June 16th, 2013

The Doctor Says, Running Will KILL You

Running can kill you! Or so say the latest round of anti cardio articles. It started (again) late last year with the much-publicized mainstream reports of a study which warned about possible heart damage from too much prolonged endurance training (such as hours of running at a time).  Since, then, I’ve seen the blog-o-sphere ramp up with more and more anti-running and anti-cardio articles. A diet guru says running is bad for you and you should never do it. A medical doctor (another one) says marathon runners are going to drop dead of heart attacks, and a strength coach slams cardio, saying lifting weights and a little bit of sprint or burst training is all anyone should ever do. What a bunch of clowns….

runnersHere are some big problems with all these anti-running arguments

One is that strength and lifting coaches are taking what is good advice for their athletes and generalizing it to the whole world. Mistake.

Two, is that people,  even medical doctors, are misreading or misreporting research and statistics about (rare) deaths during endurance events. Mistake.

Three, bodybuilding and diet “gurus” are making stuff up and writing controversial articles just to get attention.  (clowns!)

Four… endurance athletes are doing exactly what endurance athletes are supposed to do!  And some people just like to run! Let them, and mind your own training business!

These arguments are getting so old, that I don’t even have to write a new blog post, simply reprint the one I wrote years ago. I could update this article given recent events such as the death of Micah True, and some of the new studies, and so on. But it’s the same old story in a new package….

So I’m pulling this post out of the archives and reprinting it again for you (and our new readers), word for word today. Let me just briefly add this:

There is an interference effect between endurance training and strength training, which has been well documented in the scientific literature. Too much endurance training can hold back strength and muscle size gains, especially in the legs, so it makes sense for strength and physique athletes to keep their focus on resistance training and keep endurance training to a minimum.

This is the simple common sense of applying the principle of training specificity, depending on your goals. And that’s the important point here. Each person’s sport and fitness goals are different.  They may be strength-focused or endurance-focused and there ARE people who want a little bit of both. The cries against endurance training by the strength community have very often not been based on the facts; they’re little more than personal bias… or literally, personal attacks against another person’s philosophy just because it is different from theirs.

I don’t hear an uproar in the endurance community about the way strength athletes train: “Look at those big lumbering meatheads just lifting things up and putting them down. I bet that bro couldn’t run a block if it would save his life.” People would best tend to their own gardens, I think,  but the internet has become the ultimate platform for loudmouthed clowns.

The research data on concurrent endurance and strength training shows that moderate amounts of cardio training, on the order of 3 days per week +/- 1 day for 30 minutes +/- 10 minutes, will have little or no negative impact on strength or muscle gains.  There is little or no data that cardio  performed at these levels is detrimental to your health. The opposite is more likely to be true:  health and heart benefits are to be gained, and physique athletes can “cut up” more easily adding cardio alongside their diet strategy.

My whole life has been dedicated to physique and strength training, so in one sense, this anti-cardio camp is preaching to the choir. Running long distances in high volume would not be fully compatible with my current goals of bodybuilding and hypertrophy. But that doesn’t mean there is something inherently wrong with endurance training.

I have great respect and admiration for endurance athletes. In fact, I’m amazed with all demonstrations of human potential – how ultra-endurance athletes do what they do, I don’t know, but it leaves me in awe the same way as seeing Olympic lifters or powerlifters move ponderous amounts of iron or elite bodybuilders build superhuman amounts of mass. Endurance athletes are passionate about their goals and their style of training just like strength and physique athletes are passionate about theirs. Even if there are risks at the elite level, just try to get them to stop.

One of these days, I think I might (come out of retirement and) do a bodybuilding competition and run a marathon in the same year… Is it a good idea, if I want to keep maximum leg size and strength? Not really.  I simply think it would be an interesting challenge to prove it can be done (well… and also to annoy some of the aforementioned clowns.)

The original article is below. Note: it was written several years ago and we can see not much has changed has it?

– Tom Venuto

I got an email today from a reader who was told by a fairly prominent doctor/author that aerobics and running will “kill you”

(That was more or less the gist of it). As a result, you should avoid aerobics like the plague, says this MD.

