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Cardio vs. Strength Training

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Cardio vs. Strength Training

Cardiovascular training provides a good foundation when it comes to exercise, offering benefits in weight control, endurance, and overall cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, as we age cardio exercises alone can’t help us preserve precious muscle mass. Combining strength and cardio training is the ideal way to keep your heart, muscles, and bones toned and healthy.

Cardiovascular training provides a good foundation when it comes to exercise, offering benefits in weight control, endurance, and overall cardiovascular health. Unfortunately, as we age cardio exercises alone can’t help us preserve precious muscle mass.

Your Beatin’ Heart

Cardio training is an essential form of exercise for overall health. Typically, we picture cardio as hours on a treadmill, but it’s possible to achieve a good cardio workout from walking, sprinting, swimming, or aerobic dancing.

Heart rate is the number of contractions the heart makes in one minute; this is measured in beats per minute (BPM). Knowing your BPM is integral to cardio training because as you exercise, your body speeds up its demand for oxygen. In turn, the heart increases its BPM, allowing more oxygen-rich blood to travel through your body.

Periodically taking your pulse at the wrist or gently pressing on the side of your neck allows you to monitor your BPM. Count the beats for ten seconds then multiply by six (e.g., 20 beats per 10 seconds x 6 = 120 BPM). There’s also an easy formula for determining your ideal heart rate or BPM: from 220, subtract your age (e.g., 220 - 40 = 180).

Gauging your heart rate will not only prevent you from overexerting, but also determine the type of workout you’re getting. For example, doing cardio for 30 minutes at 170 BPM will provide you with aerobic conditioning, while exercising at the same BPM for 15 minutes will provide you with fat burning/body building benefits.

Muscle Mass and More

While strength training with resistance is known to build muscle, it is also beneficial for improving range of motion, flexibility, posture, and tendon strength. In addition, it reduces the risk for injuries like back problems. For starters, stay with basic muscle building movements such as bench presses, lateral pulldowns, shoulder presses, and leg presses. You can experience great results doing these movements on machines and, consequently, eliminate the chance of injury that may occur with free weights.

Muscle atrophy (the loss of muscle) is a major concern not just for people over 40, but also for sedentary persons of any age. Women, who generally have less bone density and muscle mass than men, are more prone to muscle loss as they age. Dr. Miriam Nelson, Associate Director of the Human Physiology Laboratory at Boston’s Tufts University, stresses the importance of nonaerobic strength training for preserving bone and reducing
muscle loss.

Vanishing Muscle

Dr. Nelson’s studies have also shown that one-third of a pound of muscle is lost per year after the age of 40. Sarcopenia is age-related loss of muscle mass, strength, and function. Much like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, sarcopenia is a serious degenerative condition; reduced muscle mass increases risk for injury and results in loss of mobility and balance.

Metabolically, muscle is an active tissue that allows the body to burn more calories and, in turn, reduces risk for developing diabetes and/or obesity. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology (October 2003) showed that resistance exercises (strength training) can reverse sarcopenia. Both men and woman can reap the rewards of strength training and old-fashioned iron pumping.

Two Workouts in One

Eliminating cardio exercise, however, is not the answer. Find ways to include cardio workouts in your strength-training routine. Former Mr. America Bob Gajda has developed a workout that can not only increase your endurance, but also shed fat and maintain muscle. This workout is known as peripheral heart action or PHA. The concept of this strength-training workout is to incorporate “super setting” by utilizing all areas of the body. PHA prevents blood from stagnating in one area, thus forcing the heart to pump blood to the entire body. In turn, this creates an effective aerobic and strength training routine. Since the basis of this exercise is strength training, no muscle is lost.

Whether you use PHA or another combined cardio/strength training system, make your workouts fun. Always consult with a professional before venturing into a demanding physical activity. Combining strength and cardio training is the ideal way to keep your heart, muscles, and bones toned and healthy.

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