Cardio- the Good, Bad and the Ugly

It worked for her...will it work for me?

Have you even felt confused learning of a new fitness program or machine? I know I have, and I’ve spent years in school studying the effects of exercise on the body. The worst part is when your gut tells you that the new weight loss pill or machine “is too good to be true;” but against your better judgment, you order it anyway, all because that infomercial “guaranteed” your success.

The sad truth of the fitness industry is that a majority of information out there is not based on science. Rather it’s based on what worked for “my friend” or some bodybuilder from the 80’s. Sure, it’s great to base information on what has worked for a few people, but there’s the problem: You are not your friend. Everyone’s body is different and responds differently to exercise induced stressors.

Science has proven many of those “word of mouth techniques” to be effective. However the problem lies in the fact that we are all different and these techniques are not “one size fits all.” So chances are the fitness plan your college roommate or co-worker used to lose 20 or 30lbs will not be as effective for you.

Recently I have received many e-mails asking why spending 7 hours a week on the Elliptical or Treadmill hasn’t affected the number on the scale. What I tell them is simple, Get Off the Cardio Machine!

Get Off the Cardio Machine

I’ve witnessed many individuals (especially women) spend hours and hours each week working up a sweat by walking, running or using a machine like the Elliptical Trainer. They end up spending all of their devoted exercise time on aerobic (cardio) conditioning, which leaves no time for anaerobic (weight bearing) workouts.

They in return end up “spinning their wheels”. They’re stuck at the same weight with little or no positive movement toward their weight loss and fitness goals. Yet, if just a couple of short strength training sessions were added to replace some of their cardio workout time, they could break-through plateaus and reap a wealth of health benefits. There are many, many benefits to strength training. It has the potential to:

  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol profiles
  • Reduce intra-abdominal fat, which in turn can help lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and hypertension
  • Help preserve bone mass
  • Increase calories burned which helps promote weight loss

Unfortunately, many individuals are still either uneducated about the amazing benefits of strength training and/or in the case of most women they’re afraid that they will “bulk up” and therefore avoid resistance exercises. According to a study published in 2006 by Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, only 17.5% of adult women performed strength training.

As shown above, there are numerous reasons why everyone should begin incorporating strength training into their workout routines today! Even those with debilitating diseases or disorders should and can participate in anaerobic workouts under the direction of their doctor,i physical therapist or personal trainer. But as history has shown, benefits such as preventing diseases and improving overall health are not usually the driving force behind change. Visible and measurable physical improvements such as a decrease on the scale tend to be the most motivational. So, let’s take a closer look at how strength training helps promote weight loss.

Lift Weights to Lose Weight

Moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking, has a metabolic cost of 5-7 calories per minute on average. Moderate to vigorous strength trainings has a nearly equal metabolic cost at 5-8 calories per minute. So both walking and strength training can promote an equal amount of calories burned during the actual activity. But, there’s an extra benefit to strength training: you burn calories even after you’ve stopped working out! Resistance training targets muscle growth by increasing the amount of resistance applied to the muscle. As the muscle becomes stronger, it will begin to increase the individuals Basal Metabolic Rate (BMI) which means burning more calories all day every day. One study showed an increase in metabolic rate even the next day post exercise. The study also showed that 24-hour post-exercise fat oxidation after strength training increased by an amazing 93%. Who needs a better reason than that to start incorporating strength training in their workouts?

The benefits are both proven and clear, but some women still fear that they will get big, bulky looking muscles and look more masculine then they prefers; this is a myth. In reality women simply do not have the necessary quantities of testosterone to build muscles like a man. It is a rare case when a woman has the potential for above average hypertrophy (increase in muscle size).

Also, often times a woman adds strength training to her exercise regimen and begins to see the numbers on her scale go up instead of down. This is immediately seen as a failure to many and the abandonment of the program occurs. In this case, using the scale to determine progress can be very misleading. An increase does not necessarily indicate fat has been gained. The exact opposite is more likely the cause. Muscle tissue weights more by volume than fat tissue. A pound of fat occupies 18% more space than a pound of muscle.

Many of us get trapped into correlating our success and the scale readings to closely. I personally recommended that we simply not weigh ourselves regularly; instead we should use other measurements, such as body fat percentage to gauge progression. It’s very common for individuals to actually “weigh” their self-esteem when stepping on the scale rather than tracking their true health improvements.

Click here to learn more about body fat percentage, or contact Propulsion Fitness to set up a Free Fitness Assessment to help you get on the right track.

Where to Start

Now that you have learned how important strength training is to overall health, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Don’t go overboard and abandon your cardio sessions. Aerobic exercise is equally important and should be done 2-5 times per week.
  • Start by adding in two strength training sessions per week.
  • Choose weight sizes that will fatigue your muscle after about 8 to 10 repetitions
  • Select exercises that will work all of your major muscles
  • Include a variety of different strength training equipment like dumbbells, machines, balls and bands

As mentioned above strength training can have some extraordinary health benefits. However if exercises are not preformed correctly they can cause serious injuries. It is important before you start any new exercise program that you visit with your physician. Always follow your physician’s advice as far as how much and how often to exercise. Often times a physician will recommend starting a new exercise program with a personal trainer.

A personal trainer’s job is to educate and train individuals in the performance of safe and appropriate exercises to effectively lead them to optimal health. A good personal trainer will incorporate your personal fitness goals into a customized fitness regimen that will increase your metabolism by targeting muscle growth and hormone response.

If you have any question or still need more direction on how to get started please contact Will Barton or Schedule a FREE FITNESS CONSULTATION.

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