Q: How much cardio exercise versus strength training should I be doing each week?
If you want to live a long, healthy life, exercise is nonnegotiable. The research is clear that both cardiovascular exercise and strength training are important for fitness and disease prevention. But with limited time in your schedule, it can be tough to determine the most effective (and efficient) way to reap the benefits of sweating it out.
How often should you get your heart rate up, and how long should you allow your muscles to work? We talked to exercise experts to find out what’s an ideal balance and how to incorporate cardio and strength training into your routine.
How does combining cardio and strength training benefit you?
Cardio and strength training help the body in different ways. Cardiovascular exercise – anything that increases the heart rate – promotes heart and lung health and reduces the risk of high blood pressurediabetes and cancer, Strength training boosts metabolism by building lean muscle mass, prevent obesity and limited bone loss,
When it comes to longevity and overall health, experts agree that a combination of the two is most beneficial. “I wouldn’t say it’s cardio versus strength, because they are partners,” said Nicole R. Keith, professor of kinesiology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “We need to do both.”
Recent research shows how much each exercise has the potential to increase longevity. A 2022 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that a combination of cardiovascular and strength training was associated with a lower risk of mortality than cardio alone. Even doing just one hour of cardio a week reduced the risk of mortality, with three hours providing the greatest benefit.
Similarly, the American College of Sports Medicine And this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Recommend that adults aged 18 to 65 aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. According to Dr. Keith, when you can talk, but you feel winded. If you’re doing vigorous cardio where you’re out of breath so to speak, halve that number.
Experts recommend additional muscle-strengthening exercises at least twice a week to further reduce the risk of mortality. But strength training is about sets and reps rather than duration, according to Dr. Keith.
The CDC and ACSM recommend strength training exercises that involve each major muscle group (your upper body, lower body and core). Dr. Keith recommends lifting light weights for three sets of eight to 10 repetitions to maintain muscle health; If your goal is to build bigger muscles, lift a heavier weight for three sets with fewer reps.
How do you create a strength and cardio routine?
Don’t stress about achieving a perfect balance. “Honestly I don’t obsess over the numbers,” said Dr. Christopher McMullen, a sports medicine physician at the University of Washington Medical Center. You’ll stick to a routine if it works for your schedule and preferences.
The recommended 150 minutes of cardio can be divided into five 30-minute sessions per week. And you should strengthen your core, upper and lower body twice per week. But that doesn’t mean you have to exercise every day, or that you have to do your strength exercises in isolation.
The CDC is clear that exercise is beneficial even when people break it up — say, doing a few shorter, more intense workouts. Strength and cardio exercises can also be done in the same workout session. “You can work one muscle group every time you do cardio,” Dr. Keith said.
some research suggests that a cardio workout prior to strength training enhances performance. “You can prepare your muscles for a strengthening activity if you prime them with aerobic activity first,” Dr. McMullen said.
Aja Campbell, a certified strength and conditioning specialist in Queens, said she encourages clients to start with their prep. If you want to primarily build strength, start with weights. If your goal is to improve cardio fitness, start with jogging.
No matter which order you choose, be careful about intensity — going too hard can increase your risk of injury that prevents you from exercising fully. “Typically, if I combine cardio and strength in one session, I combine some high intensity with low intensity activity,” Ms Campbell said. “You want to be able to recover while still getting the exercise benefits you need for the week.”
Instead of looking for the exact balance, choose a mix of activities. Many exercises involve a combination of strength and cardio. You can get your heart rate up in a weight lifting class, or you can work your leg muscles when you run on an incline. Just as important, Dr. McMullen recommends choosing activities you really enjoy. “People can maintain an exercise regimen when it’s something they love to do,” he said.
Ashley Abramson is a freelance reporter based in Milwaukee.
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