The Dark Side of Cardio

I used to love cardio exercise and have done a LOT of it in my lifetime. I was a (slow) long-distance runner and bike racer. I loved both the solitude of a long run alone and the camaraderie of a 50-mile bike ride with friends.

Last November, when I went to lose the LAST 10 lb., I did NOT focus on cardio. Frankly I was tired of it, and mostly what it did was increase my appetite! I knew I needed to amp up my workouts, but I didn’t want to spend hours in the gym.

The best thing about cardio for me, since I don’t have any heart health issues, is it’s ability to help with stress relief. As it turns out, cardio is not only a great way of coping with stress, but it’s also good for your brain, at least when you get outside in nature.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that attention and memory improve when you spend time in nature, as opposed to a city environment.  This finding supports a theory that goes back to William James, suggesting that there are 2 types of attention: involuntary and “directed” attention, which requires more focus. Being in nature captures your involuntary attention, while allowing your directed attention to rest, freeing up mental capital. In other words, your mind is relaxed!

So if you want to do cardio, go find a park or a bike trail. I used a strength training program to build muscle and burn fat.

As it turns out, new research shows that the body’s inability to build muscle is the NUMBER 1 predictor of accelerated aging! The more capable we are of putting muscle on our bodies, the longer we are going to live.

So, get me to the gym – I just don’t want to spend the day there!

Spending time in nature will reduce stress, and you will get unexpected benefits of increased memory and attention. If you reduce stress, you will reduce stress eating. Just don’t expect the pounds to fly off by pounding the treadmill alone!