January is the time of year many of us rededicate ourselves to our exercise routines or begin one based on a resolution for the New Year. One of the pitfalls so many of us fall into is pursuing cardiovascular exercise without the balance of strength training, which both enhances the results from cardio and helps up the metabolism for greater calorie burn and overall health. Combining strength and cardio also helps alleviate boredom through variety and keeps joints and muscles from wearing down from continuous cardio work alone. Here are some tips on how to add strength to your routine to achieve balanced results and keep that new or revitalized routine going throughout the New Year.
While it is true that muscles get worked and acquire tone through regular activity and cardio exercise, this type of endurance work does not effectively overload muscles to produce significant strength gains that also strengthen the soft connective tissue which translates to stronger joints. Stronger muscles and joints give the ability to withstand longer and harder cardio workouts resulting in increased benefits.
For strength training to be effective, studies show the workout must last at least 25-minutes and occur at least twice per week; if you do not already have a strength routine, this is the perfect timeframe for a simple to follow circuit workout on machines that employ the major muscle groups. Such equipment is found at most hotels and every fitness club worldwide and often features guiding instructions posted on the equipment if a professional is not immediately available to offer advice.
In addition to wanting the benefits of regular exercise, many of us also have goals that include weight loss. As mentioned above, adding muscle increases the body’s ability to burn more calories, specifically 500 more calories per day with every added pound of muscle. In addition, adding muscle automatically reduces stored body fat, so the benefits are two-fold.
A final tip to avoid another common mistake consists of beginning or returning to activities and exercises too quickly. All new exercise should be approached with gradual increases to avoid injury, being overly sore or burning out on too much too fast. Starting with the minimums of two strength and three cardio workouts per week and building from there as stamina and strength increase allows added length and intensity of workouts and is the best formula for success.
Written by Patrick Curtis, Fitness Director & NASM-Certified Personal Trainer with over 20 years in the health and fitness industry, specializing in integrated/functional training and exercise for general fitness and healthy lifestyle changes for all populations.