I have known for some time that studies have shown that HIIT – that is, High Intensity Interval Training – has been proven to be not only as effective, but in fact dramatically more effective than distance cardio, and in a much shorter time with much less frequency.
Studies have shown that only 20 seconds high intensity training (such as sprinting or going all-out on the bike) followed by 10 seconds of rest, and repeat for only four minutes, and doing these 4 minutes of exercise only 2 to 3 times per week, are in fact more effective than doing 45 minutes of distance, moderate cardio for five or more days per week. 20 seconds / 10 seconds for 4 minutes is a form of HIIT called Tabata. Here is also an article from Time Magazine about HIIT using this intervals training method.
But little did I know the extreme extent of how not only is interval training more effective in a fraction of the time, but in fact, traditional distance cardio – that is, extended aerobic activity – is in fact harmful to your body in every way.
Here is a picture of a typical female sprinter, to provide some contrast for later.
Size in all the right places. Very healthy and fit looking, and this is because she is fit inside as well. I’ll get more into this later.
My story about how much I hated cardio
First, a little background on me to help give you some perspective. When I was a kid, my mom made me run a mile every day. To track me, she gave me a pedometer to see how far I ran. I dread, in fact despise cardio, so much that I found ways to trick my way into not doing the cardio. I never ran the mile, but instead jogged up the street and sat on the curb for 20 minutes while shaking the pedometer to fake the “distance”, so I did not have to run it. As it turns out, this was in fact way better for me than I could ever have realized.
The reason I was supposed to be running a mile every day was because I was going to take the Presidential Fitness test in elementary school, which encompassed a certain time for the mile, as well as a certain number of pullups, pushups, situps, etc. Well, as it turns out my decision to trick my way into actually not doing the daily mile run actually helped me achieve my Presidential Fitness, and I will explain exactly how it helped me shortly. In summary, despite doing no cardio (in fact, because I did no cardio), I aced every session, which included sprinting the entire mile after performing over 15 pullups and over 25 pushups (keep in mind this was in elementary school), and ultimately achieving Presidential Fitness. All with nearly no training whatsoever besides practicing the pushups/pullups/situps; and basically zero cardio, unless you count the one minute to casually jog up the street to sit on the curb for the remaining 20 minutes.
Once in high school, I started to get into weightlifting. I have been blessed with the ability to gain muscle fast, but also cursed with the ability to lose it just as fast. As a result, I never wanted to do cardio even in high school – even besides the fact I simply hated it – because I knew any distance cardio would just strip away any gains in the gym. I have always been very much in tune with my body, and what my body tells me it wants or doesn’t want to do, it is almost always right (aside from sugar cravings I used to get when I ate sugar, but never get anymore since I cut out all refined sugars years ago).
As it turns out, this hate and despise for aerobic cardio has been gloriously wonderful for my body. Let’s get into the meat of why avoiding cardio like the plague is hugely beneficial for your body – especially when instead of hours per week doing distance cardio, you instead spent just a few minutes a couple times a week doing high intensity interval training.
The truth is obvious when you really look
Before I try to do any convincing, however, I will let you convince yourself. It is obvious from looking at any marathon runner and comparing them with any short-distance sprinter, who has the more desirable body type. A marathon runner looks like a string bean who has starved themselves, and they look anorexic or bulimic. They have no muscle mass, and many injuries to the knees and joints, which is why you see most of them wearing knee braces, and they have a caved-in chest due to having a very small lung capacity.
Specifically, “the lung may be a limitation to marathon performance by demonstrating that those with higher pulmonary diffusing capacities at rest have faster finishing times (Lavin et al. 2012)”, and “marathon running reduces pulmonary diffusing capacity postexercise (Manier et al. 1991)”. In other words, marathon running actually decreases lung capacity and is dangerous, resulting in potential life-threatening injuries to the lungs.
Here is a picture of a typical female marathon runner.
Sure, you can find some rare pictures of a young marathon runner who looks ok, but they don’t look near as good as they would if they were sprinters. But this woman above is what anyone will turn into who runs long distances over time. That includes treadmill, if you spent enough time.
Is the above better than obese? Barely. In fact I’d rather have a girl who has a little fat on her (but not obese), than this woman above. There is really nothing at all attractive to me, as a guy, about the woman above. The zero bodyfat just isn’t attractive on a woman. Maybe there are some who like it, but the point is that generally, the woman above is not considered an attractive bodytype. She is too thin.
Marathon runners are unhealthy and unattractive
Men who do distance running like marathons look like string beans and won’t be winning any beauty competitions. They have sacrificed muscle in the most desirable places, including chest, arms, and legs. They are not desirable to women. Women who run marathons also look also like string beans, and also have sacrified desirable size in the chest, thigh, and buttocks areas, making them particularly undesirable to men.
