"Should I also be doing cardio outside of my strength training workouts?" As an exercise physiologist this is one of the most common questions that I hear. My first answer is always "you are already doing cardio right now!" There is a common opinion amongst people that resistance exercise and aerobic exercise are two sperate things. If you're resistance training then you're doing it to build strength and muscle and if you are doing aerobic activity you are doing it to improve your cardiovascular health. Exercise scientists continue to challenge this perception by highlighting the many cardiovascular adaptations that can be made from resistance exercise alone. So should you be doing a cardio outside of your strength training workouts? It depends on what your goals are!
Strength Training Is Cardio Too!
Traditionally cardiovascular exercise has only been associated with aerobic activities such as running, biking, swimming etc. However leading exercise scientists such as James Fisher, Doug McGuff and James Steele have continued to show that intense resistance exercise facilitates similar physiological response and adaptation as traditional aerobic activities do.
While their research does not imply that performing resistance exercise alone will result in optimal endurance activity performance it does suggest that for people who are looking to simply improve the health of their cardiovascular system intense resistance exercise will provide the same benefit that traditional activities such as running, biking, and swimming would.
The continued development of exercise research signifies a paradigm shift from the historical thinking which typically opposes resistance and aerobic exercise. There have been numerous publications which have discussed the dichotomy between the two modalities of exercise when it comes to health related outcomes. These publications have generally reported in favor of resistance exercise due to the plethora of health benefits including but not limited to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, increased resting metabolic rate, improved blood lipid profiles, reduced resting blood pressure, improved bone mineral density, and pain reduction in arthritis patients.
Essentially resistance exercise can give you all of the benefits that aerobic exercise can and many more. This is why Reformed Fitness always recommends that you prioritize resistance exercise as the foundation of your workout routine.
Numerous studies report the most commonly cited barrier to exercise participation include time availability as well as access to specialized equipment and/or facilities. In light of the concept of strength training being cardiovascular activity just aerobic exercise, people who wish to engage in exercise to improve the noted markers of health and fitness might be able to save time if they were to simply prioritize high intensity strength training in their workout routine.
The term cardiovascular exercise can be used to describe a myriad of exercise modalities. It might be that future exercise research suggests that we should re-label our exercise modality to better portray our effort and physiological energy systems and/ or desired responses and adaptations.
As mentioned previously while resistance exercise will improve your cardiovascular health it will not allow you to perform endurance activities at an optimal level. Meaning if you are training for a half marathon you shouldn't solely rely on resistance training to prepare you for that race. To perform at your best you would need to perform addition aerobic activity in addition to your strength training workouts. In this case using resistance and aerobic exercise in conjunction would provide the best outcome.
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