Why Do You Exercise?

I like to ask people this question because many are exercising with no set goal in mind. They get up early, rearrange their schedule, and miss out on time with family and friends to work towards an unidentified end point – exercising because they think they ‘have’ to, not necessarily because they ‘want’ to.  Historically, these are the same people that pack it in after a month or two, and don’t rev it up again until next January.


The other reason I ask this question is because once we’ve determined your goal we can decide if your workout structure and schedule supports it.  And since most are looking for better health and a more attractive body, the answers typically include one or a combination of the following:

  • Lose belly fat
  • Drop a dress size
  • Feel stronger
  • Improve health
  • Live longer
  • Better balance
  • Build muscle
  • Tighten, tone, flatten, sculpt…the list goes on.

But what’s sad, is that when I follow up “why do you exercise” with my next question – “what are you doing to get there?” – I usually get:

Cardio!  Jogging, elliptical, biking, swimming..etc.

Which is unfortunate, as it’s completely misaligned with their goals, and over time it promotes ‘worse health’ and a ‘less attractive’ body (aka the skinny-fat physique).


Not only do cardio sessions take away from time that could have been spent building muscle and strength, but the cortisol produced during aerobic training promotes muscle loss and fat gain, and the free radicals produced increase our risk of degenerative disease and mortality.  Yet people continue to do it is because they’ve bought into the misconception that exercise should focus on burning calories, and reinforcement from conventional wisdom that it’s the best way to stay healthy and fit.

In reality:

The only thing cardio promotes is the ability to run for a really long time – further and more frequently than anyone else.

Which as far as health and longevity goes, takes a back seat to strength, muscle, metabolic rate, and body fat percentage:

  1. Muscle Mass
  2. Strength
  3. Basal Metabolic Rate
  4. Body Fat Percentage
  5. Aerobic Capacity

And more importantly, can be improved in far less time WITHOUT sacrificing the 4 superior biomarkers.  As sprint interval training produces equal improvements in endurance performance (vo2 max, lactate threshold) with only 1/18th the time commitment!


But to keep this short, I’ll leave you with my favorite response to the “why do you exercise” question, that came from an old client of mine.  He didn’t train for the health, the body (although he had a great one), or the longevity; his main focus was to possess the strength, and explosiveness to be the one still standing if he was unlucky enough to be in an elevator with a psychopath. And not surprisingly, his training regimen reflected that.

Does yours?

Stay Lean!
Coach Mike


Interval Walking to Burn Fat?

Cardio - A Shorter Life in The Long Run?

Stop Counting Calories - Eat More & Burn More