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How To Avoid Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor Syndrome

March 2nd, 2009

There’s an unsightly affliction attacking gym-goers everywhere, and this might include you. It’s the syndrome of the ‘Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor’ (a fantastic term, coined by Strength Coach and creator of the BioSignature method, Charles Poliquin). It’s defined by a big ole booty and ever-expanding thighs. Now I’m not being mean nor am I being facetious.


Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor Syndrome is a real problem and in fact it’s one you could unwittingly be suffering from. Sure, you might not have heard the term before, but I’ll bet you’ve seen the ever-spreading (no pun intended) consequences of exposure to the syndrome.

I’m talking about the instructors who’ve been around for years, teaching up to 18 classes a week of mostly cardio. Of course, many sufferers of the syndrome are not instructors. No, they’re the cardio queens (and kings) that you meet in every gym. The people who go from class to class, and then do a little extra cardio afterwards, ‘just to be sure’. Or maybe they don’t even make it into the class, but just hang out in the cardio theatre, forever pounding or pushing those oh-so-pointless machines. An hour at lunch, another 40 minutes before dinner, and they’re sure to get a walk or run in at every other opportunity. You know the ones. You could even be one.

These are the people who get fatter with every passing year and wonder why they just can’t stop the bulge. Despairing at how unfair it is that they do waaay more exercise than many people but just can’t fight their ‘bad genes’.

Could this be you? Are you well and truly sucked into the cardio myth? Sure that it’s the answer to your fat loss problems despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to, well, um, work? And despite the fact that every cardio junkie you observe in the gym is overweight? It’s time to listen up and learn what cardio really does to those hips abs and thighs.

How To Avoid Chunky Fat Aerobic Instructor Syndrome

Here’s how it works: According to Coach Poliquin, clinical experience shows that aerobic exercise causes subcutaneous fat to be stored, and in particular it causes it to be stored on your legs and butt. What this means is that frequent aerobic exercise will cause blood fat to go up. This is a protective mechanism – your body is using foresight to provide energy in advance for all the aerobic work you will, based on past behavior, no doubt be doing in the future.

But that’s not all. In fact, that’s just step one of the big butt cardio problem. Step two is that your ever-so-smart body decides to be even more efficient. Why store fat in the blood as dangerous triglycerides when you could take those physique and health destroying fats and keep them somewhere even closer – like your muscles? Yep – after just 6 weeks of cardio your body adapts and then goes right ahead and converts as much food into fat as possible. Where does that fat go? Well, oh cardio worshiper, among other places it’s sent straight to the inside of your muscle cells, actually changing the density of those cells. Needless to say, this process is quite tough to reverse. Particularly if it’s been going on for a long time. But there are some things you can do –


  • Switch the cardio room for the weights room. Regular weight training increases your basal metabolic rate and WILL result in body fat loss, unlike it’s well-marketed counterpart, cardio. Of course, the weight training must be quality. We’ve all seen people in the gym pretend to know what they’re doing with weights and barely raising a sweat, or – worse – ‘social training’.
  • Detox those bad fats from your booty by eating enough good fat and minimising starchy carbohydrates in your diet. Good fats include coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, raw organic nuts and seeds, and a quality Omega-3 supplement. Do NOT just buy any old brand here – many shelf Omega-3’s are rancid. Go for practitioner brands or contact me to find out my preferred brands.
  • Ensure you drink at least 0.033 litres of water for every kilo of your body weight. (That’s every day). Poor hydration is a sure way to gain weight, and it doesn’t make you feel too great either.
  • If in doubt, remember what we’re designed for – moving heavy stuff, mainly in the form of pushing, pulling, bending, squatting, lunging, twisting. Running and jumping around like a crazy person doesn’t really figure unless it’s because your life is in jeopardy, and if you’re a regular reader then you’ll know what that means – you’re storing fat. Fast.

With all that in mind I hope that next time you schedule a cardio slash class sandwich, you’ll stop for just a moment and try to let go of the paranoia and the fear. That you’ll consider the possibility that maybe it’s not working for you because It. Just. Don’t. Work.

I realize this post is somewhat controversial so would love to hear your comments and personal experience. Have you been a cardio king or queen over the years? Or been there and given it up like me? What have your experiences been?

Life is Now. Press Play.


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91 people have commented
  1. Dr. J says:

    LOL! It’s true I’ve seen some pretty chunky aerobics teachers. Actually I’ve also heard with the martial arts, the sensei picks up 10 pounds for each level of black belt!

    I guess I’m the exception that proves the rule. I run and do karate, and I wish I had a bigger butt, lol. It would help while on my horse 🙂


  2. […] PS – cardio will NOT give you a great body! In fact, it will probably make you gain weight. Check out this article if you’re not convinced. […]

  3. Anand says:

    Hi Kat,
    The post was spot on and I also must add that the title added a dash of humor to an otherwise informative article.
    I have seen several of those Cardio Kings and Queens. And I feel sorry for them.
    Personally, I have been a big fan of weight training and have evolved my training program, to suit my needs, along with the changes in my life and lifestyle.
    Great Post. Looks Like I am going to keep coming back here 🙂


  4. jack thubron says:

    hi Kat. I’m currently doing a level 3 personal trainer course with a spot on trainer. He lectures the exact same thing you commented on and i must admit it changed my life in the way i think of going to the gym. Thing is no one and i mean no one believes me, how do you convince people that it isn’t brainwashing?

    • Kat says:

      Hey Jack – I used to worry about the same thing, but the truth is that when you speak with confidence and have a decent understanding of the research behind this stuff, people stop questioning you. You’ll find it will be much easier to have this authority once you’re working in the industry, and even more so as you continue to study and as time passes. Lucky you having a lecturer who talks about this stuff – that’s very unusual!

  5. John says:

    just new to you blog and love it so far! how do you feel about interval training? or is cardio cardio in your mind?

