Is Cardio Enough?
To a large proportion of new and mildly experienced gym users jumping on the treadmill, cross-trainer or rowing machine for a specific period of time is all they will do. A pure cardio session is preferred by a lot of people for many reasons from its simplicity to the fact that most people go to the gym to lose weight or to improve cardiovascular performance and so cardio is the perfect necessity. This leads people to wander if pure cardio in its many forms is enough?
This is a difficult question to answer as it is once again a subjective question. For the lucky people whose bodies are genetically made up to respond greatly to cardio only, then yes cardio is enough....i say through gritted teeth. Yes there are people that are so lucky in their birth to just jump on a rowing machine, row for 20 minutes a day for 3 days a week and boom they see results after 2 months. I know, it's just not fair.
Is cardio enough if all i want to do is lose weight? Well yes and no. Cardio is enough if you vary what cardio you are doing by using various machines, training different types of cardio methods (e.g. aerobic and anaerobic intervals) and have the intensity just right (and going up incrementally every other week). Cardio is very important for everyone no matter what you are trying to do, but training to lose weight requires a lot of cardio because it is very effective....IF you get the intensity right and keep it varied. Those are the conditions if you want to say yes to the question. Running outside is difficult as you cannot really monitor the intensity other than asking yourself the question "am i feeling tired?" In this scenario one would say that it is enough IF your diet is incredibly good and you come back home sweating and crawling through the front door...so to speak.
Is cardio not enough if you want to lose weight? Yes and the reason is that resistance training no matter how intense is just as effective if not more effective at losing weight. When cardio is good for losing weight by burning fat...mostly in order to feed the muscles to keep you going, resistance training breaks MORE fat down in order to keep your muscles going AND the act of using your muscles for resistance instead of cardio means that after the gym your body still uses fat to help muscles recover and become more lean (depending on your resistance training). This means that cardio helps burn the fat down, resistance training brings the toning forward. If all you did was burn fat you wouldn't necessarily become toned, you would see bone... Therefore it isn't enough to do just cardio if you are thinking long term. Yes the act of running and cross training does train muscles to a degree but not enough to be efficient or balanced with the rate of burning fat. This doesn't of course mean resistance training will make you look bulky. This misconception repels a lot of people from resistance training. The reality however is that certain types of resistance training simply makes you more toned which is what you want to be once you lose fat....that is just the equation result from going to the gym or running outside.
Is cardio enough if you want to put on muscle? No. That was easy...
Is cardio enough if you want to improve your cardiovascular performance? It depends what kind of performance you are trying to improve. Is it about long distance performance? Short sharp burst performance? Long distancers will more likely than not find that cardio is enough. The shorter and more powerful your cardio session is the more important resistance training is to improving your performance especially weighted leg exercises.
The main thing to remember is that whether you are in the gym just to lose weight or running outside anything else you need to train your core in order to run or cross-train better by virtue of the fact that when you do cardio for a long time and your body gets tired is has a frequent tendency to reduce your cardio form so your cardio session could have health risks! Training core delays the body's desire to reduce form in order to try to make the ordeal easier for it, therefore allowing you to go further and have a better cardio workout by allowing you to take the intensity as high as you can go and for longer before you start leaning forwards on the treadmill or swinging around on the cross-trainer. Training your core doesn't require resistance machines, just 10 or so minutes AFTER your cardio session. TDL Fitness recommends doing this after every cardio session. If you need inspiration for core exercises we have an article or two on that!
Cardio is more complex than JUMP ON, PRESS GO, RUN, STOP, DONE! Make sure to come prepared when you go to the gym as then you will be more likely to succeed in what you are trying to achieve.