Like everything in the fitness world, cardio is a useful tool to implement depending on your goals. Whether or not you should, adding cardio depends on what YOUR personal goal is.
Generally, we should all be doing at least 2-3 days of cardiovascular activity (at least 30 minutes), to keep our heart health and overall fitness up. The benefits of having cardio long term outweighs the benefits of leaving it out for the sake of “gainz”.
Here are some pros and cons to incorporating cardio into your routine.
Aerobic Capacity - You can’t build a good aerobic capacity without some cardio thrown in. Life isn’t all about gaining muscle and focusing on aesthetics. Increasing your lung capacity, strengthening your heart, and helping blood flow and utilization of the calories you are eating are all important for longevity and having a good quality of life as you get older.
Ease of Access - Unlike resistance training, cardio requires no equipment other than your shoes. Not everyone likes being in the gym hours a day. It is nice to have the option to go outside on a beautiful day or meet up with friends to go be active.
Variety - Cardio also doesn’t just have to be running on a treadmill. Any form of activity that is aerobic, and gets your heart rate going is considered cardio. Go play volleyball with your friends, a pick up game of basketball, walks with your partner, or go for a hike. It breaks up the monotony of being indoors in a gym all day lugging weights around. We only have one life, and you don’t want to put all this effort and time towards a healthy body and never get the chance to put it to use! Go find something that brings you joy!
Fat Loss - If your goal is fat loss, cardio is going to be one of the biggest tools towards helping you drop to lower and lower body fat levels. Whether you are doing LISS, HIIT, or increasing your NEAT activity, cardio is most likely going to be a tool you implement on some level in between your workouts to help increase the caloric deficit required to lower your weight and hit your goals.
Workout Capacity - People also forget how much it can transfer over to your resistance training. Increasing your lung capacity will help your endurance in the gym. If you get to a point where you are doing high volume, and need more sets to achieve the same result, you need the capacity to handle these longer workouts.
Doing Too Much - Because of how easy it is to implement, and the fact that no one’s ever really given guidelines on minimum or maximum on how much cardio to do in a given week, I’ve had clients very easily overdo their cardio at the expense of their hard earned muscle. If you are dieting down, you will need to create a deficit to lower that body fat. However, that doesn’t mean more cardio is better. If you are doing too much cardio and/or not pushing hard enough in the gym, AND eating a small amount of calories for too long, your body will hit a point the metabolism slows down and preserves fat over muscle for survival sake.
Recovery - As mentioned before, people tend to overdo it. When it comes to spin classes, and Orange Theory, it attracts the types of personality that like more and more intensity. They are usually lifting 3-4 times a week, and doing 45-50 minutes of HIIT 4-5 days a week. They are also most likely not eating enough, or getting enough sleep to recover from this heavy workload.
What is Your Goal?
Again, it ultimately comes down to your overall goal. If you are getting ready for a marathon, then your workouts should predominantly consist of a lot of cardio and less resistance training. If you are trying to add as much muscle on your frame, then you should be doing less cardio and more lifting. The trick is to find a balance that fits your availability and lifestyle. Ultimately think of it in terms of long term behaviors. I’d rather you set up a “decent” program that you can follow year after year over the most optimal program that you lose interest in after a month.