    • Kat says:

      Hey John. Thanks for the compliment! I actually just finished a post on ideal cardio, stay tuned over the next 24 hours …. Kat

  6. […] lacking some crucial information. This could be because I’m so passionate about uncovering the truth about cardio for fat loss. I simply can’t stand hearing the same tired old lies again and again, particularly when it […]

  7. […] is the key to truly successful cardio. If you want to burn fat, that is, as opposed to end up with chunky fat aerobics instructor syndrome. And perhaps you’ve seen my latest article in the Fitness First magazine and want to know […]

  8. […] me finally having the courage to drop the cardio after realizing just how stressful and therefore fattening it can be […]

  9. […] which case it’s most definitely time to change your approach before you end up with chunky fat aerobics instructor syndrome. Here’s how – and trust me, this one’s worth a read even if it’s just for a […]

  10. Ania says:

    Hello Kat,

    I appreciate what you are trying to do here by focusing on how the whole body works and not just being cardio obsessed but I must disagree with the position you take in this article.

    While there are many overweight cardio junkies, there are also many underweight cardio junkies. A change in body fat percentage depends on how many calories you burn vs. how many are consumed. While there is a tiny percentage of the population with a true genetic disorder or hormonal (ie thyroid) problems, the majority of people are simply consuming too many calories for what their bodies can burn. It is also proven that many overweight people will drastically underestimate how many calories they consume and are actually eating 50% more calories than what was estimated. I know this is to be true because apart from much scientific reserach, my own bodyweight will vary according to what i eat and not how much I work out. I am a big cardio junkie, burning 1000 calories per session every single day (or about 2-3 hours a day on the treadmill). I also train and educate many people, for whom the cardio approach has worked successfully in every instance. If you really think that your body is storing energy despite having an energy deficit then you are defying the laws of science and I’m sure that there would be many corporations interested in your body since you can create excess energy out of thin air.

    A great site loaded with information and facts on the body, fat, muscle and nutrition is: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com – if anyone is interested in the details, please check out this site.

    – Ania

    • Kat says:

      Hi Ania
      I used to believe a similar approach to what you’re espousing, but I have to say that I do find the old school theory of ‘calories in vs calories out’ to be just that – old school. My studies and clinical experience have led me to put my faith entirely in (what to me is far more logical) ideal health created through the laws of biochemistry and through creating ideal hormonal balance, not through ‘1+1=2’. The body just isn’t that simple. You’re certainly right in saying that some people are underweight cardio junkies but I completely disagree in the premise of body fat depending on calories in vs out as an overall principle. Not saying that someone won’t end up underweight if they severely restrict calories, but the reality is that some people do put on weight this way. And many people who eat a typical so-called healthy diet of moderate calories simply don’t lose weight until they cut out cardio and increase calories through protein and fat. It’s true that cardio works in the short-term, but that’s simply an adaptation response. And while some (very few people) are genetically geared to do well on cardio, most are not.
      If you’d like to check out a newer way of thinking on health, training, nutrition and hormones then refer to the work of Charles Poliquin, Jonny Bowden, even Paul Chek. Each of them offer countless articles, research, clinical experience easily found online, enough to keep you going for weeks of reading. And certainly I defer to their experience – particularly that of Poliquin who is well regarded as the world’s leading strength/conditioning coach and has unparalleled expertise in the field of hormonal research – rather than trying to re-hash what they’ve already said (beyond what I did in this post of course :-)). Long story short – I’d certainly rather eat well, lift heavy and go home and stay ripped that way than painfully track a low-cal diet and spend hours on the tready. Been there, done that, yeah it can work but’s a long and laborious way of going about things, often comes back to bite, and definitely is not great for health considering the oxidative stress caused by cardio and the health/aging implications related to that!
      Thanks for your comment!

  11. Ania says:

    Hi Kat,

    It is great that you have found a way for you to stay healthy and feel great. While I know that every “body” on this planet must obey the laws of science and that there are often very complicated explanations why some things work for some people and not for others I do not want to get into an argument over this with anybody so I will just leave this discussion at that and wish you good luck with the site and all your health research.


    • Kat says:

      Likewise Ania – I guess it comes down to being open to considering things from a different angle, and remembering that even the most excelled of scientist’s and genius minds have – on occasion – been proven wrong. Once upon a time we believed the world was flat …

  12. Erin says:

    I am extremely offended by this article. Not only is there lack of concrete science presented, but it’s a hit to all fitness instructors, regardless of size. Feel free to state your method of weight loss but no not slam fitness instructors. First off, aerobics instructors are typically at a higher fitness level than most people realize. To say that cardiovascular fitness is ineffective is ludacris. Do you not realize this is the main method for strengthening the heart?! Instructors of course come in all shapes and sizes. A person’s body shape is heavily reliable on genetics as well. I have taught aerobics for 12 years. My sister never exercises and has approximately the same build, however I am more muscular and toned. By no means am I overweight, but I know what my body is capable of achieving. Also, I’d like to point out the the majority of aerobics instructors have had children and the main focus of life is not to become solely absorbed with diet and exercise. It is also a job that some consider fun and are instructors because they enjoy it. I have a full time job, but teach aerobics as a means to unwind and enjoy working out. So I will say again that I find your article extremely offensive. Preach your science but maybe with less tackiness. I would have a hard time considering anything here valid information based on lack of professionalism.

    • Kat says:

      Erin – offence can happen when people speak their minds, and since it’s my blog I have no intention of trying to be PC just to keep it nice. I stated my opinion based on what I see. I’m not trying to say that GF instructors all aim to be at a certain level of body fat, of course many – probably most – do it for enjoyment. But if the mode of exercise worked then they’d be in great shape whether they wanted to or not! SO you kinda proved my point. Btw, I’ve had a child, so have loads of my clients and friends, and it is absolutely not something that can be used as an excuse for being out of shape. If anything you should be in better shape after having children (obviously not initially after giving birth). Assuming of course you’re educating your child on proper eating, exercise etc. Like weights! Aerobics has it’s place, and if you love it then great, but I stand by my opinion. Do a tour of 10 gyms and you’ll be lucky to find 3 or 4 aerobics instructors who look great. And I bet they do plenty of weight training. Thanks for commenting.

      • Kat says:

        I find this article highly confronting. I teach Group Exercise and truly love it. I love interacting with my participants, I love the workout and I love the sense of comeradery it brings to an otherwise very isolated environment.

        But I understand, Cardio isn’t for everyone and while I may be a cardio goddess (teaching 10+ a week) others have their own preferences which is fine.

