Why combine cardio and strength training

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Exercisers come in all shapes and sizes.  Walk into a gym or exercise studio, and you’ll see all manner of body types, all manner of clothing, and all manner of exercise activity.  When it comes to the cardio versus strength-training debate, there are mega-supporters on both sides. There are the faithful runners, the enthusiastic elliptical fans, and the muscle-bound weights fanatics.  Those who prefer the loud rhythms of dance-inspired classes, and the mellower sort who prefer the challenging stretches and strengthening of yoga.  So what about you – what camp do you find yourself in?  If you’ve got just, say, 45 minutes to spend exercising, are you better off knocking out some cardio, or doing some strength training to maintain or increase your muscle mass?

Here’s the rundown on each type of exercise, and why the answers might surprise you.

Why/when strength training is your best bet:

  • Great for exercise newbies and those with a lot of weight to lose, as strength training allows for frequent breaks for those not used to sustained physical activity.  Also, it’s a great confidence-booster, helping implement a strong exercise habit.
  • Lifting weights are proactive and protective.  Get this – the parts of your body you work are less likely to get injured, the stronger you get.  Don’t want to pull a hammie simply by doing yard work?  Get busy with squats and weights and you won’t have to worry about it nearly as much.
  • Want shapely biceps and triceps?  Calves to swoon over?  The often-touted “strong core?”  Strength training’s your key to get there.

Why/when cardio is your best bet:

  • If variety is the spice of your life, then this is the exercise for you.  Cardio exercise can come in so many forms, it’s almost impossible to not find one you like.
  • It’s totally portable.  Whether it’s jumping jacks in your hotel room, a few laps in a neighborhood pool, a brisk walk or run down a sidewalk or park path, or a day of skiing in the mountains, cardio happens anywhere you want it to.
  • You can’t deny the caloric burn of some good, heart-pumping cardio.  While strength training may raise your metabolism, nothing beats a high-intensity, sustained period of exercise for torching calories.

So how about a nice, even balance of the two?  A strong regimen of both aerobic exercise and strengthening will allow your body and mind to be the very healthiest they can be.

Lenny Turi is a certified personal trainer and owner of Fitness Together in Waxhaw.

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