Another type of the pear body shape are the overweight women who actually win marathons. Why? Because their body stored up all that extra energy so they can run at a snail’s pace over great distances to win a marathon. These overweight marathon runners are not healthy, despite winning marathons; and they are also particularly unattractive to men. All these undesirable body traits are a direct result of distance aerobic cardio.
Here is what a typical male marathon runner looks like. Likewise, not attractive. Small in all the wrong places.
Marathon runners have lower immune systems, and after a marathon are particularly susceptible to disease and illness. Studies have shown that after a marathon, distance runners have lowered immune systems, as well as damaged hearts which make them more prone to serious illness directly after the marathon as well as later in life. Contrary to what you may think, marathon runners have a higher incidence of heart disease and more plaque in their arteries, because the distance running puts a huge toll on the heart – and not in a good way. Over time, the heart of a marathon runner deteriorates and they continue to lose heart muscle, just like the rest of their body. This lowers life expectancy considerably.
A marathon runner may be slightly better off than a grossly obese person who is utterly sedentary, but actually they are in the same boat in most ways. A marathon runner does not look healthy besides some of them having no body fat (which does not look healthy), and is not healthy. In fact, they are putting their lives in danger. The ones who are not overweight but string beans, have too low body fat and not enough muscle; and combined with less heart tissue and low lung capacity, this means their internal organs including heart, lungs, brain, liver, and other organs, are in critical danger, without the healthy layer of fat to cover it. The reason is because without the protective layer of fat, free radicals will damage the organs, which is called “oxidative stress”, which can be potentially life threatening. All this just from simple cardio.
The obese marathon runners on the other hand have the same problem as any obese person – perhaps worse, because they put the same toll on their body, heart, and joints increasing the risk of injury and low life expectancy. Add to this severe long-term damage to the joints and ligaments from the repetitive pounding of running long distances, and every marathon runner is quite literally an accident waiting to happen. In fact, damage to the tendons and ligaments and other connective tissue is potentially permanent – or at least extremely difficult to undo once the damage is done.
Sprinters are healthier and more attractive in every way
Contrast this to sprinters. Sprinters have strong upper body and lower body strength. Their frame looks filled out and healthy. They have large arms, large legs, and a large chest, because their lung capacity is very large. Men who are sprinters gain higher natural testosterone levels, which also accounts for increased muscle size and decreased body fat. Men who are sprinters are very desirable to women, with a lot of muscle and very low body fat.
It’s not just men. High intensity interval training has been proven to have the same benefits for women also. Women who are sprinters look very desirable to men, with low body fat and size in all the right places like the glutes, without sacrificing chest size. They have healthier hormone levels as well, and both men and women sprinters are more fertile with a higher verility. This also increases sexual appeal to the opposite sex.
Sprinters have better immune systems than marathon runners. Sprinters are able to resist and fight disease, have stronger hearts, better oxygen, and more mental clarity. Due to having a higher V02 max – that is, more oxygen in the blood with each stroke of the heart – sprinters can perform better in every area of their lives, from the gym, to the sales floor, to the bedroom. They look amazing and desirable because they are healthier and more desirable, with a longer life expectancy, a much stronger heart, a larger lung capacity, a stronger immune system, healthier good hormone levels and lower harmful hormone levels (like lower cortisol, the stress hormone).
As a result they also get better and deeper sleep, leading to a better mental and physical recovery during sleep (since sleep is the time for cellular repair as well as the organizing of the brain from information learned through the day). Studies have even shown that not only can it improve your sleep, but can also improve sleep breathing disorders as well.
High intensity interval training can also lead to a higher amount of grey matter in the brain – increasing intelligence – they are more intelligent, have a higher mental endurance (due to more oxygen in the blood, meaning a greater capacity to think), they perform better in school and on mental tests, and achieve a higher amount of success in life due to having a greater level of self discipline and tenacity.
Here is a typical male sprinter. Amazing physique, right? Looking like this is what will naturally happen when you do intervals and sprints. You quite literally barely have to work for it. You won’t ever get like this from cardio.
More benefits of sprinting and intervals
And before you think that marathon runners can run longer distances – think again! Sprinters have the capacity for running fast and long, because they have stronger hearts, a greater lung capacity, better hormones, a stronger immune system, and even more muscle that can be used in fuel if needed. This isn’t to say that a sprinter should run long distances – because as you can see from the marathon runner above, it is not healthy for humans to run extended distances over time.
And we haven’t even gotten to one of the best parts yet – as if every part wasn’t great. One of the greatest parts besides increased health, longevity, physical appearance, energy levels, and every other benefit mentioned above – is that sprinters have more time. Time is the one thing you cannot buy, and yet sprinters have more of it than any of us. To start, they have to do only minutes of training a couple days a week to reach peak performance with HIIT. (Marathon runners meanwhile spend most of their lives doing endless torture, taking away from friends and family time.)