Since I’ve tolerated enough “steady state cardio is dead” and “aerobics doesn’t work” nonsense for the better part of the last decade, despite the transformation success stories I keep churning out that clearly show otherwise, (not to mention my own bodybuilding success, which includes regular cardio), I thought I should not only answer my reader, but also make this the topic for today’s blog to share with all of our readers.

Here’s the “killer cardio” question I got from my reader, and my response:

Tom, your articles are great. Here’s the problem. More runners die from sudden heart attack and stroke than any other form of exercise on the planet.

It’s because nothing is more foreign to human beings than getting their heart rate up and keeping it there for long periods of time.

Recent studies have shown that while there are benefits to aerobics, (like weight loss), in the long term, statistics show a direct increase in heart disease.

Part of the reason for this is that in an effort to adapt to the unnatural demands being put on the body, to economize, the heart and lungs actually shrink.

Just look at the long list of joint, bone, and muscle injuries that come along with running (it’s right there in the magazines).

As I know you know, a serious weight lifter, if he’s paying attention-to form, should almost never suffer injury from weight training.The same is true for the following:

Instead of unnatural, self-abusive aerobics, the best way to actually increase heart and lung capacity and size is to go beyond aerobics.In short, spurts of intense exercise, such as wind-sprints, you move past your ability to produce ATP with oxygen as fast as you are using it, causing your muscles to become ATP depleted.

That’s the point at which your anaerobic energy system kicks in.This is also known as crossing your aerobic threshold.

Burst training, sprints, whatever you want to call it, it shouldn’t be done in addition to aerobics, it should be done in place of aerobics.

Incidentally, I am not saying that one shouldn’t walk, jog, bicycle,swim, etc, just be reasonable.

I had a heart condition that has been totally alleviated. Monday,Tuesday, Thursday and Friday of each week, I go through a 45 minute weight training session, followed by a 20 minutes of the interval program.

Check it out, I think this sort of thing would be a great addition to your already good program.



While I agree with much of what you said about the benefits of intense “burst” exercise, I find the anti running and anti aerobics arguments promoted by these “experts” to be horribly inflexible, dogmatic,  and, unlike what you suggested, totally UN reasonable.

Based on the science, I also find the argument that traditional cardio or aerobics is”unhealthy” to be wholly unconvincing. That doctor isn’t giving the full picture.

I subscribe to many sports medicine and exercise science journals and I’ve certainly seen research papers looking at sudden death in elite runners, etc. But most of them were case studies and epidemiology. Believe me, there’s another side to the story.

Marathon running is a highly publicized sport, and the media loves bad news, so the oxymoron of a runner dying of a heart attack makes a great story, which means greater visibility for what is actually very rare occurrence.

It’s also easy to cherry pick case studies on just about anything to start up a big scare.

This comes from the American Journal of Cardiology:

“The overall prevalence of sudden cardiac death during the marathon was only 0.002%, strikingly lower than for several other variables of risk for premature death calculated for the general U.S. population.”

Although highly trained athletes such as marathon runners may harbor underlying and potentially lethal cardiovascular disease, the risk for sudden cardiac death associated with such intense physical effort was exceedingly small.”

I also find comparing serious endurance athletes pushing their physical limits to regular cardio for general fitness training to be an inappropriate comparison.

What does a rare cardiac event during a 26 mile run have to do with you doing 30 or 45 minutes of jogging or me doing 30-40 minutes of moderate work on the stair master or cycle to get cut for a bodybuilding contest?

Even sillier are the people who keep using the late marathon runner and running author Jim Fixx as an example of anything but a guy who had a genetic predisposition for heart disease (gun was loaded). Rumor has it he was a long time smoker too.

I know some bodybuilders and weight lifters who died of heart attacks in the gym. Should we argue against against weight lifting too? Should we just play it safe and stay on the couch? Freak incidents happen and heredity is factor. I know former power lifters and Olympic lifters, now in their 40’s and 50’s who are nothing short of crippled today. Wear and tear happens to many serious athletes in many different sports.

