I was looking for a subject for this week’s contribution and came across a short article that did a good job explaining the differences in, and what we should expect from, cardio and non-cardio exercise.  The article on medicalnewstoday.com is titled “Should you do cardio or lift weights?”

First, it is important to understand the difference between the two, which the article does define, in a nutshell. Cardio (aerobic) exercise uses inhaled oxygen to sustain energy consumption for long periods of time. Cardio increases stamina and endurance, burns calories now, but does not necessarily increase metabolism. Weightlifting (more specifically anaerobic) exercise is higher intensity, shorter burst and consumes energy stores already present in the muscles.  This in turn builds muscle and increases metabolism in the long term.

So, back to the article’s title, which one should you do?  This is easy: you should do both. We are working two different systems here and both are important for long term health. Cardio has significant effects on our cardio-pulmonary system (heart and lungs). Anaerobic has significant effects on muscle development and metabolism. Together the improvements allow us to be stronger, faster and work or play longer than if we did not exercise. They also have significant benefits to brain health, mental health and are significant players in helping us prevent diabetes, heart and lung disease.

In addition to the benefits listed above, these exercises are increasingly important as we age.  Somewhere around 30-40 (no matter how much we don’t want to admit it) we peak physically and then starts a slow, steady decline. All systems in the body are affected and unfortunately none of us will make it out alive … but on the lighter side, we have some control. Through exercise and eating right, we can slow that decline. 

Muscular decline is fairly significant. By incorporating anaerobic exercises into our overall fitness routine we can also slow the loss of muscle mass and even reverse it somewhat, increasing our metabolism and our physical abilities, as well as protecting us from injuries and bone loss.

There are plenty of resources online for both cardio and anaerobic exercise. For beginners, I would recommend searching for a couch to 5K program for cardio. There are also sites that can recommend workout regimens for bicycles, swimming, walking, etc. On the anaerobic side, body weight exercises are probably the simplest (and cheapest) to incorporate into your regimen, and as you get in better shape, and more experienced, you may consider joining a gym or working with a personal trainer. Regardless of how you start, start. Activity is the key to staying active! Don’t gather moss! 

Have a great week, and be healthier today than you were yesterday!

Do you have a question for Dr. John Woltz? Email it to [email protected] for consideration as a topic for his column.

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