        HOWEVER, what is not acceptable is to say ‘if the mode of exercise worked then they’d be in great shape whether they wanted to or not’. Does that mean if I just lifted weights I would be in great shape? Absolutely not. Everyone knows that a strong healthy body is the result of balanced exercise and, more importantly, a balanced diet. If your diet is lacking then the benefits of aerobic exercise will be compromised, in exactly the same way that weights training alone will not achieve a great physique.

        Speaking on a personal level, I went from an obese (talking 100+kgs) participant to a healthy instructor (65.5kg as of this morning) doing group exercise, mainly cardio. And I take great delight in seeing the benefits in my life- I can run for buses/ trains, pound up the stairs to work, feel less fatigued and have seen my netball games improve. Functional cardio training-

        • Kat says:

          You’re right of course – everyone has to put things to the test and find what works for them. My opinion is just my opinion, based on my learning and experiences. But it’s still an opinion. It’s great to hear you’ve found something that works for you.

    • Ohmy says:

      Sounds like this article struck a nerve. I wonder how this viewer came across it? I think that if you’re a fitness instructor you should look the part. I know I’d be discouraged if my aerobics instructor was a little fluffy.. even if she was bulky and hard (“toned”).

  13. LOL at Kat’s hilariously unscientific ramblings about how the body stores fat on your hips and but only because it “knows” you’re gonna do more cardio. HAHAHAHA

    Science, fact, reason. All these things disagree with your ramblings.

    • Kat says:

      Whose science? Whose facts? Whose reason? There’s always more than one opinion on every theory out there, and you can find science to back up anything you want if you look hard enough. Of course the validity is another issue. A funny thing I’ve noticed in this industry is that those who love to argue the science line never quite have the results to back it up. Are you interested in arguing or being open-minded enough to consider something that goes against the norm? Oh, sorry, I just realised I’m no doubt talking to another ostrich. Seems the world is full of them. Most of them can be found in spin rooms 4-5 times p/week. Results don’t lie.

      • Lorynn says:

        I just stumbled upon this article. I am very open minded in trying different techniques/methods to get into shape. I have achieved amazing results from walking alone and eating fewer calories, but I was also under the age of 35. Ten years later, that no longer works. The only time I have achieved noticable results was when I began weight training and cardio combined. I do not know what works or I’d look amazing and be healthy right now and stay that way. With this said, I am going to listen to what you say and experiement. I see that you have a lot of people here who want to argue with you. That said, I love where you said, “those who want to argue, do not have the living proof to back it up.” That is so true! Therefore their comments are as valid as their evidence. If you KNOW what works people, then why do you look the way you do? I will also add that you said that many cardio queens/aerobic instructors look very out of shape. This is SO TRUE! I have always noticed that. Additionally, I am a massage therapist and the people who come into my sessions and are advid runners, have the worst bodies of anyone I’ve seen (of those who work out). They may be thin, but they are very soft/doughy to the touch. More muscular in parts & larger from fat in other parts and bony in others. Just very imbalanced and not good. I can always tell those that do the, “cardio stuff” based on their bodies. I am not just making this up to add to your article, but I have always noticed this stuff you talk about. The aerobic’s instructors bodies look similiar to the way, I describe my runners. I will listen to what you say and give it a whirl. Nothing else works for me thus far. I was the cardio queen like you wouldn’t believe and yes my butt, hips and thighs are much fatter. In closing a man I know who turned his body around and is in the best shape of anyone I’ve ever seen, also follows your theory here. I don’t know if he has read your articles or where he gets his info from, but he doesn’t do cardio, but only lifts. He works out only 3 times a week vs 45 min and is probably perfet in build. He adds that he has better things to do than to spend hours in the gym on cardio. Obviously based on how he looks and his fat measurments, he knows what he is talking about. As do you! Recent studies on yoga also mention that it works the cardiovascular system. A famous yoga instructor I know doesn’t do cardio and went in for a physiology to prove his point that, “cardiovascular exercise isn’t necessary to be in tip-top shape both on the inside and the outside.” He looks amazing!

        • Kat says:

          Thanks for the comment! A very detailed one, it sounds like you’ve thought about all of this a lot 🙂 I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts Lorynn 🙂

  14. Kat says:

    For anyone else who’d rather spend their time arguing rather than just testing something out and finding all the conclusive proof they (should) need, here are a few great resources:


    Those who are more interested in taking offense than finding the truth might find these more ‘acceptable’ reading than my ramblings – I certainly appreciate the detail and research that has gone into these articles.

    Oh – and do yourself a favor for heavens sake. When you read these, please at least try to do so whilst putting your current beliefs about exercise and fat loss aside. As opposed to furiously scrolling through whilst trying to think of all the things you can rant back about. Who knows? You just might learn something.

    Here are just a few more useful references for you to expend energy on rather than getting out there and hitting the weights room. Visit pubmed.com for another couple thousand or so great studies –

    1. Tremblay A, et al. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism Metabolism 1994 July;43(7):814-8.
    2. Yoshioka M. et al. Impact of high-intensity exercise on energy expenditure, lipid oxidation and body fatness Int. Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders 2001 Mar;25(3):332-9
    3. Geliebter A. et al. Effects of strength or aerobic training on body composition, resting metabolic rate, and peak oxygen consumption in obese dieting subjects American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997, Sept. 66(3):557-63.
    4. Bryner RW et al. Effects of resistance vs. aerobic training combined with an 800 calorie liquid diet on lean body mass and resting metabolic rate Journal of 5. American Coll. Nutrition 1999, Apr. 18(2):115-21.
    6. Pratley R. et al. Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in healthy 50-to-65-yr-old men Journal Applied Physiology 1994 Jan; 76(1):133-7.
    7. Ryan AS et al. Resistive training increases fat-free mass and maintains resting metabolic rate despite weight loss in postmenopausal women Journal of Applied Physiology 1995 Sept; 79(3):818-23.
    8. Treuth, MS et al. Effects of strength training on total and regional body composition in older men Journal of Applied Physiology 1994 Aug; 77(2):614-20.

