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The Treadmill Mentality vs. Exercise Science

May 18, 2021

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I was reading an article about steady-state training on T Nation, a publication about high-performance fitness and health. Steady-state training or cardio is essentially exercise that involves performing the same activity for a long period of time, like running and biking.

The article correctly pointed out that steady-state training is an ineffective way to lose fat, and will likely cause you to lose more muscle than fat. Unless you’re training for an endurance event, this type of exercise isn’t particularly helpful and could lead to an injury.

I couldn’t help but picture the average gym. Treadmills, stationary bikes, and ellipticals are lined up, and people spend 20, 30, or 60 minutes a day, three or four times a week, using their “cardio machine” of choice as they read, watch TV, listen to music, or talk to friends.

The Treadmill Mentality

This treadmill mentality has no scientific basis. The idea that going to the gym and repeating the same movement for a long period of time will help you lose fat and get in shape has never been scientifically proven. The fact that everyone else is doing it doesn’t make it true.

During the pandemic, this mentality shifted to the home gym. The NPD Group, a market research company, found that health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled between March and October of 2020.

Treadmill sales were up 135 percent. Stationary bike sales tripled. One article said “Peloton won the pandemic” as people plunked down $2,000 or more on the latest fitness craze.

To be fair, there’s nothing wrong with getting on a bike for 20 minutes. If you’ve been largely inactive for a long period of time, you’ll probably lose some fat. That’s almost a given when you go from sustained inactivity to activity.

But using a treadmill or stationary bike or elliptical a few days a week shouldn’t be confused with a personalized exercise program designed to help you reach your health and fitness goals.

Exercise Science Is Hard

The treadmill mentality that focuses on steady-state training largely ignores exercise science, which is far more complex than a one-size-fits-all approach.

There’s a reason why exercise science is a college degree. It’s a highly specialized discipline backed by a ton of science.

As a sports chiropractor and certified strength and conditioning specialist, I’ve studied exercise science for more than 30 years. When we design an exercise science-based program for a person at Natural Healthcare Center, there’s a strength component, an endurance component, a flexibility component, and a coordination component.

The program is always designed to meet an individual goal. There’s always a reason for every component of the program, and these reasons are always explained to the individual. The educational component is just as important as the movements themselves.

Unless you’re training for a marathon or some other kind of endurance competition, there are safer, more effective ways to lose fat and improve your health.

I’m not saying a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical machine can’t be part of the mix, especially if you enjoy those activities.

However, everything you do should have a purpose. Every movement should only be performed in consultation with a professional trained in exercise science, not the trainer at your gym.

A highly trained professional can tell you if you’re in the proper condition to perform each movement and identify the health benefit of each movement as one component of a larger, individualized program.

If you’d like to discuss how you can make the best use of your time exercising, get better results, and minimize the risk of injury, come see us at Natural Healthcare Center.

Dr. Proodian

Dr. James Proodian is an accomplished chiropractic physician, health educator, and professional public speaker who founded Proodian Healthcare Family of Companies to help people feel better, function better, and live longer. His expertise is in identifying clinical imbalances and restoring the body to health and functionality. Contact: jproodian@naturalhc.com or (732) 222‑2219.