Please take note of who this message is coming from: I’m saying all this as a strength/physique athlete(bodybuilder), who understands full well that excessive aerobics is counterproductive to my goals and that weight training is priority #1 for as long as muscle hypertrophy and strength is my primary goal.

But in the right amounts, balanced with proper recovery (as you said,”reasonable”) regular cardio can be instrumental in helping me lower my body fat and it can benefit you in many other ways, physically and mentally.

There are MANY ways to do cardio and all of them have their place at certain times for certain people.

What you’re talking about with sprints or burst training is also known as High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT for short.

HIIT can be a great way to get cardiovascular conditioning and burn a lot of calories in a very time efficient manner.

Furthermore, a paper published recently in the ACSM’s Exercise and Sport Sciences Review discussed the research suggesting that intense aerobic interval training provides greater benefits for the heart than low or moderate intensity exercise.

The benefits discussed included:

  • Increased maximal oxygen uptake
  • Improved heart muscle contractile function
  • Improved heart muscle calcium handling
  • reduced cardiac dysfunction in metabolic syndrome
  • Reversed pathological cardiac hypertrophy
  • Increased physiological hypertrophy of the heart muscle
  • Overall: improved quality of life and length of life by avoiding fatal heart attacks.

But what HIIT advocates often fail to mention is that this is NOT evidence AGAINST steady state  or endurance cardio, it is evidence in favor of intense cardio.

I like HIIT and intense types of cardio! I don’t need to add it to my program because it’s already a part of it.

The first edition of my book about fat loss, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle was originally published way back in 2002 and I recommended HIIT way back then – as well as regular cardio, not one or the other. I Still do!

There were also people promoting HIIT long before me. It’s not any revolutionary idea – people just keep putting new names and spins on it for marketing.

The problem is, to argue in favor of HIIT should not be construed as arguing against conventional cardio or aerobics.

Many of the world’s best bodybuilders and fitness models used slow, steady state cardio exclusively prior to competitions and they got ripped right down to the six pack abs. They didn’t die of a heart attack and they didn’t lose muscle either.

In fact, many bodybuilders opt for low intensity cardio specifically for muscle retention when they get to the tail end of contest prep where body fat stores are getting low and food intake is low. Adding too much HIIT on top of all the weight training can be risky in that caloric deficit situation.

Listen, HIIT and other types of intense cardio are great. It’s time efficient, making it ideal for the busy person, and its very effective for both fat loss and cardiovascular conditioning. It’s also more engaging, as many people find longer, slower sessions of cardio boring.

If you have a history of heart disease and you smoke like a chimney and at the same time you decide to take up running marathons several times a year, ok, I’ll concede to some caution.

But, “Aerobics is going to kill you!”???


Perfect marketing hook for a cultish “HIIT is the only way” type of program…

Bottom line: sure, do your HIIT, do your sprints, do your Tabatas….


Do your regular steady state aerobics or running too…

Or, do a little bit of everything! I do.

If hypertrophy and strength are your primary goals, then make sure weight training is your foremost training priority and then during fat loss phases, add whatever type of cardio you enjoy and whatever type gets you the best results without compromising your lean body mass.

But if you like to run, then go RUN, and tell the “experts” who say otherwise to BUZZ OFF and take their sensationalistic journalism and marketing with them!

Tom Venuto,
Author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle

Founder & CEO, Burn the Fat Inner Circle


tomvenuto-blogAbout Tom Venuto

Tom Venuto is a natural bodybuilder, fat loss coach, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle. Tom’s articles are published on hundreds of websites worldwide and he has been featured in Muscle and Fitness, Men’s Fitness, Oprah magazine, The New York Daily News, The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He has appeared on dozens of podcasts and radio shows including Sirius XM, ESPN-1250, WCBS and Day Break USA. Tom is also the creator of the new Burn the Fat Body Transformation System and the founder and CEO of the premier fat loss support community, the Burn The Fat Inner Circle.

