:30 of it running. Works great, got my hdl up from 40 to 53 from that alone and improved my 1.5 mile run time to 12:42.

      Have not been doing it for abt 2 months, hurt my achilles, but going to try and do a bit of it tomorrow even if it’s a 1/8 mile jog….my ankle will decide to fast it is going to let me run.

      Mark wrote on January 11th, 2014
  28. Bonjour Mr Sisson,

    Je veux vous remercier de votre témoignage, l’expérience donc vous nous fait par, je l’ai aussi vécu , en partie. Il est tellement difficile de ce laissé aller et ce donner le temps de ce reposer dans la société actuelle. Vouloir gagné, être le meilleur , passe souvent par un chemin qui nous rend étranger à nos besoin. Je me suis entrainé, moi aussi, au point où je me suis blessé.

    Mon orgueil m’aveuglais , oh! ubris, péché si doux. Les blaissures étaient profondes. Après cela, par hasard et par la force des choses, j’ai changé ma diète et mon entraînement.

    Je faisais 4x65km de vélo par semaine , plus de la course sur 10 et 15 km 2x par semaine . Après un été à sentir une douleur de plus en plus aiguë s’installé dans le bas de mon dos, j’ai consulter un médecin. J’ai me suis fait une entorse et la douleur était de taille, 1 mois immobile , je me sentais dépérir.

    Après ma convalescence forcée par la douleur et la peur de celle ci, j’ai opté pour une nouvelle routine de vie moins exigeant, je marchais pour aller au travail 5 km l’aller et 5 km retour chaque jour, deplus mon travail consiste à marcher beaucoup ( patrouilleur à pieds). Et vue que je ne pouvais plus enduré le stress de longue séance d’exercice, je me suis mit à passer au parc à côté de chez moi, juste quelques minutes par jour , (+- 10 minutes, push up , chin up , petit séries de 30 secondes, 20 secondes de repos le plus que je pouvais faire). Parallèlement à cela, ma diète à beaucoup changé, lorsque je m’ entraînerais au vélo et à la course, je mangeais des pates midi et soir. Et maintenant mon alimentation tourne autour des fruits et du poisson.

    Le changement fût majeur, meilleur cardio, augmentation de la force et de la masses musculaire, j’étais sidéré. Les années de sur entraînement m’avait apportées bien des malheurs, mais en quelques mois d’entraînement facile et court, une progression inégalée. C’est comme cela que j’ai trouvé votre témoignage, je voulais comprendre pourquoi.

    Jean-Sébastien wrote on January 4th, 2014
  29. I can walk for several hours, lift heavy things (myself) but I cannot sprint without being half-dead the next day for several days, the muscle pain is terrible. It just doesn’t feel right to me. So I think for an average person, there must be another approach towards getting fitter. There must be something inbetween walking and all-out sprints. I don’t think this is the right approach for me. Thinking long about it I have tried running at a speed that is slightly too fast for keeping the pace for very long, but is faster than if I’d say I wanted to start jogging. As long as it feels smooth and easy, I run. As soon as I get uncomfortable I walk until I feel ready again. I have done this for about 5 k every third day and within very short time I started to feel much better and the muscle pain is not bad at all and doesn’t leave me destroyed. I think Mark’s approach is something for already fit people who are used to some sort of running. I think sprinting is very demanding and doing all-out sprints is something for very fit people already. It is not a way to become fit when you are just used to walking a lot.

    Margit wrote on January 14th, 2014
  30. I’ve never thought about this approach. I will start to integrate some short intense work like sprints, sounds fun!

    omar wrote on March 23rd, 2014
  31. Hey Mark,

    I am doing body building and getting quiet big – now I want to get a bit more skinny on some parts and besides cardio what can I do? One month without cardio and I am looking like a fat person because of high ammount of water that my body gets in.

    Carolina wrote on March 25th, 2014
  32. Hi Mark, this is a very helpful article. This is a topic that I have researched in the past, and I always see contradicting arguments on behalf of fitness experts and enthusiasts. But, now my understanding of this topic is much clear. However, I am still confused in regards to what activities are considered good cardio or bad cardio. What about skipping rope or HIIT?

    Sergio wrote on April 19th, 2014
  33. I’m slightly confused by the summary which states that the types of exercise “Increase Muscle Mitochondria.” Did you mean to say that it increases the productivity of the mitochondria in your muscle tissue, or that you are actually increasing the number of mitochondria in the system. The statement seems to imply the latter, however I believe that since mitochondria are part of the whole genetic blueprint that makes up the cell, you cannot simply add more mitochondria. Eventually there becomes a space issue in the cell. On the other hand, are you simply stating that the overall number of muscle cells increase, thereby increasing the number of your mitochondria? That explanation seems to make more sense, but it was not clearly written that way.

    Marc wrote on July 7th, 2014
    • Yes, you can increase the number and efficiency of mitochondria in muscle cells through a process called mitochondrial biogenesis. Certain signals from training (and from your diet) upregulate the genes to accomplish this.

      Mark Sisson wrote on July 7th, 2014
  34. The information here is very good. This post alone is still running from 2007! I had been doing perhaps too much cardio lately, for example, 1800 steps on stair master at 150-165 HR for 46 year old, and not enough resistance training. Now working out more “downstairs” at Golds w trainer and seeing results. Also using Garmin a Vivofit to make sure I take 10,000 steps per day, which seems consistent with avoiding chronic cardio.

    On April 28, 2014, I started Paleo type diet that has now morphed into a paleo-gluten free version. I used to think Gluten free was annoying and trendy, but the key is to know what you are consuming (dietary or knowledge) and see what works for you. The results of paleo GF for me have been easy to achieve and have also been somewhat astounding, including better sleep, no indigestion at all, lost 20 pounds eating meat, eggs, and colored veggies with nuts for snacks. I can feel results of carbs if and when I eat them in larger quantities.

    Looking to focus on Tabata / HIIT now, and enjoy added benefit of shorter workouts from dropping chronic cardio habits.

    As Mark notes in Primal Blueprint, Motivation or the Big “M” is key and having “Experiments” and goals will keep you going. I recommend the Primal Blueprint to all these posters.

    We tested yesterday and I now have 6 new ambitious targets for 8-15-14 testing. Will let you all know how the intensity and Slow-and-Easy training works.

    Thanks for this resource to help us become educated and get motivated.

    Wes Few wrote on July 15th, 2014

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