Cardio versus strength training
Friday 2nd May
How we exercise depends on our ultimate goal: whether that's improving overall fitness levels, or preparing for a half-marathon. Here are some handy pointers.
Physical activity has an important role to play in improving or maintaining our health. The government recommends that adults (aged 19 to 64) follow these weekly guidelines:
1) Two and a half hours' moderate-intensity aerobic activity (eg cycling, brisk walking), plus muscle-strengthening exercise working the major muscle groups on two or more days; or
2) One and a quarter hours' vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (eg running, squash), plus muscle-strengthening exercise working the major muscle groups on two or more days; or
3) A combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (eg two 30-minute runs, plus one 30-minute brisk walk), plus muscle-strengthening exercise working the major muscle groups on two or more days.
When it comes to aerobic training (also known as “cardio training” because it raises the heart rate) and strength training, the key is to strike a healthy balance. I would definitely recommend a combination of both,” says Steven Thompson, a personal trainer and health mentor at Nuffield Health's Fitness & Wellbeing centre in Paddington. “However, your end goal will determine what percentage of time you focus on each. If your goal is an endurance event, for example, the balance is going to be tipped towards cardio training.”
Runners with their sights on a marathon or half-marathon, will still benefit from strength training however. “I am currently helping quite a few of our members who are training for endurance events or stamina events,” says Steven. “I always remind them not to neglect their strength training, as it's probably this that will ensure they don't get injuries during the race.”
The same principle applies to swimmers and cyclists, according to Steven. “While runners often get lower back or knee pains because of the repetitive impact, cyclists can have hip pains because they are seated in one position for a long time and will have tight IT bands,” he says, referring to the “iliotibial band” of connective tissue on the outside of the thigh.
Strength training made easy
This form of physical activity doesn't have to involve lifting weights such as dumbbells or free weights. Also known as resistance training, it allows you to make use of your own bodyweight rather than external weights.
“Resistance training can just be bodyweight,” agrees Steven. “Things like squats or lunges are forms of resistance training, because you're lifting your bodyweight up and down using your legs. I definitely recommend including a certain element of resistance training in your programme.”
Fat loss can be an additional benefit of resistance training. “Before, it was widely accepted across the industry that if you wanted to burn fat you would do a whole load of cardio for x amount of time,” explains Steven. “Over the last decade or so studies have shown that resistance training – and building muscle – will increase your calorie-burning metabolism throughout the day, even at rest.”
Feeling inspired? You'll find more articles on the topic of physical activity in our Health & Wellbeing section.
On joining benenden healthcare, members have access to the 24-hour GP helpline and can speak to a doctor about any health concerns.