How to Move Past Chronic Cardio Syndrome with Paleo Fitness

By Kellyann Petrucci, Melissa Joulwan, Patrick Flynn, Adriana Harlan

Paleo fitness can help cure you of chronic cardio syndrome. Chronic cardio is the nefarious condition of overtraining brought about by an unjustified abundance of steady-state cardiovascular activities. The most common culprit is the treadmill. This condition is communicable, as you can see for yourself should you ever feel the need to walk into a big-box gym again. The treadmills are always occupado, but for no really good reason.

Steady-state cardiovascular efforts, such as trudging for hours at a time on a treadmill, offer very poor metabolic return. To put it as delicately as possible, it’s just not worth your time, and it’s not a coincidence that those who lift weights and engage in short, intense bouts of exercise almost always look and perform better than those who commit themselves solely to the treadmill, elliptical, or bicycle.

It’s been proven again and again in scientific circles that short bouts of intense exercise are far more effective for fat loss and overall vitality than long bouts of moderate-intensity exercise have ever been. So throw out the idea that you need to run on a treadmill to lose weight. It’s a garbage idea and a wholly ineffective way to go about weight loss and cardiovascular conditioning. The cave man never did this type of exercise and neither should you.

Excessive moderate- to high-intensity cardiovascular activities — often referred to as steady-state cardio — creates a hormonal nightmare — the result of chronically elevated cortisol levels (or natural stress hormone) that may lead to a plethora of ailments linked to overtraining, such as poor sleep quality, mood swings, loss of libido, joint problems, and injury.

Facing the little-known drawbacks of excessive cardio

Excessive steady-state cardio — or excessive moderate-intensity exercise, such as running on a treadmill — is at best a shoddy investment of time that could be better spent lifting heavy things or engaging in shorter, more intense forms of exercise (such as metabolic conditioning). At worst (and more likely), it’s an investment in your destruction!

Here are some of the drawbacks of excessive cardio:

  • Chronic levels of inflammation

  • Decreased ability to recover

  • Increased free radical production (oxidative damage)

  • Increased likelihood of injury

  • Joint problems

  • Persistently elevated levels of cortisol (stress hormone)

Chances are the definition of excessive is probably less than you think. An hour or two of steady-state cardio a day is often more than enough to trigger the harmful conditions of chronic cardio. Sometimes it takes even less than that.

Really, all of this should come with a great sigh of relief, because who really enjoys long, trudging runs on the treadmill anyway? Very few.

Don’t take all this wrong: A light, springy jog every now and then is all very well and good. Just do it outdoors and enjoy it! Moderate-intensity exercise is best performed in as relaxed a state as possible. But rarely do you see people on the treadmill in this state.

What takes form on the treadmill can hardly be described as proper running form; it’s more of a continuously falling motion. The mechanics are heavily distorted, and force isn’t properly transmitted. This form wreaks havoc on the joints, so it’s no wonder joint pain and other ailments, such as shin splints, are so prevalent among those who run on a treadmill.

Doing what you love

The best recommendation for light- to moderate-intensity cardiovascular efforts is simply to do what you love, so long as the activity is relatively light and joyful. If you truly love to run, then run. Just monitor for the signs of chronic cardio, and scale back as needed. Again, take your running outdoors and spend plenty of time on mastering proper running mechanics.

If you like basketball, play basketball; if tennis is more your thing, then tennis it is! Maybe you enjoy Frisbee, which is great because Frisbee is a perfect low-intensity cardiovascular activity. And if you like to cycle, then go cycle (again, just don’t overdo it).

The possibilities here are endless, and you’re encouraged to experiment, change it up, and try new things. The mind and body thrive on variety (to an extent). And when you begin something new, the excitement of developing new skills often helps motivate you and gets you moving when you otherwise wouldn’t. So if you’ve never tried dancing before, well, now’s your chance!

Hiking is a marvelous endeavor, as well as a potent fat burner. Fasted hiking — such as hiking first thing in the morning — is a sneaky little way to shed stubborn body fat. Hiking is also a relaxing endeavor, offering a sense of tranquility.

Getting more out of your cardio with fasting

Your body is naturally in a fat-burning state when you wake up, so why not take advantage of this and perform your low-intensity exercise first thing in the morning, right before breakfast!

Even just a brisk, 20-minute walk in a fasted state can yield some seriously impressive fat-loss results. And don’t worry about losing your precious muscle; low-intensity cardiovascular training first thing in the morning, while fasted, selectively destroys body fat, leaving your lean muscle practically untouched. Just be sure to keep the intensity low enough — that is, at a level of exertion where you can comfortably hold a conversation.

When performed in a fasted state, all the positive effects of exercise are amplified (both low-intensity and high-intensity). This combination is potent not only for fat loss but also brain function, cellular cleansing, and immune support. Fasting and exercise are perhaps nature’s ultimate tonic for longevity.

While fasted cardio is a good option for most people, it’s not always the best option for people with blood sugar regulation issues or diabetes. You should never feel faint, light-headed, or like you’re going to pass out while doing fasted exercise. If you do, stop immediately.