Cardio Vs. Strength-Training: How Much of Each Exercise Should You Do? Here’s What Experts Say
When it comes to your fitness routine, do you have a healthy mix of aerobic movement and strength exercise? It’s easy to get comfortable with one style workout or even a set schedule of a couple different routines during the week. Movement of any sort is a far better alternative to a sedentary lifestyle, but if you are wanting optimal health benefits in the long-term, a healthy mix of aerobic and strength-training is essential.
Aerobic exercise plays a vital role in preventing everything from heart disease and stroke to blood sugar levels and diabetes, increasing your life span, improving cognitive performance and managing emotions such as depression and anxiety which can interfere with your quality of life across an array of other benefits. But how vital is strength training in the matrix of your fitness regiment? According to Harvard Health Research, adding strength-training to your workout is essential for retaining muscle mass, which decreases by a rate of 3-5% each decade as we age, and is much harder to regain once over the age of 60, reducing your ability for muscle strength as you get older. Among retaining strength into your later years, strength-training also speeds up your metabolism which helps burning calories even when you’re idle. Imagine the extra small effort of adding a little weight to your workouts translating to burning a few extra calories when you’re sitting at your desk job or lounging on the sofa later on!
In another study performed by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, healthy men who added just 20 minutes of weight training every day in conjunction to their cardio had less of an age-related increase in abdominal or ‘visceral’ fat surrounding vital organs, as opposed to their counterparts who only focused on cardio or aerobic based exercise. If that’s not important enough, strength training is important at cutting your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and increasing energy building structures, or mitochondria, in cells. But if the idea of weight-lifting scares you for fear of bulking up, or just simply the fact that it’s not your style workout, know that weight lifting by itself isn’t the only option you have.
How to Add Strength-Training to Your Weekly Workout Routine
As an alternative to traditional weight lifting, there are many other popular types of group fitness that you can incorporate. A Bodyweight Bootcamp class commonly features a combined series of movements to help strengthen muscles, increase your heart rate, promote endurance, and burn calories all in one. Typically you don’t even need weights for this type of workout, and rather than lifting weights or focusing on a specific muscle group on various days, you can target and train all your muscle groups at one time.
Another popular contender for strength-training you might not expect? Yoga. While some people might not consider Yoga strength-training exercise, many sources argue that while it’s not a power lifting competition, the right type of poses commonly performed in a Hatha Yoga, Power Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga do in fact help strengthen muscles through the sustained movements that are held for longer periods of time while building endurance.
A Stretch & Tone Class, similar to Yoga, is a low-impact resistance-training-style workout combining breath with movements designed to promote flexibility, increase range of motion, stretching and toning. By pairing a Stretch & Tone group fitness class with a Yoga routine, you can also maximize your strength-training results because you’re allowing the muscles a greater degree of flexibility to reach their full range of motion.
Cardio Alternatives for People Who Don’t Love Running
There’s a special culture of people who enjoy the endorphin surge of a runner’s high – with the other amazing benefits of course. But running is definitely not for everyone, depending on heart circumstances and situations such as knee injuries. The good news is, whatever your circumstance, just adding strength or weight training for one hour a week can count towards your cardio.
An on-site or virtual group fitness class such as Cycle, Zumba, or HIIT Class can also be a great option to add cardio to your weekly routine.
Cycle classes, (also popularly known as ‘Spin’), often includes fast-paced upbeat tracks to help build the heart rate at different intervals over the course of the workout with alternating periods of sitting and standing, as well as adjusting the intensity or “grade” of the bike. Zumba classes offer a series of energetic dance routines that provide a great cardio workout by mixing low intensity and high intensity moves for an interval-style, calorie burning, dance fitness party. On a broader fitness scale, a HIIT class alternates short periods of intense exercise movements, followed by less intense, but still active “recovery” periods. The goal with a HIIT class is to reach a sustained target heart rate for exercise, allowing you to quickly burn fat in a brief amount of time. All are great fitness styles that add a variety to your week aside from more traditional aerobic exercises like running.
The Standard in How Much Aerobic Versus Strength Training You Need Each Week
The CDC’s current guidelines for fitness is at 150 minutes of moderate to high-intense aerobic exercise or cardio a week, balanced with “two days” of strength training. While this can sound pretty broad, the good news is there are many ways to dice your routine to make it work. You don’t have to split it evenly across five days or all at once. They suggest three different examples:
- Brisk Walking for 30 minutes 5 days a week, with 2 days that also include strength-training exercise to work out all major muscle groups (abs, shoulders arms, back, legs and hips).
- 75 minutes of vigorous cardio such as jogging, running, Zumba, Cycling or HIIT paired with 2 days of strength training like a Bootcamp class that works all muscle groups.
- Two separate moderate and vigorous aerobic activities such as a day of moderate walking and a day of one of the more vigorous aerobic exercises such as jogging, running, HIIT, Zumba or Cycling paired with 2 days of strength-training activities.
For other great combinations of workout routines, Shape Magazine walks you through “A Perfectly Balanced Weekly Workout Schedule” to help you navigate through your fitness routine.
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