Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cardio or Weights? That is the question...

"Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow."
~Doug Firebaugh

To do cardio or not? To do weights or not? 2 simple questions that cause so much confusion to the new exerciser. Well, simple questions usually have simple answers. The answer to both questions is YES!!

Now to give you the longer answer. ;)

No doubt that some form of cardio is necessary. It helps your fitness levels, helps lower stress, strengthens the heart and lungs, boosts your metabolism and helps burn calories. All things that say that doing cardio is very important.

What type of cardio is best? Any that you do! Again, simple answer! ;)
Get your body moving - calisthenics, power walking, jogging, sprinting, circuit training, martial arts, stair climbing, rowing, bicycle riding, ellipticals, treadmills - all ways to work up a sweat and get you huffing and puffing in a good way. To lose weight, my suggestions would range from 3 - 5 times a week of 20 - 45 min. per day of moderate to high intensity cardio. The frequency of doing your cardio would of course be based on your individual goals, fitness level and what equipment you have or don't ahve at your disposal. As with any form of exercise, start slowly with 20 minutes of low to moderate cardio and build up slowly.

Now onto the weights. Some people love weights (like me!) and some hate it but it's a necessary part of working out. For some people who are more out of shape or are older, weight training can come after a few weeks of cardio. Using the cardio period as an adjustment period for the body to get used to exercise as weights work out the body in a totally different way. Typically though you want some sort of resistance training (weights, machines, bands, toning bars, stability balls, pilates balls) along with your cardio. Weight training has the same health benefits as cardio with the added benefits of toning muscles, strenthening bones, making you stronger, preventing or decreasing lower back pain and many more benefits to your overall health and fitness.

What type of weight training is best? Machines are easily accesible in gyms and are a good choice for that reason. Bands, stability balls, toning bars and pilates balls are all good for home use and for beginners to intermediates looking to tone. For building muscle, machines are good but nothing beats free weights. While machines follow a fixed path, they only activate certain muscles while you exercise. Free weights on the other hand activate the main muscle and many more smaller supporting muscles so they build the muscles in a more complete way.

I would recommend doing some light weight training along with your cardio at first and gradually increase the resistance/weight as you get stronger and the exercises get easier to do. For building muscle, you want heavier weights and lower reps in the 6-10 rep range. For toning, you want lighter weights and higher reps in the 12-15 (or even higher with light weights) rep range. Always exercise good form and lift correctly to avoid injury. There are many good sources to learn the proper way to do an exercise. A good personal trainer will analyze and correct your form to make sure it being done in a way that is safe but will maximize your gains from the exercise. Weight lifting puts a different stress on the body than cardio so I would start with weights every other day for a total of 3x a week (for example - Monday, Wednesday and Friday). So cardio every day Monday to Friday and weights on the days above. Weekends free. It will give you a good weekly workout and give your body some time to recover.

So, remember cardio and weights is the simple answer to what you should be doing. So, what are you waiting for? ;)