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35 Responses to “The Doctor Says, Running Will KILL You”

  • Interesting post. I heard that before that running actually can hurt you in more ways than it can help you stay in shape. But you are right why should running be bad for your health? Thanks for clearing that up

  • Tom Venuto

    Daniel, there may be high injury rate in long distance running, but there is a high injury rate in many sports at the competitive levels. I know a lot of lifters, now in their 40s and 50s whose joints are a mess from years repetitively under the iron. Overtraining and overuse injuries are not the exclusive domain of endurance sports. I believe smart training can prevent most injuries for the recreational athlete, and for athletes at the extreme levels of any sport, the higher risk is something they accept for the passion and happiness they get out of the sport of their choice.

    • Markku

      That is a great point about joint injury with people who do a lot heavy lifting.. I think you are just about the first fitness guru who has mentioned this.. I would imagine the joint problems would be even worse if you are over enthusiastic or use steroids.. your joints can’t keep up with muscle development.
      Strength training and running should strengthen your body.. not just your muscles or endurance if you do it properly. So many people forget that. It is much easier to concentrate on measurable results than the immeasurable stuff like joint health.

  • Jennifer

    I like your last sentence: “But if you like to run, then go RUN”. My favorite exercise is running on the trail, listening to music and feeling the sun and wind on my face. It brings me peace, inspiration and I can think more clearly after an hour out there. I also like riding a bike, playing tennis, lifting weights, the benefits that come from a good leg routine… But I like running most and some days if I can’t run, I just don’t want to do much of anything. I say “risking” my health doing something I enjoy is far better than being a couch potato.

  • John T. Smith

    Inactivity is the most dangerous “exercise” of all and proponents of inactivity love to play up the rare, man bites dog instances of runners dying of cardiac conditions.

  • Warren

    As a long course triathlete, I have been discussing this article and the fallout from it for a while. I’ve also been following your nutrition guidelines for a while with great success. Everything you say just makes sense, isn’t complicated, and doesn’t seem to have spin or that you’re trying to sell me some new and improved secret – as if the human physiology is changing as our marketing gimics get more complicated.

    Likewise, your comments here make a lot of sense. I do long cardio sessions because it makes me a better competitor, but I also do HIIT-like work – we just call it Vo2 max intervals. Even for those of us doing long endurance events, those short but intense intervals improve performance.

    And just as you’re not about to join me on a 4 hour bike for good reason, I’m not gonna hit the weight room 4 times a week for an hour of power lifting either. Neither accomplishes the goals we have, and because your goals are different than mine doesn’t make your goals lower or less. In fact, you power types impress me more than anything since I know I’m just a joe and able to do what I do!

  • Lee

    Very interesting article, and especially so because you managed to reprint one yo wrote a long time ago that still applies!! For me the key message is prioritise the training depending on your goals. I’m training for a marathon in three weeks, but once that is over, i’ll be prioritising gym work over low intensity cardio to increase my strength and burn more fat. I’ll still keep up the running, just not as much, and I think that’ll work for me pretty well.

  • Chris Garpenborg

    Why dont you ask DR Louis Ignarro Nobelpricewinner
    in medicin for his work on Nitric Oxide and author
    of the book NO more heartdisease.He is currently involved in
    the nutritional advisoryboard at Herbalife and keen marathonrunner
    himself.He started compete 2004 and in 4 years have completed 13 races.
    He ran his first Marathon at 63 years of age.
    Best regards
    Chris Garpenborg

    • steve

      Herbalife?? That’s your credibility torpedoed straight away. Obv agree with Tom as per the article above but seriously, herbalife?? Dodgy pyramid schemes have no place in serious health discussions

  • Marshall

    Here’s another anecdotal piece to add to the mix:
    I am a former Olympic level swimmer. During my era (60’s) I was listed in the top ten in the World in 5 events. Last year, during a routine physical the nurse heard something in my heart beat that turned out be an enormous aortic anyuerism. At 4 cm these things require emergency surgery. Mine was 9.4 cm the largest anybody anywhere has ever seen or heard about. I was fixing to be one of those fit guys who bend over to pick up a golf bal, and falls over and dies. Instead I had the open heart surgery and my aorta was replaced. MY exercise physiologist posits that my many years of intense aerobic workouts, often 3 times per day in my prime, probably saved me from a genetic weakness that created that anyuerism in the first place. SO…was that high level of aerobic activity my friend or my foe?
    An interesting side note, now that I have returned to the gym, is training myself to avoid vas salva. Would be interested in Tom’s opinion on this hard-wired response to extreme lifting, and whether it should be embraced or avoided.

