The 12 Biggest Myths of Women’s Fitness – Cardio Is Most Important

In over three decades of working with women on their health and fitness goals, I have seen many myths floating around. Some leave quickly, some aren’t dangerous enough to really worry about (Wall Pilates, for example, isn’t really Pilates, but probably won’t hurt you), but others really do affect us in negative ways.

Over the next 12 months, I will introduce you to the biggest fitness myths that you need to know. Some may surprise you since they are prevalent in our society. And some you have probably been holding onto for years because nobody told you otherwise.

We’re starting today with myth number 1 – Cardio is the most important exercise, especially steady state, mid-level, “fat burning” zone cardio. That’s right, cardio is not the most important!

As always, make sure you speak to your physician before starting any exercise program.

What Does Cardio Do For You?

When most of my clients think of exercise, they start with cardio. For years I’ve heard about the 10,000 steps per day, the treadmill, elliptical, and bike (especially Soul Cycle & Peloton). This isn’t surprising, because in reality, this is what women are primarily shown.

Now, cardio isn’t bad for you. In fact, you do need some cardio in your life! Strengthening the heart muscle is important, as is improving breathing, oxygen intake, and endurance. Cardiovascular aerobic exercise will do all of this!

The Best Way to Approach Cardio

There are several ways to approach cardio. The most typical is steady state cardio, where you warm up, spend 30-60 minutes in the “fat burning zone”, and cool down. Most cardio machines are set up to show you where this zone is, and to reward you at the end with how many calories you’ve burned.

The calories burned are not accurate, and there are much better, time sensitive ways to approach cardio. The approach I use is called HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training. With HIIT, you alternate periods of more intense cardio with periods of less intensity.

One popular interval is Tabata, where you do twenty seconds of high intensity work followed by ten seconds of rest, repeated eight times (four minutes of work). These four minutes can be repeated several times, giving you a solid, effective cardio workout in 16-20 minutes.

This can be done different ways – machine, walking, running, swimming – whatever you like! Takes less time and is more effective.

What Else Do You Need?

Cardio is only one aspect of fitness. Strength training and mobility work are as important, if not more so. Strength training helps with bone strength, muscle mass, posture, and basic abilities like standing up and balancing.

In addition, strength training helps build lean muscle mass, and lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat. That’s right – gaining muscle helps you burn energy more efficiently!

You can do effective strength training using your body weight as resistance, and you can also add simple tools like dumbbells or resistance bands and tubing to add resistance.

Mobility and flexibility work keep your joints moving and maintains your muscle’s ability to lengthen and shorten as needed. This work, seen in Pilates, Yoga, and stretch classes, will help you feel better.

It All Works Together

For optimal health and function, women need all three – we need cardio, strength, and mobility work. Here’s my personal program:

  • Monday – 20-30 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Tuesday – 20-30 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Wednesday – 30 minutes strength training – legs, chest, shoulders
  • Thursday – 30 minutes strength training – back, biceps, triceps
  • Friday – 30 minutes strength training – leg day
  • Saturday – 20-30 minutes flexibility and mobility training – Pilates or Yoga
  • Sunday – 20-30 minutes flexibility and mobility training – Pilates or Yoga

A few caveats  

I choose to exercise daily because it helps me feel better. But remember, I’m a fitness professional who has been exercising my whole life. Start wherever you can.

A beginner program may look like this:

  • Monday – 12 minutes of HIIT cardio
  • Tuesday – 20-30 minutes flexibility and mobility training – Pilates or Yoga
  • Wednesday – rest day
  • Thursday – 30 minutes strength training – full body
  • Friday – 20-30 minutes flexibility and mobility training – Pilates or Yoga
  • Saturday – 30 minutes strength training – full body
  • Sunday – rest day

Osteoporosis and Exercise

While walking is often touted as a great exercise for osteoporosis, that’s because of the weight bearing on your feet, not the cardio aspect. Basically, strength training is primarily for bone and muscle strength as we age.

There are many risk factors for osteoporosis, including age, gender, family history, race, and certain medical conditions. Post-menopausal women are most at risk, as estrogen helps build bone. Women with a slight build also tend to be a greater risk.

The good news is that there are quite a few things you can do to reduce your risk of osteoporosis in addition to exercise, such as:

  • Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of protein, good fats, healthy carbs, calcium, and vitamin D
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting alcohol intake
  • Taking medications, including hormone replacement, if you are at high risk for osteoporosis

Learn More

Within the free, donation-based courses of The Wellness Universe Wellness for All programming is my course, Exercise for Bone Health, Strength, & Mobility. This course will set you up for a lifetime of proper movement and will work for you whether or not you currently have low bone density.

I’ve taught this course twice, and all sessions are recorded, so when you register now you’ll have access to all the recorded classes, which also contain workouts. Each round of the course is slightly different, so I encourage you to look at both. You can register here – .

If you find the content at all useful, any donation is appreciated by both me and The Wellness Universe and helps us all continue to bring you fabulous programming.

Finally, if you’re interested in trying Pilates online or live, check out my Strong Bones Pilates programming at where you’ll find live online classes, as well as online private sessions and workshops.

Connect with Lynda on The Wellness Universe.

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2 thoughts on “The 12 Biggest Myths of Women’s Fitness – Cardio Is Most Important”

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