    It’s pretty clear I think that I’m letting this back and forth thing get to me. Although I am admittedly much better these days at brushing off the feeble attacks of the sheep (yep, am loving the animal analogies today); even laughing to myself at the unbelievable arrogance and ignorance that still perpetuates the entire health industry. But at the same time I truly do feel sympathy for anyone out there who is so unwilling to consider new research, let alone put it to the test, that they’re only robbing themselves. Hopefully they’re not also blogging about their so-called science and they’re only causing irreparable oxidative stress and hormonal imbalance to themselves. I’m the first to admit I’ve made loads of mistakes in my thinking about good health over the years, but I’m proud to say that the one thing I’ve never done is obstinately refused to consider different ideas and research. And to all those out there who join me on quest to explore and test out results-based methods not just for lasting fat-loss but for enhanced health – I look forward to spending my time and energy engaging with you. To everyone else: if you don’t care enough to open your eyes just a little I sure as heck aren’t interested in a back and forth battle to nowhere.

    Oh – and Nick Mitchell, you rock! Thankyou!

  15. Brett says:

    I agree with your viewpoint, Kat. And I encourage you to keep on speaking your mind, because more people need to hear this. It is 2010, and our understanding of the human body has changed.

    The biochemistry of the body has not changed though.

    We were designed to throw a rock at the rabbit, not to chase after the rabbit!

    Its also interesting that the “building the heart” maxim has been thrown out of the window, by Kenneth Cooper himself, the father of aerobics and the actual creator of the term “aerobics”. After observing too many aerobic enthusiasts dying from heart disease and cancer, he completely reversed his position on excessive aerobic exercise being beneficial. He now recommends nothing in excess of 20 mins of low level cardiovascular exercise.

    If that isn’t proof enough there are numerous studies linking it to increased oxidative stress, adrenal fatigue, excessive cortisol production, lowered testosterone and HGH levels as well as overuse injuries.

    So as far as it being good for you and efficient at fat loss, aerobics gets a definite no. If you enjoy it and it makes you happy then go for it. Just understand why you are doing it.

    • Kat says:

      Thanks Brett, I appreciate the support. And hadn’t heard that little tidbit, so thanks for sharing it! I just can’t wait for the day when the (mainstream) world finally sits up and acknowledges the power of our hormones over every aspect of our health, and in particular the power of cortisol to – as one person put it – create energy (fat) out of nothing. If hormones can work to create an entire person for heavens sake – and I assume no-one will try and deny that – is it so far-fetched to imagine that they can control other aspects of our wellbeing?!

  16. Brenda says:

    I am in no way want to join in on the debate going on up above because even though I have researched a lot about diet I know nothing about exercise. I consider what I type here to be separate from the debate. My lack of knowledge and blindly following official sounding government authorities on both subjects has contributed to my weight problem for 20 years.

    I came from a background where exercise was trying to avoid P.E. class as much as possible since the jocks were favored, and it was about competition and playing games. It was forced exercise that didn’t do much for encouraging my love of exercise. There was no real physical “education” there, where life skills were learned. I wish we could have learned strength training or yoga. Now I realize that this is one of the most important things that young people need to learn since physical health effects every other aspect of life.

    I will say what my experience has been with aerobics and exercise just because Kat asked above and the subject has been bothering me. I think I was young and in denial as to what happens to your body as you get older so I did little exercise in my 20’s. I joined clubs that I didn’t go to. After my first child was born at 28 I had a lot of weight to loose. I wish doctors were more interested in nutrition during pregnancy but even if mine had been I’m sure the info would have been wrong. I started with aerobics tapes at home which led to me joining a Jazzercise class. When I did Jazzercise all the time and cut the junk food intake I did lose weight and build muscle in my legs. Over the years I did Jazzerice off and on and liked it because it was fun. The dancing to the music is a fun way to sort of trick myself into getting some exercise because I would get caught up in the energy in the room, the music and found the choreography challenging. If for whatever reason I had not been there for awhile I could start slow doing “lighter side” and before to long I was lifting my leg a little higher and moving faster without even realizing it. I have always had back pain and it loosened up my back and I would feel the endorphins kick in that was good for my happiness.

    I only recall one instructor over the years that was a little overweight but I do know that almost all of the regulars that came to class pretty much leveled out in their fitness. There were a few that came to class including me that never lost all the weight they wanted, especially after more pregnancies and I got older. Most members would come to class and go through the motions but not try to push themselves to work harder. Nobody was ever really toned either. I would say that I would sort of top out as far as getting any stronger also but it still felt good to go to class. I also tried step aerobics and at first that was extremely challenging in that I had to improve my coordination and stamina. Both kinds of classes spent part of the hour doing weight training and stretching also, but because there was only so much time……..that was more limited. I also took private pilates for a short time and that was intense and I had respect for that but couldn’t continue because of stomach probems at the time. I have been aware of the need for strength training for 30 years, after I bought an Arnold S. book back in the late 1970’s called “Body Building for Woman” and bought a woman’s weight set but have never been able to stick with weight training because it is boring. I may have been doing it all wrong for all I know. I keep thinking there has to be a more time efficent way than three sets for every movement.

    I thought these were rewarding experiences for the most part except that aerobics will only take someone so far. I was never one of those that did it for hours, only for 40 min. at a time. For someone who has been sitting on the couch for periods of time like I did, it made changes at first and got me moving. But now I wonder after reading some of what I am hearing now from Kat and Marks Daily Apple and other sources if I may have done myself harm and in the long run and contributed to my problems.

    I am now the most out of shape that I have ever been after going through tons of stress and I gave up for what turned into years because of physical problems. I agree with Kat on how to eat but would like to know what the right way is to exercise. I plan to read all her sources above and try to figure it out. I have many questions that need to be answered, including what I can do with my physical limitations. I think it makes sense to approach the problem the same way I did with diet. I decided to look back in time and see what worked for humans in the past before the modern times hit us. That is what I intend to do.

    I am also not sure about everyone being able to recover from pregnancy. I felt like I was never the same again in many ways and I wonder if being pregnant messed with my thyroid or hormones. I felt like I was left with the aftermath of an alien taking over my body three times with three c-sections. Really woman need to go into training to get in the best shape of their lives before having a baby and I did none of that. I was very much in denial about this before I got pregnant.