  • Ginny Miller

    If the people involved with these types of articles would apply even a fraction of the effort-toward their own exercise program-that they do in their “argument” against exercise–imagine the shape they could be in!!! I find it so very annoying when the “experts” work this hard to give people more excuses not to work out!

    People are dying every day from inactivity/laziness. Wake up people!!!! There is NO downside to exercising! No longer having the ability to move because of inactivity is far more dangerous than going to the gym or outside for a run!!!!!

  • I often wonder why there are comments like those saying: “Stay healthy or fit without doing any exercise.” and now “Running will kill you.” For me, moderation is the key. Now I realized the importance of HIIT – High Intensity Interval Training. Go exercise and have fun!

  • Reka

    I’m more concerned about the stress hormone and immune system disruption caused by hours long training. Obviously this is not going to happen is someone does like 4*30 min cardio per week but plenty of research suggests that training longer than an hour increases cortisol levels temporarily and can totally mess it up in the long run, and also suppress the immune system. But this is not true for a duration less than an hour. At least I read it so in several studies.

    The other point for me is that too many people believe already that they need long hours of training to get in shape and be healthy so they don’t even start because they don’t believe they can do anything in 20 minutes per day. While those 20 minutes, used wisely, could make all the difference for them. But they see people doing cardio for hours and believe that’s the only way and therefore never start.

    But of course, as you said above, if people like running let them run! 🙂 Better than watching extra hours of TV, which is the primary cause of complaints like “I don’t have time to exercise”.

  • Thanks (again), Tom, for being the articulate voice of reason – and truth!

  • All I know is that when I was running, my blood pressure dropped and my heart rate went lower than it had ever been.

    Back in the day when I first began running. The machine at the grocery store used to give me readings in excess of 145/80. With HR of 58-60.

    But when I did my outdoor running the same grocery store machine gave me readings of 119/70. Regularly. My HR went down to as low as 42.

    So I think what that doctor was saying that SKINNY guys might be negatively affected by excess running, but people can DEFINITELY benefit from running to get HEALTHY.

    Sure, abuses can result in fatalities for extreme cardio lifestyle, but overall it is healthy.

    Anyone who fails to SPECIFY this is a QUACK that needs SLAPPED!

  • Azmi P Imad

    Hi Tom,

    I agree with you. It is important that we do not go overboard and over train. Gradual slow progression is important to maintain safety. Cardio is basic training for any athlete and it does not go against bodybuilding. On the contrary the improvement in the cardiovascular helps improve the benefits of bodybuilding. the cardiovascular system is responsible for providing our muscles with nutrients and energy and taking away the waste products. I have been a champion bodybuilder for many years and I do cardio on at least 5 days a week. And yes, the ACSM backs your point of view.

    Azmi P. Imad, ACSM/HPS

  • Dawn

    I didn’t even read the article and I am already riled up. I know Tom from some reading I’ve done of him. This just to say that,one does not need to read an ocean worth about someone to know who they are and what they stand for. I love Tom. But the monkey who said running can hurt you, I have no interest in. I guess for some it can hurt if they don’t do it right as running has its own rules. It is possible to actually hurt. But I somehow doubt that this is how he meant it.

    From what some doctors preach, and preach they do. If one moves, eats what they should, they are in bad hands and are in trouble because clearly, they will never need a doctor! and this is the only reason they preach that trash. One time I was arguing with people about parallel issues and I pointed out that if it was up to them (and many of them claim to be ‘scientists’),clean natural healthy food would have been outlawed and medication would have been ordained as the only legal sound food in this country. This, simply because, doctors do not make any money from people who are in charge of their health do not need them.

