Why I Don't Do Cardio

By , Robin Young, Founder of Fitness Savvy
I have a confession to make: I don't do cardio.

As someone who works fitness industry, it often comes as a surprise to people when I share this information. My aversion comes down to the simple fact that I don't enjoy cardio, and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

I used to run or spend hours on the exercise bike, and I still have a free-standing punch bag I used to use at home. Unfortunately, when I first started trying to lose weight, the novelty of being out of breath, sweating insane amounts and aching all over wore off quickly. After only a few weeks, I was done.

I want to stress that cardio exercise has many benefits, and keep in mind that the best workout is the one that actually happens! However, if, like me, the thought of long hours on the treadmill puts you off, there are alternatives; ones which I personally find to be more fun and enjoyable. This means that I go to the gym regularly and look forward to it as part of my lifestyle—something that never would have happened had I stuck with the cardio workouts I was doing.

Why Is Cardio so Popular?

From those running groups you see jogging around your neighborhood to yet another HIIT studio opening around the corner, there is no denying the popularity of cardio. The truth is, cardio has been promoted to a level where it now sits on a throne, wears a crown and looks down its nose at everything else in the world with a smug grin. Cardio is king and won't be dethroned any time soon, that much is certain. So how did it get there, and why? There's some myth and some fact behind the answer to that question:
  1. Cardio burns calories fast. If calories burned is your only measure of success, it's true that you'll burn a lot of calories participating in cardio activities.
  2. Poor advice. Unfortunately, as with every profession in the world, some personal trainers can be bad. Sometimes, in their quest to conquer your weight-loss goals, the bad ones opt for the quick win. However, while the scales show you have lost weight, there's a chance you've lost muscle.
  3. The alternatives will make you big and bulky. For those who look at the weight room as a one-way ticket to Hulk muscles, sticking to cardio feels like a way to avoid this possible outcome.
  4. Fear of injury. Lifting weights with poor form can cause injury. Some trainers are either not qualified or not competent to train their clients in proper form.
  5. Health benefits. Regular cardio will keep your heart and lungs healthy, as well as helping to lower blood pressure and improving insulin response.
The main lesson here is this: If your personal trainer has you hitting the treadmill five times per week while weights sit gathering dust, you need a new trainer.

Maximizing Your Gym Time Without Cardio

I go to the gym five or six times per week. I'm often asked what I do if I'm not glued to an exercise bike or treadmill. The answer to that is simple: I'm lifting weights. On average, I burn around 250 to 350 calories during an hour or so of weightlifting. Admittedly, that is fewer calories burned than using the treadmill, but the overall benefits are superior.

If time is a limiting factor you may find yourself asking, "What is the best use of my time?" While cardio workouts have many benefits, if you could only choose one form of exercise, I always recommend choosing resistance training.

Many studies support the positive benefits of resistance exercise. When you take up regular weight training, you can expect to not only see changes in your body composition, but you will also benefit from better posture, improved balance, stronger bones, improved insulin sensitivity and more.

When lifting weights, you will commonly perform compound or isolation moves. Compound lifts are those that employ multiple muscle groups. In contrast, isolation moves predominantly use a single muscle group. For those looking to maximize their time, compound exercises allow you to get the biggest bang for their buck. Multitasking moves, such as the squat or deadlift, require two or more muscle groups to work together, much like our muscles function in real life. Win-win.

To make the best use of your time in the gym—or at home with your own set of dumbbells—add a few compound lifts to your routine:
  • Bench Press: works the chest, shoulders and triceps
  • Squat: works the quads and glutes
  • Deadlift: works the back (traps and lats) and glutes
  • Overhead Press: works shoulders and upper back
  • Pull-ups: works the lats, biceps and upper back
  • Rows: works upper back, shoulders and biceps

Why You Should Do Cardio

If you're reading this and thinking of ditching your current cardio routine, don't be too hasty.

First, if you enjoy your daily runs, spins or swims, keep on doing cardio! The most important thing about exercise and diet is to make it a permanent lifestyle change, not a temporary fix for your health. In order to make this a permanent part of your life and routine, you need to enjoy the activity.