    I know I have made lots of mistakes that I can’t go back and change. I welcome Kat to use this as an example to make a point if it helps anyone. I want to learn and improve for myself and to teach my kids so they don’t have the same problems I do. It has taken me years but I am not giving up.

    • Kat says:

      HI Brenda
      It’s so nice of you to share such a personal insight into your experiences, and I think it helps bring some balance to the table. Just a couple of quick thoughts in response –
      – In saying aerobics instructors are overweight I don’t mean visually large. A person with 20-25% body fat is pretty average as far as what you see on the street, and would probably even be considered fit-looking by many people. I don’t believe that it’s a healthy or ideal range though, despite what the ‘norms’ might say.
      – In terms of being in better shape after pregnancy I was being quite general there. I mean for women who’ve had no birth complications that might restrict them from ideal movement for the long-term. Having said that, I do believe it’s possible to be in excellent health through diet alone. You may well be right in that pregnancy messed with your hormones. It’s very common. It’s also very much something that can be recovered from, but this is where the hormonal side of things starts to get very complicated and individualized.
      – The theme of your comment – the issue of info overload – is probably the limiting factor for most people in terms of shaping up. How do you know who to believe? At some point you just have to put your faith in something or someone (even if you’ve done loads of research, ’cause it’s still not practical experience) and give something a go for a consistent and significant period of time. You’ll have your proof.
      Finally, I haven’t actually done loads of writing on exercise as compared with nutrition and lifestyle. I’m gradually adding more in, so look forward to seeing you around the blog 🙂

  17. Jeff says:

    Hey current research does in fact show the benefits of resistance training for fat loss, and how long bouts of cardiovascular training can hinder this. However current reserach also has shown that only doing resistance train can raise blood pressure in a large percentage of the pouplation and you are not getting the training effects of cardivovascular exercise. So whats the awnser? A combination of resistance training as you suggest, PLUS high intensity interval training ! Utilizing anerobic training systems for Cardio ( ie 10 seconds to 2 min of maximal effort power based movements) combined with active recoveries for specified periods of time has been shown in number articles to create the same effect as resistsance training for fat loss. So combining these two protocols is the key according to all up to date and current research 🙂

  18. […] me just how controversial any sort of strong opinion on health can be. Especially when it comes to ideal exercise or food choices. I don’t mind the odd spot of controversy, and I’ve always loved a good […]

  19. ania rucinska says:

    Hi Kat,

    First off, your own personal fitness is an inspiration to me. I am also open to new ideas and thinking outside the box, Having said that, I’m confused by the theory on useless cardio. Specifically, aren’t long distance runners, triathletes, rowers etc. all lean and with a very low body fat percentage? All of these type of athletes train cardio daily, and for hours on end.

    I am an aerobics instructor myself, fluctuating between 15-18% body fat, but I did not notice any considerable improvements since adding weight training to the mix. I also did initially lose some weight when I first started cardio training. Perhaps I’m doing the wrong types of weights, or my 9 hours of cardio per week is interfering with the potential benefits of weights?

    Please do not see this post as criticism, I am simply interested in finding out more about health and fitness, as well as clarifying these few points.

    Thank you for sharing your research
    Ania Rucinska

    • Kat says:

      HI Ania
      Thanks for your comment … and I am (trying :-)) to be better at accepting criticism anyway, but yours is a great comment, and some valid points.
      Firstly I would say that I don’t agree all those athletes are very lean. Some are and some aren’t, and obviously they all follow different methods of diet, additional training etc. One thing I should make clear is that I do believe high amounts of cardio coupled with a very low-cal diet CAN make some people lean … I just think it’s totally the wrong way to go about it when it’s so much easier to do it with a high-protein/fat diet, adequate sleep and stress management, and weights/circuit training. (Sleep and stress is a big factor by the way, in my opinion – I don’t know if that could be relevant for you?). Having said that, even taking things to such an extreme doesn’t work for some people, and backfires for many.

      Interestingly, since all the furore associated with this post I’ve managed to find all the old studies that i’d lost track of, which are very relevant … here’s a few more of them


      Would be interested to hear what your response is! For you, maybe 9 hours is too much, or you might even find just taking a couple weeks of cardio and all training helps. Just yesterday a client emailed saying how she’d dropped significant body fat after stopping cardio for 4 weeks! The idea is very scary, but more often than not when people try it they drop fat, in my experience anyway.

  20. ania rucinska says:

    Hey there again Kat,

    As if by magic, I was just accepted into a new gym instructor job which means I lose all of my aerobics classes but one! (per week). Although initially devestated, this may just be the chance to try out a new training regime.

    My old school trainer has been shaking his head the entire time, saying the research that is coming out now is what he has been telling me all along: “Train weights – hard and fast with little rest, jump rope, climb stairs, run hills, then enjoy the view from up top girlie.”


  21. Kat says:

    I LOVE that quote. Can I steal it?!

    I agree completely …. minimising rest time with weights optimises growth hormone and helps burn fat while gaining lean muscle … plus you just feel so darn good, but in an uplifted way as opposed to “I just nearly tore my body apart” kinda way.

    Will be very interesting to see how you go. BTW – you will probably like what you read in my next blog post (which I’m about to put up …)

  22. Kat says:

    Actually I’ll put it up tomorrow

  23. ania rucinska says:

    ofcourse! inspiration should be shared- it’s from “steve” rehayem (no one knows his real name) ex- police officer and all round tough guy.

  24. Kat says:

    Excellent, thanks 🙂 oh … and the new post I mentioned; I’ve scheduled it for later this week. It’s an email from a reader

  25. […] You know how I’m always talking about cardio as one of the greatest evils of the exercise world? The fact that most of what the health industry teaches on the matter is absolute rubbish, that many experts believe it’s a complete waste of time, that it can exacerbate stress and cause you to store fat faster, and that certain types in particular will build up your booty in a most unwelcome manner? […]

  26. […] which case it’s most definitely time to change your approach before you end up with chunky fat aerobics instructor syndrome. Here’s how – and trust me, this one’s worth a read even if it’s just for a […]

  27. T says:

    I am totally Cardio Queen you described, and I have been to my fair share of aerobics classes, all with the requisite instructor. I do weights 3 times a week although, admittedly, 2 of those days are halfhearted. I am pretty active with bike riding and yard work, I eat fairly well. I am slender but I look soft and have the dreaded cellulite running down the back my legs. My question is, what is the interval training? Is it running all out for 30 seconds? 10 seconds??

