People often ask whether they should focus on cardio or weights?
In other words, they want to know whether strength training or aerobic exercise will help them meet their fitness goals.
Both are important and experts like the Center for Disease Control, the Mayo Clinic, and the American Council on Exercise recommend a mix of both along with balance and flexibility training.
Does that sound daunting? The good news is that once you understand the basics of each element of well-rounded fitness you can design your active lifestyle to efficiently include each. Your Biostrap can help every step of the way.
Strength training refers to exercises designed to strengthen your muscles. Strength training involves resistance training in some form. This may involve lifting free weights, calisthenics, resistance bands, using weight machines, or using suspension training devices like a TRX. The resistance must sufficiently challenge and exhaust the working muscles.
Benefits of Strength Training:
- Helps increase bone strength and preserve bone mass
- Develop stronger muscles and better muscular endurance
- Slow atrophy that commonly happens with age
- Increase body awareness, coordination, and posture
- Boosts metabolism with improved quality and quantity of lean mass
- Everyday physical activities like moving objects, opening jars, lifting children, and physical work become easier as you improve your muscular strength and stamina
How To Improve Muscle Strength
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends strength training workouts two or three times a week (with a recovery day in between). They suggest full body workouts including 8 – 10 exercises using different muscle groups. Trainers commonly structure strength training workouts into sets and reps. For example, a set may include 10 pushups, or ten reps, then you take a rest interval before repeating another set of ten reps. Depending on your goals, you may complete 1-3 sets of each exercise. This is over-simplifying the process because there are other strategies for advanced levels of fitness and specialized goals.
Most fitness trackers do not track strength training as well as they track aerobic exercise. Biostrap helps monitor your progress by tracking your repetitions (reps). It comes programmed to recognize many popular exercises, but you can also train it to recognize others. For example, if you attend a bootcamp twice a week you can actually train your Biostrap to recognize the exercises your instructor uses. Then when you attend class, it will county the reps and recognize the exercise if your technique is consistent.
Aerobic, or cardiovascular, fitness is what most people think of when they think about “working out.” Aerobic activity is exercise that causes you to breathe deeper and more quickly to maximize the oxygen in your blood. As your heart beats faster, it “increases the blood flow to your muscles and back to your lungs.” (Source Mayo Clinic).
When you are aerobically fit, your heart and lungs works efficiently to supply your entire body with oxygen. As a result you may be able to walk up stairs while conversing with friends, dance all night, or chase your child on the playground.
Your aerobic fitness affects your resting heart rate, heart rate variability, and blood oxygen saturation levels. This fitness element is what devices like heart rate monitors and Biostrap are best at tracking.
How To Improve Cardiovascular Fitness
Moderate to vigorous steady state aerobic activity is the classic method people use to improve or maintain aerobic fitness. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity that causes you to breath faster most days of the week. Many trainers recommend at least three days a week.
Interval training is a technique athletes used for decades to improve their performance and break through aerobic fitness plateaus. It gained popularity in recent years since you can enjoy a challenging workout in less time without feeling bored.
There are variations on how to structure an interval training session, but the general idea is to alternate period of vigorous activity with a recovery interval involving rest or light activity. The length of the recovery interval depends on the program goals and the intensity of the “work” intervals. Spin classes, boot camps, Zumba, Crossfit, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) are all popular variations on interval training methods.
As your aerobic fitness improves, you may see your resting heart rate (RHR) trend downwards and your heart rate variability (HRV) trend upwards. Keep in mind that both RHR and HRV are partially determined by genetic factors so if you are already fit you may already be at your optimal baseline. Day to day variations happen due to stress, recovering from vigorous exercise, illness and other lifestyle factors.
Whether you are building aerobic or muscular fitness your Biostrap helps track aspects of your progress and helps you optimize your recovery. A well rounded fitness program includes both aerobic and strength training workouts. Flexibility, mobility and balance are also important for balanced fitness. Part Two will provide an overview of these aspects of fitness and how you can use your Biostrap to improve your flexibility and balance.
Sources and Resources
Fitness Training: Elements of a Well Rounded Routine, Mayo Clinic
Elements of an Effective Exercise Program, American Council on Exercise (ACE)
Current Physical Activity Guidelines, the Center for Disease Control (CDC)