Although running and cycling don't tend to build muscle, cardio exercise does come along with its own list of health benefits, including reduced blood pressure, reduced risk of coronary heart disease and a lowered risk of diabetes.

Consider mixing up your runs or other cardio activities with some kind of strength training to keep your muscles guessing. If work and errands and kids keep your calendar full, high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is a great option if you need to fit a full-body workout into a few as 10 minutes.

While it's not always necessary to do cardio, especially if time is a limiting factor or cardio workout anxiety prevents you from going to the gym at all, the key is finding balance and activities that keep you challenged and engaged. Remember that just because something is the hot trend, doesn't mean it will work for your body or your schedule. For me, cardio is not something I prioritize, and that's okay for me and can be okay for you, too. 

About the Author 
Robin Young is a writer and founder of Fitness Savvy, a UK-based website dedicated to producing informative health and fitness articles and guides. 

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I am a short person with very small hands. The few times I tried to do weight lifting, I quickly realized that the equipment was not made for me (no, it didn't adjust enough).

RAMBLER61 12/4/2018
I used to do cardio only, because I really dislike weight training, and even going to the gym. Since I moved and no longer have space for a home gym, we joined a gym and got a trainer. She wants us doing ALL weights and no cardio. Personally, I think her stance, and the author’s, is nonsense. Like I said, I hate the weights, but know I “should” be doing weight training, so I am, with the trainer. That said, I know I “should” also be doing cardio...so when she’s not at the gym, I run the treadmill, or, I just run on the streets. The other thing I “should” be doing is stretching and flexibility training...still working on getting that going. Bottom line is that our bodies NEED all of the above, plus good nutrition, to be as healthy as possible. The other bottom line is that we need to think about the things we read, to see if they make sense. The author here makes a good point that weight training is necessary, but to throw out cardio completely is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. Report
NANCYANNE55 9/17/2018
Thank you very much! I'm not a fan, either. Occasionally I'll get in the mood to pop a step aerobics tape in, but that's rare. I like lifting! The way I lift gets my heart pumping. And after, I walk the dog. Which I enjoy. I call that cardio, even though it's not. :-) Report
SHOAPIE 9/16/2018
I appreciate your comments. Report
MBPP50 9/16/2018
Thank you Report
JEWELZEE- 9/16/2018
Whatever someone does is better than nothing. I like variety. Report
GINNABOOTS 9/14/2018
Strength training is important, but cardio is so important for the heart and overall health. The heart is a muscular organ and needs to be worked too! Report
KATIE520 6/20/2018
Cardio is good for the heart, so saying that it's not necessary is kind of irresponsible. I think we need a mix of strength and cardio for healthiest results in the long run. Report
JVANAM 4/21/2018
Certain things catch your eye, but pursue only those that capture your heart. —NATIVE AMERICAN ~ 4/21/18 Report
KHALIA2 3/23/2018
Thank you for this one. I did strength training today. Report
SPDOBRE 3/13/2018
Great to know it! Thank you for sharing! Report
MIYAMO 3/5/2018
Good article. Report
Well written- good options discussed Report
AUNA_VISTA 3/4/2018
Cardio is good for your heart. You want to keep that functioning at its best. Report
DMEYER4 3/4/2018
thanks Report
MSROZZIE 3/4/2018
Good article. I love cardio and strength workouts! Report
I love cardio... Report
RAPUNZEL53 3/4/2018
Thanks. Report
PICKIE98 3/4/2018
I agree. Cardio is great for the respiratory and circulatory systems, but strength is required for muscular, digestive, etc. Report
CMRKSU12 3/4/2018
I love cardio! I love walking outdoors too. But, I have to admit that doing strength training bores me! I do get it done 3x a week but I just don't like it much. lol Report
SPINECCO 3/4/2018
I fine that the article contains great advice that serves as a great reminder for me. Great advice. Report
MICKEYJ1961 3/4/2018
I am exactly the opposite. I could do cardio for hours, but 10 minutes of lifting weights bores me to tears. You can't read while lifting weights, either, which is part of the fun of doing cardio on machines. Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/4/2018