  28. Al says:

    Vince Gironda said the same thing! But on the other hand in BORN TO RUN the author puts forth the theory of persistent hunting which says we were built to wear down game by jogging after it. It’s interesting that he promotes Vibram Five fingers and you have an ad for it on the same page that you are disclaiming Cardio

    • Kat says:

      There’s always more than one school of though on anything, isn’t there?! And who said Vibrams have to be for cardio 🙂 they can be used for weight training or just everyday use!

  29. […] takes your body to adapt to the new stimulus. What’s more, some research even indicates that repetitive cardio such as spin classes actually causes your body to increase fat stores! Personally I’m all for getting your heart […]

  30. […] 27 augusti, 2010 av halsojakten Kom över en ganska intressant artikel som behandlade termen ”Chunky fat aerobics instructor syndrome”. Vad detta handlar om är att överdriven aerob träning inte hjälper dig att gå ner i vikt utan […]

  31. Min says:

    I usually don’t comment on much of anything on-line, but I had to say thank you for all the information you share to the public. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the information you’ve posted. It is odd that such negative comments are sometimes posted… as if they have personally proven this information wrong. I am always looking for ways to improve my physique and change things up with my routine. I hope you enjoy chuckling at some of thoughts that are left here by others. Thanks again for sharing all you know!

    • Kat says:

      Thanks so much Min; I really appreciate your comment! Especially as each time I see a new comment on this post I get a rush of dread about what attack I’m getting next :). Haha. I suppose as a blogger I need to be more open to criticism and debate!

  32. geongia says:

    I am pretty active with bike riding and yard work, I eat fairly well. I am slender but I look soft and have the dreaded cellulite running down the back my legs….


  33. Alvera Hehir says:

    We were doing some browsing and came across this blog site. I must admit that this info is on point! Keep it up. We will be reading your posts

  34. […] of losing weight and fat, follows that low fat diet we talked about.  However, this person just can’t seem to get the fat or weight off.  Or, even worse, their fat distribution changes – lean legs, lean arms, gaunt face, but a […]

  35. Angel says:

    Hi Kat,

    I’ve just come across your blog via the Maximus Mark interview & hearing you speak on fitness as well as your articles here have been very interesting. From all I’ve read on yours & others sites over these last weeks I’m noticing that fitness is in many ways like a religion & at the end of the day people must draw their own conclusions, presumably based on what actually works for them, because there’s nothing like trying & proving something personally. If it works, it’s undeniable.

    My question is, in light of this article on cardio. I especially dislike cardio & aerobics so I’m happy to believe in & promote the train of thought you’ve presented here. However, in another article on your blog there’s mention of Carrie Underwood. She does have nice legs in the picture so I Googled to see more as I do vaguely remember her being quite a bit rounder. In every interview I found talking about her body, she swears by cardio being the key to her transformation.

    So what I wanted to ask you is, in your scientific research & training, is there any support to the idea that while these general health & fitness rules are the scientific truth, since science is anyways evolving & we can only know the facts based on constantly emerging & might I add changing evidence, is there a very likely possibility that different kinds of exercise & diets bring about different results in different bodies types. In simple terms, since we are all different, is there a good chance, that cardio may very well reduce extra weight for some people? If there’s no scientific explanation to support that, then what is the explanation for people like the female in question who do extensive cardio? Thanks for your time!

    • Kat says:

      Hi Angel, yes everyone is different – different diets and exercise work for different people. Cardio can work well for the first 6 weeks of exercise. Carrie may be talking about intervals, which is not what I mean when I say cardio.

  36. […] estrogen include the contraceptive pill and other medications, poor gut health, too much cardio (especially spin), and poor […]

  37. Jen S. says:

    Where is the scientific evidence of this? Is there a single reputable institution that has published evidence of weight gain as a result of cardio? If so, please post it. What scientific evidence is there that “blood fat rises” after aerobic excercise? This seems to simply be personal opinion rather than based upon concrete scientific evidence. Please dont post theories as facts. Once you link to concrete evidence and information tested and proved by professionals in the health and science fields, your work will seem more legitimate.

    • Kat says:

      HI Jen, I’m interested in facts and facts and science are not necessarily one and the same. I am not a scientist and nor do I have any interest in learning how to analyse in-depth scientific studies. I really just have to laugh when I get the ‘where is the science’ question, because it’s just such a fallback when someone gets defensive about something or else is simply not willing to have an open mind and consider that conventional wisdom might be flawed and perhaps there’s a difference way. The ultimate proof is, as they say, in the pudding and that’s all I care about. This is a blog, not a scientific journal.

      Having said all of that, I HAVE provided plenty of science on CFAS. Did you even READ the ridiculously long list of links I’ve posted repeatedly in these comments before posting your comment? That science will keep you going for a while.

      Thanks for commenting!

  38. Iris says:

    I am a bit late in responding to this post but I have just discovered this blog. This seems to be a controversial issue as the emotional reaction of some readers shows…At first I would like to comment on one reader`s stance that Kat`s article wasn`t scientific: In addition to the research she cites you can find referances to research confirming exactly what Kat claims in the book “New Rules of Lifting for Women” and “The Female Body Breakthrough” by Rachel Cosgrove. Second, it is sad that “empirical evidence” tends always be neglected. If cardio doesn`t do the job for lots and lots of people (especially women) but we have no solid answer for “why” the person doesn`t lose fat then people estimate that the person struggling to lean out must have done something wrong. Gary Taubes refers to a case of a woman in his book who had some sort of tumor that programmed her body to gain fat at all costs. As a result her fat cells just were put first when it came to energy distribution. So her body was undernourished, other bodily functions stopped working properly but the fat cells continued to fill. This is an extreme case, but I think this is what “chronic cardio” does to many (not all) people: Due to some hormonal response (most prominent in women) the body holds on to fat and some other functions shut down (like core temperature becoming lower, maybe even minimally, but this matters as it influences basal metabolic rate). I am a long distance runner as well. I run because I like to win (smaller) races. When I am in competition shape I am far from my leanest. When I try to look my best I cut back on running. I do not overeat when I run a lot. And just to add to empiric evidence: I witness so many women doing fitness class after class and if you saw them outside the gym you wouldn´t guess they have exercised for the last 20 years. And, just to reply to one of the statements: I have a child as well and I was the leanest I ever was around my daughter`s first birthday!