  • Brian

    Tom, endurance training is longer than a 30 minute cardio session. Please don’t confuse your readers by interjecting traditional cardio exercise with endurance athletics. The issue is inflammation from sustaining an aerobic state for a very long period of time (60min+). The heart does become inflamed and so do the joints. You are correct that runners love to run. That’s great! My brother-in-law is a marathoner and he loves it and probably will never quit. But to ignore the fact that their is damage to do something they love is denial. No one is going to twist their arm to stop. People loved to smoke too. Then science looked and said, “smoking, bad!” So, now science is looking at endurance activities and its effects on the human body. I look at my brother-in-law and see him wasting away from all of the endurance he does. My wife has bigger biceps than he does (then again, she has bigger biceps than a lot of people, lol). I too used to run half marathons and I would be in pain for days afterward. I also used to do heavy squats and wondered why my lower back always ached. I don’t do those things anymore and found alternatives. I do cardio for 30-40mins max and do leg exercises that wont cause micro fractures of the spine. For cardio, I do incline walk on treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike a couple days a week performing HIIT occasionally. It is an excellent way of adding something in between resistance training days to burn extra calories.
    All I am saying is that there IS a difference between cardio exercise and endurance training. Even you picked what you wanted to quote out of the articles/journals… “the risk for sudden cardiac death associated with such intense physical effort was exceedingly small.” Ok, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t doing damage.
    Like anything else in life, you have to find balance.

    • Tom Venuto

      Brian, actually i did the opposite of confuse my readers – I unconfused them separating discussion of typical 30-40 min cardio sessions from endurance training that lasts hour+ or hours. Its a group of strength coaches and strength- and HIIT-centric personal trainers online who are doing the confusing, I believe, by lumping 30 minutes of running or other cardio in with what they call, “bad for you” activities

      I agree completely about balance when health (and managing a busy life) is the goal. I prefer to look at it in terms of RISK VS BENEFIT as opposed to the way writers on the internet are presenting it as simply “bad for you” without shades of grey. There is no better way to look at training practices than risk vs benefit. Oddly, i think ive only come across one training book in my life that did it that way. Humans tend to think dichotomous. There are risks in all forms of training and almost all sports. When benefits to an individual outweigh risks, they have their critera in which to make choices. There are risks as you said of squatting, of which I too am all too familiar, having had a ruptured L4. I perform the risky squat anyway, as best as I can, because the benefits are so high, i simply can’t go as heavy as i could.

      The statistic I cited is not cherry picked – it is typical of what you would find in all the literature – risk of sudden death from heart attack during endurance training is extremely small, even if its higher than the risk if you were stting on the couch. Couch… or the trail? hmmmmm. These rare events of cardiac death are often published as case studies and make for media fodder. Fear and scare stories do sell. You might want to cite your sources regarding damage from running and be sure to place them in context, showing the volume of training if you want to make your case more strongly, because i have seen blurbs and abstracts of the studies cited as ammo against cardio and running in general, when upon reading the full text paper and putting it context of the entire body of research, did not support the contention being made.

      Where does one draw the line if optimum health is the goal? I agree, its a good question. but i think its pretty easy to let a personal bias get in the way of making that conclusion. I hope More discussion in the community continues.

      thank you for your feedback.

    • Patrick McHenry

      I run 30-40 miles per week, pretty much year-round, including a long run every Saturday that lasts between three and four hours. On this training volume I have been able to complete seven ultramarathon races at 50K or 50 mile distances, generally finishing in the middle to the back of the pack.

      Most of my running is at sustained heart rates between 120-140 beats per minute – 75% or less of my theoretical maximum HR.

      These days I can run a 50K and I will hurt some the next day, have a little residual stiffness for a day or two after that, and be running again within the week following the race (maybe logging 10-15 miles).

      Eating healthy, sleeping well, and intelligently scheduling in days off from training make this workload completely manageable for me at 52 years of age. Regarding my immune system, I have not had so much as a cold in the last several years as I’ve been doing this (running outside leads to very healthy vitamin D levels – and I supplement with cod liver oil through the winter). I had my heart checked by a stress echo-cardiogram last fall and found it was very healthy by every measure (the attending nurse thanked me for ‘the show’ when we were finished).

      Oh, and I still have pretty decent biceps, FWIW. 🙂

      As with any exercise, one must appropriately balance work and recovery, and be patient enough to allow the incredible adaptability of the human body to respond to the training. IMO most people who get into trouble – running, weightlifting, whatever – do so by failing to be patient.