Also, due to increased energy levels and mental capacity, sprinters can get more things done faster, giving them even more time over their non-exercising counterpart. Add to this a more enjoyable and richer experiences (the world is more vivid and enjoyable when you have greater mental faculties), increased actual quality of life due to better sleep, social relationships, and more family time – and less time spent exercising. The sprinter has more time and is able to fit a greater quantity of more enjoyable life experiences and more positive social interactions into less time due to their increased mental faculties and therefore more vivid life experiences.
Additionally, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, with high intensity interval training, science has proven that even after just a couple intervals and a total of only a few minutes, you continue burning fat for hours, even while sitting on the couch watching TV (or in my case, sitting and writing this blog post). You will burn far more fat and gain more muscle. Conversely, when you do distance cardio and aerobic exercise, you stop burning fat (if any) the moment you step off the treadmill. Just another way that cardio is bad and intervals are good.
Another sprinter girl. You don’t get like this from cardio – ever. Only intervals and sprinting can make you look like her.
Even more benefits of sprinting and intervals
But that is not all. Sprinting and doing intervals will result in keeping all of your muscle mass. If you did an intense workout but then 30 minutes of cardio on the treadmill, you would lose some of your muscle gains – in fact you may be worse off than if you didn’t lift weights before cardio to begin with. But if you do just a couple minutes of intervals after a workout, due to the surge of testosterone (for men, or a healthy hormonal balance for women), this may in fact increase your gym gains than if you did not do intervals. Moreover, by doing intervals you will keep the muscle for longer than if you did not do interval training.
Add onto all of this, lower stress and therefore greater happiness – need I go on?
But just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be yet another massive benefit to interval training and sprinting, you may be surprised yet again. Because sprinters have a higher metabolism, better hormones, and more muscle, they can actually eat much more food while continuing to lose weight. So they have to watch what they eat less (although, it is always better to eat more healthy fats from natural sources, and less refined carbs and sugar).
The truth is obvious: “cardio” is bad; intervals are good
So basically, in a nutshell, a sprinter is better and healthier and has a more enjoyable life in every way including more time, energy, and better relationships, better sleep, and more intelligence. Add to this they can eat more, lose more fat, and have a much higher life expectancy.
Meanwhile, a marathon runner has less time, less health, less muscle, less energy, less attraction (due to poorer hormones) and less attractiveness, and a less enjoyable life in every way. They also have more injuries and a lower life expectancy.
More sprinter girls. Glutes like these are built from high intensity intervals and sprinting.
And to top off everything, you will have better fitness results in every way (including both fat loss and muscle gain – in the right areas for both men and women); and this combined with increased energy means you will be more motivated – and not just more motivated in the gym, but more motivated in every area of your life.
So let me ask you a question now that you understand this truth: Why are you wasting your time on the treadmill hours per week? You can just do a few minutes per week with tremendous benefits in every area of your life, instead of wasting your time in boring mindless extended running. By doing traditional aerobic cardio you are literally going nowhere in more ways than one.
The lies about cardio being good makes America fat
In conclusion, the reason why America is so fat is twofold:
- Because of the focus on low-fat (which is horrible for the human body and actually leads to fat gain). Instead, they should be avoiding sugar, processed foods, and refined carbs (like avoiding white bread, for example).
- Combine these poor eating habits with being lied to that running on the treadmill is going to help them.
The truth is that more time on the treadmill is worse in every way, whereas less time by instead doing intervals and sprinting is better in every way.
In America we are taught that we need to do more to get more results. False! In fact, barely any time doing high intensity interval training will transform your life in every way, whereas endless time on the treadmill may lead to some minor fat loss (but you probably actually lost more muscle than fat), and at the expense of every other thing; and because of poor hormones, it will not get rid of your problem areas, just make your pear shape a little smaller yet still undesirable pear shape.
Another sprinter for some great motivation. This guy is a weightlifter. You can do intervals and sprinting along with muscle gain to actually improve muscle gain and performance.
The benefits of intervals are so exciting
When I discovered the huge benefits of not doing cardio but instead doing short interval training, I was shocked, and somewhat angry that such another big lie has been perpetuated through the American consciousness. Endless running on treadmills, or distance “cardio” in general (15+ minutes of steady pace running or cycling), is absolutely not any way for fat loss or healthiness. In fact, it would almost be better to be sedentary than to do cardio regularly.
So it is totally, and inexplicably thrilling in the most amazing way, for me to discover that I never, ever have to do cardio! I can quit beating myself up about never (and I mean never) doing cardio, and instead focus on high intensity interval training for 4 minutes a couple times a week. This is the most motivating, exciting, and amazing thing possible.
In short, more running is not better, and cardio is not good – in fact, cardio, as in extended aerobic exercise, is terrible for you. But high intensity intervals even for very short periods (of even just a couple minutes, a couple times per week), is absolutely better, with more improvement in every way no matter what your fitness goals are; as well as a richer (in more ways than one), longer, and more fulfilling and enjoyable life.
Now go, switch to interval training and transform your life!