    • Kat says:

      That’s really interesting about the case study in Gary Taubes book – thankyou for that comment! Which of his books was that? Love your final 2 sentences Iris 🙂

  39. Iris says:

    I found this in “Good Calories, Bad Calories”, p. 367-369 (the actual effect was observed in rats, so I confused the datas of two studies a bit but they complement each other). Kat, as we both agree on that you could be lean and fit after baby I would love if you found the time to dedicate one post to fitness and nutrition during pregnancy. I would like to have a second one sometime soon and I would like to exercise more intensily than I did with my first (I was too scared, I continued to exercise but I did way less than I thought I was capable). I have build some lean body mass since then (and it was tough I do not put on muscle easily) and as happy as I will be once I am pregnant again I am a bit scared to lose my muscle again, so it would be great to learn what a woman can do strength-wise. Just an idea…:-)

    • Kat says:

      Hi Iris, thanks for the request … it’s not a focus of mine at the moment to write more on pregnancy although I do have an e-book planned on this for later this year! In the meantime, check out my blog http://www.bodyafterbump.com … 🙂

  40. kath says:

    hi. does a womans age have anything to do with gaining weight? 2003 i was a a big size 16 and weighed 15 st, after lesss than a year i went down to a 12 and weighed 11 st this was ALL cardio, Now that im closer to 40 than 30 i have gained 17lbs and gone up almost 2 dress sizes in less than 2 years, i eat the same and exercise more or less the same, i run more now rather than classes. not only have i gained fat around my middle but my arms and shoulders are huge muscle wise. i now weigh almost 13st and squeezing out of my size 14. YET i am fitter than most. i swim less too, maybe i should go back to swimming? wouldnt this make my shoulders and back bigger?

    • Kat says:

      Hi Kath. Typical cardio definitely sets a pattern for fat storage over time, and it can take a long time to undo. This includes endurance running. I just published a new post about this! Yes, age is relevant as it lowers metabolism and bone density. You need to lift weights!

      • kath says:

        so what work outs would you suggest,
        at the moment i run 5-10 miles each sess 3 times per week followed by half mile swim, 2 hours of zumba (dance) an hour body combat and an hour kick boxing. then once a week i some times take a 6 mile walk. i am tonned every where but my belly and hips are just expanding. why do dancers who train carsio long hours every day dont seem to gain weight? ps i do love chocolate!!!!!

        • Brenda says:

          My daughter and I have had many discussions about why dancers are lean and fit compared to other cardio types. Is dance really a cardio/aerobic exercise the way is normally executed? My daughter grew up dancing ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and pas de deux so she has been wondering about the answer to that very same question. I will offer up what explanation we have come up with and Kat can feel free to disagree or add on. We have taken what Kat says into consideration when we thought this up.

          First of all, all the dance studios we are familiar with require the dancers that are training to take ballet. All dance has a base in ballet. All the hours at a ballet barre are more about strength training than anything cardio related. They do also spend time practicing turns and dance combinations in the middle of the floor, but these movements are more like quick intense sprints and not prolonged repetitive movement.

          In jazz class they also do muscle strengthening exercises plus quick bursts of energy when practicing a combination. The typical actual performance piece of any dance is usually about 3 minutes long. Again that is a quick burst of intense energy compared to a long run. Usually dancers rest before doing the dance again or before going on to another. Sometimes they “mark” dances instead of doing them full out to conserve energy for later “going for it” full out. Even professionals would do the same quick bursts when they perform a dance on stage. They go on and off the stage, taking breaks.

          A great deal of muscle is required for many high kicks and core strength to be able to do what they do. This makes them in great shape. Most muscles in their bodies are trained. That isn’t usually the case in most aerobic exercises.

          Now I don’t know what to think about the fact that dancers quite often to this for hours at a time……..taking many classes in a row? Is that to much? It didn’t seem to be for my daughter.

          I also think about how this compares to taking an aerobics class when people dance for 40 minutes straight. The movements in my aerobics class never built the kind of strength that my daughter’s dance classes did. Plus aerobics classes are not done in short sprints like dancers usually do……maybe that is where the flaw is?

          What do you think Kat?

          • kath says:

            hi again
            well i last sent you mail in march. things are no different in my weight, i have changed my work out but still remain almost 13st, i can loose 7lb in a week but gain it back over the weekend. i have been doing some weights, 6 weeks trial to see if i loose weight and shape up, so far its been four weeks and i have not lost any weight but my top half has bulked out bigger than before, i was told by one instructor to do heavier weights and less reps but now im told it should be more reps and less weight???? should i finish the 6 weeks or stop now and do less weights.. im not running as far now or as much and when i do i sprint rest and sprint for about twenty mins and not hour run. Have you heard of green tea tablets, do you know if they work? i am going to start trying them this week.

          • Kat says:

            They can work. The only real RULE with weight is variety. So you wouldn’t do EITHER of those styles indefinitely. Remember that abs are made in the kitchen not in the gym 🙂

  41. Debbie says:

    Hi Kat

    Well done on beingbrave enough to share your thoughts on the cardio/weights debate. I am in complete agreement with you. I have seen my own shape change from 4/5 days weight training (each day differnt body part or so, 3 exercises or so per body part, 3/4 sets of between 6-10 reps etc). I also love some cardio classes though for stress relief such as step (with conditioning thrown in every 15 minutes which really revs up the calorie burning etc). I also do pilates but more from a rehab/core side of things. I am currently 14lbs heavier than I would like, but probably look lighter than I actually weigh, but I havnt been weight training as much recently, so this proves your theory in my mind!!
    So back on the weights for me!! Thanks for your info!!