  • Barbie marland

    WOW!!! Loved this blog!! I’ve actually listened to your Total Body Fat Solution cd’s while training in the gym in lue of music. I have enjoyed your teachings. I came along through the aerobics craze…did Jazzercise 4 days a week for years. High protein/Atkins had always worked for me…but after my younger sister’s death and the world falling apart proceeding that I wound up with several nervous breakdowns, thyroid issues (left undiagnosed my whole life) and gall bladder removal (which I gained 60+ lbs with no life style changes).

    It has been a battle since to even maintain my un wanted 90 lbs. I find I love weight lifting and yoga. Endurance training is really tough for me, but I try to keep moderate steady cardio in my workouts. Weight Watchers new plan is a nice fit now that they have conceded to more veggies and fruits and high protein. I am grain sensitive too, to boot!! Yay for me!!! So I can eat very little starch or grains without getting dinged on the weight loss.

    Since listening to your Body Fat Solution it has given me some great insight on my journey and how to approach my goals. It is a slooooooow process, but I am seeing some beautiful changes in my body, muscles coming out of hiding and the sexy body I once had is making it’s way back!!!

    Thanks for all you do, your hard work, dedication and knowledge!! I would love to have a one on one trainer like you in my life…but for now, I press on with your words of wisdom in my head!!

  • Sarah

    Thank you so much for this post! I feel like I had a “when the student is ready the teacher will arrive” moment reading it, because I’ve been reading some articles and listening to some podcasts lately where the trainers are all but saying that endurance runners are stupid idiots to do what we’re doing, and that nothing but sprinting and moderate walking and heavy lifting should be used for fitness. It’s been messing with my head because I love running! Thanks for breaking down the argument; I’ll be keeping up my marathon training just because I want to, but now with a clearer mind.

  • I think so called Doctors should be held more accountable for what they say and promote. Exercise is good for your heart. PERIOD! With that said it can also be over done like anything else and that can be bad for you.
    Even with the potential of one becoming obsessed with exercise and over doing it, the ultimate health benefits of one who exercises compared to one who does not exercise is a scientific fact proven repeatedly. Anyone who exercises their heart is doing a great act for themselves.
    Keep exercising people and let the ” Clowns” read the jokes they write. After all they are the same clowns that market and promote all the weight loss gimmicks that actually will kill you!

  • I love reading Tom’s articles. They are always straight, honest and non-biased. Keep them coming Tom!

  • Good on yer Tom! We can always rely on you for sheer commonsense. We’re all of us biologically unique with our individual strengths and weaknesses. That’s where we get the saying, ‘One man’s meat is another man’s poison.’

    Walking my large, energetic dog for 30 minutes to an hour a day, at his pace rather than my naturally slower pace, gives me a good cardio workout. I know it’s good because I listen to what my body tells me – just as you obviously do. But I also do weight training and HIIT sprints on an exercise bike.

  • Hi Tom,

    We recently lost one of our partners at BDO during a Ironman competition and a day later I watched the following TED talk http://fitinafatworld.com/tag/run-for-your-life-ted-talk/
    The interesting from the talk was that there are correlations between extreme endurance sports and heart attacks and/or embolism. I also think that gluten and sugar has a inflammation effect in the body.

    If extreme endurance, high gluten and sugar based diet you could be in the danger zone and at risk of attack. During the talk they also mention that the ideal high intensity period is 45 minutes. If more than that at high intensity hardening of artery walls can occur.

    If not seen before I look forward to your feedback.

    Thank you

  • Solid Article, In my opinion running needs to be part of your training program. Human being are in many way designed for endurance (more so than a lot of animals). At the very least I say run in moderation, but get outside and move, stay active. The benefit will always outweigh the risk. Just my two cent.

  • Gary G

    Thanks for the article. I just bought a new bike and I ride 1 to 1 1/2 hours 3x/week along with weights 3x/week for 45 minutes each. Then I came across some articles and books dissing cardio and I have been a little confused. I love riding and 12 to 20 minutes on a bike is just too short. I think riding gives a combo of steady state and high intensity when climbing hills. Anyway, the article makes me feel much better about my bike.

