The science and information about both cardio and strength training can be confusing, overwhelming and certainly ever-changing. One study will report that you should be doing a particular exercise or diet, and then the next week a study will come out claiming that this particular exercise is the worst thing to do. The bottom line is that both cardio and strength training should be seen as a partnership to your overall health and should be a part of every good exercise program design.
Cardio is a necessity to any exercise program. Whether it is running, riding a bike, or even walking your dog, cardiovascular activity has tremendous benefits to health. It has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and cancer. Cardio burns calories, which ultimately means less body fat and a lower number on the scale. So if cardio is so beneficial, why is it still a struggle to reach fitness goals?
Whenever we do a certain activity, such as exercise, for a length of time our bodies eventually adapt and program our muscles to remember these activities. These activities become easier to perform, resulting in less calories burned and halting our fitness progress. Cardio strengthens the heart. When our heart is strong it works less, and when it works less we burn less calories. We become conditioned and our bodies stop being challenged and stop changing. This conditioning is when strength training can be beneficial. What cardiovascular exercise lacks, strength training makes up for.
With strength training comes the feeling of intimidation from the weight area, especially for those just beginning an exercise program. Many of us find this area intimidating because we simply do not know what to do. Women especially are afraid of getting bulky or big. This does not happen by accident; it takes a lot of work including a poor diet and a lot of testosterone – something women do not have.
Research has shown that a good strength program can improve sleep, increase balance, develop stronger bones, reducethe risk of arthritis and injury and increase lean muscle mass, which burns more calories resulting in losing weight more efficiently. A pound of lean muscle could potentially burn anywhere between five and 35 calories while at rest. It is very difficult to determine how many calories we each actually burn at rest due to the many factors that go into that number. However, one thing has been proven true: when you strength train, you essentially break down muscle tissue. In order for the body to repair this muscle tissue, it takes energy. The more lean muscle mass you develop (both men and women), the more energy it takes for the body to repair itself. Thus, the more calories you will burn while at rest.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, adults who do not strength train lose on average four to six pounds of muscle tissue per decade, resulting in a lower resting metabolic rate and more fat storage.
Obviously performing cardio and strength training separately each have their benefits. Now imagine how beneficial it would be if you combined the two. If you are confused as to where to begin when it comes to incorporating both cardio and strength training into your weekly routine, ask an educated professional such as a personal trainer.
A simple program could consist of strength training two to three days per week with one set of eight to 12 exercises focusing on all major muscle groups for eight to 12 reps and two to three days of good cardio. Feel free to do your strength training and cardio on the same day or if schedule allows, alternate. If you find yourself with such limited time, try programs such as circuits with limited rest periods in between sets, allowing you to keep your heart rate up and give you a cardio workout at the same time.
With a little patience, dedication and a good balance between cardio and strength training, attaining your goals will become more realistic and results will be achieved more efficiently.