    • Kat says:

      Thanks Debbie! Thankyou so much for commenting and sharing your story … hearing this sort of stuff reminds me why I blog! Here’s to you!

  42. […] According to an ever-growing group of health experts, cardio exercise as a fix-all for fat loss and even for cardiovascular health has been far overrated. In fact, strength coach Charles Poliquin, who is arguably one of the world’s leading fat loss experts, talks about the adaptation process your body goes through when you repeatedly perform cardio exercise as a primary reason for over-exercisers struggling to lose fat, and possibly even increasing it (as I controversially wrote about over here). […]

  43. Kat,

    I admire you for being so forthright!

    Here’s my own data point:

    Yesterday I completed a Half Marathon, beating my previous year’s time by 6 minutes and 20 seconds. If you figure I logged a lot of miles out jogging, well you’d be DEAD WRONG. I ran exactly 3 times in the last 6 months.

    I train in the weight room – year round. My strength training sessions are varied but ALWAYS intense and as a result, I improve my physical condition (and appearance!) from year to year. During the half marathon I was passed by lots of wonderful women whose bums jiggled back and forth like a pouch full of lumpy oatmeal. I doubt any of them could get through one of my gym workouts.

    Ladies, just say no to endless cardio workouts and YES to a rock hard tushie!

    • Kat says:

      Yes to a rock hard tushie – I’ll definitely say that! Thanks for the support Elaine … and congrats on your own journey!

    • Aleisha says:

      You are spot on. I have been diligently trying to lose weight for three years. It has been painstakenly slow, until recently. I started out doing tons of cardio and counting every calorie. It worked but not great and I was always hungry and exhausted. Not to mention my knees hurt all the time. My husband, who hates cardio, weight trains all the time and looks great. I decided do give his way a try. It was very hard to wrap my brain around the fact that lifting weights with very little cardio would help me to lose weight but it worked like a charm. We lift weights 4-5 times per week and 3 times per week we throw in a 20 minute hiit session. I have lost more body fat and built more muscle in the last six months than the last three years total plus I feel so much younger(50) and so energized. It’s impossible after 50 to maintain hours of cardio weekly. It just wears the body out.

      • Kat says:

        Awesome work Aleisha! And I love that last very to the point sentence. I think that enough is reason to stop.

  44. Sharon says:

    Hi Kat,
    I completely agree with what you are saying but I just had a quick question in relation to kick boxing training. Will this also cause the same effects as traditional cardio? It’s something i am considering taking up to build confidence and improve my health..
    And one other point, what about actually really enjoying some classes? I use to do some body combat classes if nothing but just for the pure stress relief and enjoyment. Would you still recommend avoiding them once in a while?

  45. kelsey says:

    OMG THANK YOU!!!!!!!! I swear I just assumed what you’ve said is true. the fattest i’ve ever been is when i did cardio like crazy. Do you suggest doing no treadmill at all or just moderately or what?

  46. […] There’s an unsightly affliction attacking gym-goers everywhere, and this might include you. It’s the syndrome of the ‘Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor’ (a fantastic term, coined by Strength Coach and creator of the BioSignature method, Charles Poliquin). It’s defined by a big ole booty and ever-expanding thighs. Now I’m not being mean nor am I being facetious. Read More. […]

  47. Sharni says:

    Hi Kat,
    This is the first of your blogs I’ve seen. I’m going to give this a go. I am extremely unfit at the moment and have put on alot of weight in the last 6 months…. I work in an office on my butt all day in front of a computer. Restricting my diet and trying to do as much cardio as I can just makes me tired, grumpy and emotional.

    When I was at my fittest I was doing a lot of weights with a personal trainer and a lot of hiking on the weekends (generally at a slow pace enjoying the scenery). Doing the weights built up my muscles, which in turn increased my energy making me more generally active. I wanted to get out and about after work and on the weekends because I was literally bursting with energy.

    Also, I ate pretty much whatever I wanted. Don’t get me wrong most of what I ate was healthy good food but if I wanted a huge bowl of pasta I ate it, if I wanted some chocolate I ate it. I feel I should point out here that all this was in reason but I loved being able to enjoy the ‘naughty’ things without guilt. These days I feel guilty for everything I put in my mouth because I am putting on weight no matter what I do.

    Thank you for your post. It confirms what I had already started to think and had given me motivation to give it a go.


  48. amanda says:

    agree, agree, agree, im currently sooooooo upset. I started jogging 2 months ago to get healthier and thinking it would help loose a few pounds too. I was already slim and im a very strict eater… 3 months later and i’ve gained 4 kilos… im beside myself and im so disheartened. i will never jog again. all the weight gain is mostly on my bum and thighs too….. it seems everytime i do cardio this happens. when i just do my strength training and walk my dog im the smallest ive been. please tell me my body will go back to my normal weight 🙁

  49. jkitten says:

    I agree with this. I do alot of research to and have come up with the same results. Plus several super hunky fit male actors and actresses who claim they do no or very very little cardio and mainly weightlifting. And i guess I am a example
    to. Sure we all do our “living cardio”(walking,running for bus,sports with friends,stairs,jumping/jump rope,things like that) but i dont actually do any cardio for exercise at all,never have. and all i hear is how lean but muscular and low fat my body is. So thanks for being another like minded person about these things. I can’t wait til people get the picture about this and so many other health and fitness topics.

    • Kat says:

      Thanks for the comment! It is about each of us testing what works for us as individuals. If I wrote this post again now I probably would not be nearly so harsh or controversial about it, although maybe it’s good that I was! I just wanted to really drive home the point to look beyond what we are taught about exercise, and I really feel for all those people stuck in cardio madness and only getting bigger. I know that cardio can be fun and it can be a great addition to training but I still certainly don’t consider it ‘real’ training … of course the definition of cardio changes from one person to the next! My cardio includes Muay Thai and weight based circuits, which definitely get me sweating but also provide resistance. And are a side note to my weight training most of the time.

  50. […] Doing Cardio/Aerobic Exercise Before Resistance TrainingYoga Health Tips and Natural Yoga BenefitsHow To Avoid Chunky Fat Aerobics Instructor Syndrome .recentcomments a{display:inline !important;padding:0 !important;margin:0 […]