  • Very good article enjoyed reading that. I must say for most people using elite athletes to make any comparison with their own conditioning will be way off the mark. Most people are not elite athletes so there can be no expectation of the level of loading being anywhere near the same. When reading into research I feel many people(and I find this in my clients) need to relate available material the specific situation they face and put their own level into context.

    When I work with military clients who need running of a variety of distances and intensities the end resut is off from what many people woud surmise based on curret agenda driven data circulating right now. They do runs, strength training, swims and yoga plus many other activies when needed. The result is nearly always dense hard muscle of a ood size not to big but very high on functionality. We are talking here about people who need run distance too. Many of these programs use running to cut useless fat and create an endurance base.

    To add to the research here there was a recent study by a swedish university that found there was no effect from endurance training on strength training. Infact they found the opposite. Strength training stimulates mTOR pathway which promotes hypertrophy, strength and power. Endurance training stimulates AMPK pathways which promotes increases in muscle mitochondria and enahnces a muscles energy capacity. The results that study show clearly that strength training has negative impact on AMPK pathway. They also found that protien synthesis was not found to be impacted by cardio performed at 30 minutes duration. There is no negative impact from 3×30 minutes of cardio on muscle or strength building programs.

  • Adam Paulsen


    I agree with Tom. Cardio just like weight lifting should be tailored for each individual. I think if you’re overweight, your heart may be strained due to the excess plaque build up in your arteries but other than that, (and the clearance from your Doctor), it’s a little known secret that cardio, (that is personalized for one’s own fitness goals), is essential for overall weight management. Conversely, because running is considered a high impact form of exercise, it can have a negative impact on the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Joints are the body’s weakest point (along with ligaments and tendons) and can’t keep up with the bones and muscles as far as high impact activity is concerned. Keep in mind, what you do today will have an everlasting impact on your body tomorrow – hence the reason that SOME athletes or fitness enthusiast suffer injuries in the future; they fail to realize that as the body ages, they must taper off the high impact activities, (heavy weight lifting, squatting, box jumps, basketball, tennis, heaving running, sprinting, etc). Thx.

  • Kate

    At the end of the day we only have one life so we might as well enjoy it! I’d much rather spend my time running than sitting on the couch. I’d rather drop dead quick running along the beach than spend 10 years fading away in a nursing home (which is actually how most of us will go). Running makes me happy, beats stress, helps my fitness, gives me a natural high with no downer afterwards. What more can you want!

  • Here’s what’s always seemed weird to me: there’s substantial evidence that LONG ENDURANCE cardio- like marathons- is bad for us, particularly because it damages the heart. But at the same time, humans supposedly evolved for that, hunting animals by chasing them until they just tired out. I still don’t understand how you square that circle.

  • Dan

    Thank you for your comments. As a boxing coach, I’m finding it harder and harder to convince young boxers to stick to traditional cardio routines. They get so much incorrect information thrown at them, it’s hard to filter it out. Part of the problem is the huge fad of cross-fit training. A lot of instructors got all their training in a one day seminar, put on by someone who got most of his information in a one day seminar. It’s easy to talk people out of running, because running is hard. Who wouldn’t like a school teacher who tells you homework is bad for you?

  • James

    Tom, this article is exactly why you are one of my “go to guys” in the fitness industry. Your advice cuts through all the hype and confusion out there, providing a voice of wisdom for us all!

    In my opinion, education, balance and moderation- plus individual preferences, goals, and biofeedback -are key when making(or tweaking)programming choices.

    When it comes to cardio, I’m a steady state man(I like to use that time, post-weight workout, to actively relax and immerse myself in my thoughts); I consider the weight training aspect a form of HIIT, anyway. But that’s just me. Ultimately, I believe that the most efficient program for conditioning is the one the individual will stick to!

    At the end of the day, I think your overall training philosophy is beautifully simple- whether we’re talking about forms of cardio, or weight training to failure or not: Nothing is bad or good, black and white, etc. These are all tools that have potential to be of help, provided they’re implemented appropriately. Personalize your training factors, and don’t worry so much about what others are doing!

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