Is Cardio (Including Your Spinning® Class) Bad for You?

In late 2012, following a rash of press that your Spinning class—or even just plain cardio—is “bad” for you, Dr. Jennifer Klau and I got together to discuss the lack of science behind these claims. Originally the audio for this interview was for members only, but I am resurrecting this and making it accessible to everyone because it’s time that instructors have some ammunition to counter the silly and incorrect claims on this topic.

This discussion specifically debunks the Charles Poliquin articles highlighted below. Before you listen to this audio, you may want to read, or print out those two articles, so you’ll understand what she is challenging. (Note: Dr. Klau dives into some deep science and explains briefly how to interpret scientific articles. Mr. Poliquin has obviously cherry picked studies to back his claims.)

[EDIT: Those two articles have been taken down from the Poliquin website and are no longer available. Perhaps he received too many comments from ICA readers about the lack of evidence for his claims! I wish I had copied the articles, but unfortunately, I didn’t.]

When you get Jennifer Klau and me together to discuss a subject about which we are so passionate, it could go on for hours (in fact it did off mic!) But don’t worry, I managed to keep this to 35 minutes. I know you will enjoy our discussion, and I hope you share this with anyone you know who is worried that they shouldn’t be doing aerobic exercise or attending your Spinning® class or Indoor Cycling class because they’ve either read this misinformation somewhere online or in a so-called fitness magazine, or their personal trainer or “friend” told them they will get old, sick, and fat if they continue doing so.

Charles Poliquin is a “world-class strength trainer” and supplement peddler who has made some pretty weighty claims about the “dangers” of cardiovascular exercise. In our interview, the articles (which are no longer available) to which Dr. Klau and I refer to on his website are the following:


The (many) negatives of aerobic training
How to counter the many negatives of aerobic training 

It’s not just him, though. Poliquin’s fans/followers spread his word like rabid disciples. This blog post is called “A New Spin on Fat Loss OR Why I need the oversized gel seat on my bike” from the Fitmontclair Blog by Advanced Fitness Concepts. You’ll have to scroll down a little in that link but you will find several posts that claim how bad “Spinning” is for you. He claims that the photo at right is typical of Spinning class thighs. 357b

Here is a blog post from the blog called Top 10 Ways to get Skinny Fat. In this post, he claims that cardio will cause you to store fat and that Spinning will give you cottage cheese thighs. Oh, and did you know that your perfume will increase fat deposits on your arms and legs? 

Dr. Klau has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and is uniquely qualified to challenge some of the claims in the aforementioned articles because of her extensive research on the subject. Her dissertation was titled “Changes in inflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokines during 10 days of exercise-heat acclimation and 28 hours of sleep loss”. In order to do the research for the dissertation, she had to pass qualifying exams based on the topic. She immersed herself in exercise immunology literature including stress, sleep, heat, normal immune function and auto-immune disorders, cytokines, catecholamines (stress hormones), generation of reactive oxygen species, and acute and long-term effects of exercise on all of the above. After you listen to the interview, you will see why this is very relevant to this discussion.

Also, Dr. Klau knows how to read, decipher and analyze the results of a scientific study, which as she says in the interview, is usually not an easy task. We have reason to doubt whether the author knows how to draw the correct conclusions from a research study. Is this an accident, an honest misinterpretation (doubtful, because many of them do not support his claims), or perhaps he padded his articles with research studies that, to the average reader, seemed to address his topic? Perhaps he didn’t think anyone would actually read the articles cited to discover that they do not necessarily support his claims? 

Both Jennifer Klau and I agree that cardio is not enough for overall fitness. It’s important to also integrate a weight training and core training program for optimum fitness, strength, and wellness. And we also concur that a poorly conducted indoor cycling class pedaling at low resistance at excessive leg speed and intensities, or one using contraindicated and/or ineffective techniques such as these, will also not lead to the fitness improvements that are available to participants of indoor cycling classes IF it’s taught correctly. (That is why the Indoor Cycling Association exists—to teach instructors how to teach effectively based on science).

If these poorly taught classes at low resistance and excessively high cadences are Poliquin’s and his follower’s only experience with indoor cycling classes, then yes, it’s possible they have seen a few people exit the cycling studio with less than stellar results than. Have they never been to a fitness conference, one which is crawling with very fit, healthy and thin people whose job it is to do cardio all week long? In fact, some even do many hours a week of indoor cycling. While it’s possible that some of these instructors (or even the presenters) may be overtrained and may have experienced adrenal stress or injury due to working out too much, you will be hard pressed to find the body type they are describing as the victim of “cardio” exercise.

Maybe someone should tell these women that their exercise is making them fat, or these women that they will soon be sporting cottage cheese thighs!

[box type=”download”]ICA_Audio_Interview_Jennifer_Klau_Is_Cardio_Bad Listen to the audio or click the download button to save it![/box]


It’s important to point out that while Mr. Poliquin believes Spinning® will make you fat, he does have a topical lotion called “Lean Legs” that he will sell you for $75 that supposedly “reforms and tightens skin as it burns fat” when you rub it on your thighs. So cardio will make you fat, but his snake oil will melt the fat away. He’s lost all credibility in my book.

I welcome your comments.

1 Comment

  1. it is always good to be open to learning more

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