good article Report
AZMOMXTWO 3/4/2018
good article Report
LSIG14 3/4/2018
I personally think one needs both in order to derive the benefits of a balanced program - but as the author put it, the best workout is one that is done! If you can't do it everything, do something! Report
RO2BENT 3/4/2018
Healthful lifestyle Report
SADDHU1 3/4/2018
It’s best to do weight training AND cardio. Certainly, the author can benefit from yoga or stretching if they are hitting the weights hard. So many weight lifters have limited flexibility. Report
VICKICHICKI123 3/4/2018
I enjoy cardio to balance out my strength days. No point looking trim if my body can't handle running to the bustop when I am late. Report
HAWKTHREE 3/4/2018
Thank you. My guilt at rarely ever using a treadmill / elliptical is assuaged. Report
LEANJEAN6 3/4/2018
Balance good! Report
PATRICIA-CR 3/4/2018
Excellent input! Report
NEPTUNE1939 3/4/2018
great Report
TCANNO 3/4/2018
nnice Report
JANIEWWJD 3/4/2018
I loved this article!! Report
DJ4HEALTH 3/4/2018
interesting Report
RD03875 2/27/2018
Thanks for the article Report
NANCY_SH 2/21/2018
I used to do cardio only. The best thing I ever did was to start doing strength training with dumbbells. I can get my heart rate up during strength sessions by doing supersets instead of resting between sets, by doing compound moves, or by doing a couple of HIIT intervals between exercises. I still do about two whole body, cardio sessions a week. Report
I do cardo away from the gym. I can walk anywhere. The gym is for strength, with weights and machines, stuff that I don't have. Report
LIN1263 2/11/2018
I do cardio at the gym, but at the fat burning level, not the cardio level, I use the bikes. I have low blood pressure 80/55. I have to have salt daily to try to get it to 100. I have pleurisy, chronic pneumonia from it & 4 blood clots total in both lungs from the pneumonia. I have had this at least 2 years & have recently been changed to a new blood thinner for the 3rd. time. My last tests at the hospital regarding oxygen showed my level was 94% but if I walked slow around the hospital, oxygen did not change but blood pressure was raised by 15 points. Tests prove I can not do cardio. Specialist will give full results in 4 more weeks. My DR. always said I could do any exercise, hospital said no & had me use a puffer & rest for 15 minutes between every set of tests, it took a long time to do them. Each test was 15 minutes, then 15 minutes rest. The technician told the Dr. I can not handle constantly doing the tests & he had to wait for me to finish them. So 90 minutes total tests. I can not walk a long time or do HIIT training. Later I have been going to the hospital more then the Dr. I am glad I did. All hospital visits are free & some of my dental work that cost thousands is free at the hospital. I will be admitted in the hospital June 1, for 2 days for dental work because of my blood clots. Report
SHOAPIE 2/1/2018
My dog insists I walk him twice a day. Report
Very interesting! Report
Interesting Report
MODIASE-U 1/31/2018
Good information. I love cardio, and strength training too. Whatever works for me I do and I attend classes at the YMCA. As long as I am doing my exercise 3 - 4 times a week I am happy. Report
JANETEMILY 1/31/2018
As the article says, the best exercise is the one you enjoy.. or at least don't mind doing! I get cardio by walking my dog 7 days a week. I do not go to a gym, and have no desire to either. I generally do whatever else appeals to me and my schedule that day. It might be mostly strength training, or circuits that include aerobics, or more recently, I found a great Vinyasa yoga series I enjoy. My current fitness streak is exercising at least 90 minutes per week for 129 weeks! Report
-SHOREIDO- 1/31/2018
Lots of good info here and I Thank You for that. But PLEASE add a wee bit of cardio Robin~ Report
thanks... Report
I don't mind cardio. I do need to add strength training more regularly. Right now it is haphazard at best. Report
AALLEY2 1/31/2018
Whatever works for you, make it okay. Move and it's a win win, Report
PICKIE98 1/31/2018
As in all things:balance. Cardio is only one part of fitness. Report
CACUJIN 1/31/2018
"The truth is, cardio has been promoted to a level where it now sits on a throne, wears a crown and looks down its nose at everything else in the world with a smug grin." --- this is not truth, it is an opinion. Strength training is important; however, if my trainer told me they did not do cardio, I would find another trainer. Report