Most of you reading this article are indoctrinated in the philosophy that regular cardiovascular conditioning is important for your health and that such training reduces your risk of heart attack. If you do agree with this premise, you are also very likely to believe that to achieve cardiovascular conditioning, you must regularly perform cardiovascular exercises, such as running and biking or using a cardiovascular machine. But is this the case?
First, let’s look at the issue from a perspective of natural history. Our evolution into the human species from our ape ancestors is thought to have occurred some 2.8 million years ago. Spanning the duration of this vast period, it should strike you as interesting that the first reported heart attack in the U.S. occurred in 1920, only 12 years after the grain industry began hydrogenating plant and grain oils. Now, I personally find it interesting that there is such hype over cardiovascular exercise as necessary prevention for heart attack or even heart disease, when such diseases were relatively nonexistent less than 100 years ago. That’s but a flash in the pan of human evolution.
Our next logical question should be, did our ancestors regularly participate in cardiovascular exercise? Not likely. First of all, it would not be energy efficient to run around gathering berries, firewood and nuts in your target zone. Nor would it have been wise to run through the bush trying to get a workout while hunting, since any animal would hear you coming from hundreds of yards away and be long gone by the time you got there. If there was a cardiovascular stressor in our native environment, it was most likely when we had to send a messenger to a neighboring village or during times of battle, when you were either running or fighting for your life.
When you look at most sports played today, recreational activities, and work related tasks, the great majority of them place anaerobic demands on the body. Now, surely some of you grew up on a farm or have done hard labor before. When performing any intense work, you begin breathing faster and faster…in fact, you will go aerobic within a few minutes if the work efforts demand so much of your anaerobic energy systems that the demand for energy can’t be replaced by intermediate and anaerobic energy systems (fast glycolytic and aerobic).
I have many memories of bucking hay; the bails weigh 75-120 lb., yet you’ve got to keep up with the tractor as it moves through the field (no, my dad didn’t let me stop for a minute every 12 bails).
When you have thousands of bails to haul in, and will be in the field for hours at a time, you will soon find that your anaerobic stimulus (the bails) produces a demand that the purely anaerobic phosphagen system can’t maintain on it’s own (it only lasts about 8-12 seconds), resulting in ATP production by anaerobic glycolysis and aerobic metabolism respectively. By this very mechanism, our anaerobic capacity is recharged during sports such as tennis, soccer, hockey, basketball, etc., that require explosive movement for prolonged periods of time.
I use hay-bucking because it is a real-world example of how we have maintained aerobic fitness from the beginning of human evolution. If you can follow my logic here, you should be wondering why we are so encouraged to offer aerobic exercise to our patients and clients by most every medical, physical therapy, chiropractic and personal training education program that exists. It’s simple actually. It’s the very same reason we are being told that we must eat a high carbohydrate diet for energy…why doctors tell people they must take this or that drug…BIG INDUSTRY INFLUENCE.
Quite simply, there’s not much money in the manufacture and sales of dumbbells, weight plates and Olympic bars, but there are huge amounts of money to be made if you can convince the masses that aerobic exercise is necessary for disease prevention. After all, have you priced a treadmill, step mill, spin bike, rowing machine, elliptical machine or any such equipment lately? They cost anywhere from several hundred, to several thousand dollars per unit! They often have hundreds of moving parts, which wear out, break and need to be replaced. How many Olympic bars or dumbbells have you replaced lately? It is not at all unusual for a gym or rehab clinic to spend $75,000-$100,000 on cardio equipment alone, and, they will need to be replaced every few years; the same facilities often don’t spend more than $15,000-$20,000 on free weight training equipment and it can last the life of the gym. Yes, I know they spend large sums of money on fixed axis resistance training machines, but that is but another sign of industry influence and professional passivity!
When you get several large equipment manufacturers with multi-million dollar investments in the production of aerobic exercise equipment, you can rest assured there will be a comparatively large commitment to creating an aerobic exercise consciousness. The proof is all around you, in your exercise and bodybuilding magazines, trade journals, on TV infomercials, in your training manuals from most educational institutions. Who do you think sponsors the educational institutions and pays for the supportive research?
So Who Needs It?
The issue is not one of prevention of cardiovascular disease by aerobic exercise, it is an issue of getting the right kind of exercise to benefit both your physiology and meet the demands of your work and sports environment. For example, aerobic conditioning is not general. If it were, any world-class marathon runner could jump on a bike and win the Tour De France, or even the Hawaii Iron Man! Strength training is also not general; there is a very finite amount of carryover from one lift or movement pattern to the other. Otherwise, the best squatter would be the best dead lifter too.
Everyone needs to build fitness, yet for fitness (aerobic or anaerobic) to last, it must be built upon foundation health principles. Proof of this premise can be seen when world-class marathon runners (Jim Fix) and champion bodybuilders (Lou Barry, a former Mr. Australia) die of a heart attack at an early age. When we eat correctly for our metabolic type, eat high quality organic foods, eat regularly to maintain our blood sugar levels in an optimal range, get to bed at a reasonable hour and learn to manage our stressors, the addition of an exercise program of any type becomes truly therapeutic and offers disease prevention. Aerobic fitness atop the standard American diet (SAD!) of Carbohydrates, Refined sugar, Additives and Preservatives (CRAP!) will not offer resistance to disease. In fact, it may well bring it on! Why? That’s simple…because exercise is a stress and if you add more stress to an already stressed system, it will crash.
You may think this is simple, logical, straightforward stuff, but it isn’t, because again, there is BIG money involved here. I will site one of hundreds, even thousands of examples; Scripps Hospital here in San Diego recently partnered with McDonalds. So now McDonalds feeds all those sick and dying people in the hospital their SAD CRAP, while they pedal away on bikes, pump pedals on stair masters, and about every other expensive aerobic machine you can imagine!
Article by: Paul Chek
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Great post: ‘The Cardio Conundrum‘