Let's be real, there's a lot of bad advice out there as it pertains to your health and fitness. It seems like everywhere you turn there's an add for a detox tea, a waist trainer, or some guru marketing a "women's exercise" (I'll go into that piece of bologna in a different article).
But there's one thing that really seems to get around and is commonplace in fitness that simply isn't true:
That adults need to spend time on the treadmill or running in order to lose bodyfat or improve heart health.
Now, it's not actually false information, it is just a narrow minded viewpoint that leaves a major hole in creating true fitness. When we look at the human body, it is made up of a vast network of muscle fibers that metabolize energy in more than just one way. If you read the last article I posted on Why Muscle Pays For The Party, I brought up the need for developing fast twitch fibers.
While building fast twitch muscle fibers is done through resistance training and lifting weights, making them more efficient and increasing the amount of calories they burn requires the body perform conditioning bouts that specifically target anaerobic energy pathways. These pathways don't use oxygen to create energy, because fast twitch muscles don't act for very long and cannot wait long enough for oxygen to get to the cell. So in order to get those muscles working and improve how well they produce and metabolize energy, we need to take time to get off the treadmill or elliptical and do some fast things.
When we do short bouts of intense exercise, mainly 0-60 seconds, we develop the anaerobic pathway called glycolysis. This means that the food we eat that gets stored as muscle glycogen becomes the primary fuel for the muscles to create energy. This allows us to make that energy system more efficient and ultimately more powerful.
This is where we see adults go wrong. How often do you sprint? How often do you see other adults sprint? Chances are, it's not that often. But these are the fast twitch actions we need to have to help build up our fitness, and keep strength and power as we age. It doesn't have to be sprinting, as sprinting can take time to build up to, but it does mean we need to find ways to move in short, intense bouts of activity followed by periods of rest.
Here's some ideas:
20 Seconds of sled pushing followed by 60 seconds of rest. Try to get as far as possible in those 20 seconds, then turn your sled around when you rest. On the next burst, try to get past the point at which you started. Repeat 5-10 times. (if you don't have a sled available, most treadmills can become a sled if you turn it on, and then pause the belt; this allows you to push the belt with your legs while holding onto the handles in front of you)
Run as fast as you can for 20-30 yards, decelerating slow enough to not hurt yourself. Walk at a normal pace back to your starting point and go right into the next run. Repeat this 10-15 times. (distances don't have to be exact if you don't have a space with defined distances)
Get on a stationary bike (or Airdyne/Assault Bike if you have one), and go all out for 30 seconds, followed by 60-90 seconds of slow pedaling or complete rest. Repeat this 10 times (or 5 if on the Airdyne/Assault Bike).
Using a Rowing Machine, complete 100-150 Meters as fast as possible. Rest for 1 minute between each trial. Repeat for 5-6 total trials
Granted, those are just a few examples of things that we can do to work on anaerobic capacity and working on fast twitch actions. Note that most of the examples rely on short bursts of movement followed by a period of rest. This allows us to use the anaerobic glycolysis more and not dip into an aerobic state. Also note that many of them do not require actual running. Especially for general fitness, spending less time running can help prevent injuries that are commonly caused by pounding the pavement for years on end.