Cardio Vs. Strength Training: Which Is Ideal for Your Fitness Goals?

While it’s important to incorporate both cardio and strength training into your exercise routine, we typically tend to focus on one or the other. Depending on your unique fitness goals, narrowing your focus may help you succeed quicker.

A recent LiveStrong article took into account insight from fitness experts to help you decide which movement is optimal to support your health and fitness goals.

Cardio, or aerobic exercise, is any movement or activity that increases your heart and breathing rate. This includes running, cycling, kickboxing, and dance classes like Zumba. Known for its ability to aid in weight loss, due to the high number of calories burned, cardio also helps improve brain health, supports healthy blood sugar levels and overall mobility, and promotes longevity -- among countless other benefits.

While resistance training, also known as strength training, was once thought to be reserved for those seeking to build muscle mass, more and more people are learning how vital it is for overall health.

"As we age, growth hormones in the body decrease, which contributes to muscle loss," says Amanda Murdock, CPT, director of fitness for Daily Burn. "Strength training helps us maintain and build muscle tissue."

Some overlooked benefits of strength training include better overall cardiovascular health, weight management, improved bone health and better quality of life as you age.

To reiterate, both cardio and strength training are important for optimal health, yet individuals with specific fitness goals and limited time may want to focus on one or the other.

For example, if you are training for a race, go with cardio, focusing on whatever form of cardio you’ll be doing come race day so that you can train the right muscles and avoid injury.

If you want to burn more body fat, pick up the weights. According to Bret Contreras, Ph.D., CSCS, author of Glute Lab: The Art and Science of Strength and Physique Training, strength training is the best workout for fat-loss in the long-term. Strength training builds muscle and increases your metabolism to help you stay leaner in the long-term, while cardio burns calories and helps with short-term weight loss.

A more obvious choice for building muscle and getting stronger would be strength training, as it builds muscle mass the fastest.

"If you want to get stronger, there's only so much stress you can put on your body just using your body weight." When you strength train, you can progressively overload your body to continue making gains,” says Contreras.

If your goal is simply to become more active, try a combination of the two. Balance is key, especially for beginners, who would benefit from full-body strength training sessions a couple of times a week, and a few cardiovascular sessions per week.

For strong bones, go strength-training, while for stress management, most find light cardio optimal. However, it’s important that each individual listens to their body and their emotional needs, and chooses based on that intake.

In order to reduce the risk of chronic disease, both cardio and strength training have been proven to offer notable benefits that protect long-term health.

New Study: Mindfulness Reduces Fearful and Anxious Emotions

With the prevalence and continued rise of anxiety and trauma-related disorders, it’s become more and more important to develop effective treatment strategies. This need is what sparked new research from the University of Southern Denmark exploring the effect of mindfulness training on participants’ ability to rid the body of negative emotions.

A recent report from MindBodyGreen outlined the study: “Researchers recruited 26 participants and placed them into either an experimental or control group. While the experimental group went through a four-week mindfulness training consisting of daily practices of short breathwork or meditation through a smartphone app, the control group did not. After the month-long training period, participants were brought into a lab to complete an experiment in emotions.

Researchers were able to condition-specific fear reactions linked to certain images by subjecting participants to a small shock after showing them the images. The association of the shock with the images created a physiological response of fear within the body. Typically, these learned fear reactions are acquired through any sort of trauma or psychological disorders and can be very difficult to forget.

The following day, participants were brought back to test their reactions to the same images. The researchers discovered that subjects who had been trained in mindfulness were able to completely extinguish the fear reactions from the previous day, showing no response when faced with the images. The results, therefore, established the link between mindfulness and eliminating fearful and anxious emotions, which is the first time a study has proved this with direct physical evidence.”

While most of us have a basic understanding of the power of mindfulness practices like yoga and meditation to alleviate stress and anxiety in the present and future, this particular research experiment shows how these practices can help those suffering from fear and anxiety due to past trauma. The research implies that things like guided meditation may be used in place of a typical psychological treatment to help alleviate trigger responses.

“We can show that mindfulness does not only have an effect on subjective experiences of negative emotions, as has been shown previously but that you can actually see clear effects on autonomic arousal responses, even with a limited amount of training,” said lead author Johannes Björkstrand. He added that the team hopes to replicate the study on a larger scale and learn more about what processes in the brain are involved.

Skylar Weinstein

Softball Coach. Role Model. Fighter. 

Skylar Weinstein is an example for young athletes and all of us alike, teaching us all about grit, strength and perseverance, even amid the toughest of times.

Last year, Skylar went into the doctor to have hernia surgery, and found a lump in her neck. Her biopsy led to her cancer diagnosis. 

Immediately, Weinstien committed to fight so that she could return to coach her teams and be with the girls that look up to her. 

"I'm going through all these tests, and going to the doctor's office, and I'm just like, 'I have to get back out to my girls.' That is what my mind kept telling me. 'I have to get back out to my girls,'" Skylar told Good Morning Arizona. 

Skylar’s players range from age nine to 13. 

After pitching in high school in Scottsdale, Weinstein went on to play division one softball in Illinois. Her fastball reached elite-level speeds. 

"You're waking up at 5:00 in the morning. You're lifting weights, then you're going to softball practice in the morning, going to class, then you have some tutoring hours you have to get in," explains Weinstein, reflecting on what it's like to be a college athlete. "You have to figure out how to get food in your belly during the day. Then you go back to practice. You have conditioning, do your homework, and then you go to bed. You do it every single day. So it's very intense."

Now, Skylar is taking the skills she learned to help the next generation of players. 

Not long after surgery and throughout radiation, Weinstein would show up to practice and give her girls all that she had. According to Skylar, this was an integral part of her healing process, and essential for the health of her body and soul. 

Skylar is now cancer-free, and continues to pour herself into her coaching work.

Matthew Glaetzer

Olympic Athlete. Track Cyclist. Go-Getter.

Earlier this month, Matthew Glaetzer was one of 15 athletes to be named on Australia’s track cycling team for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

In October, Australia’s best male track sprinter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after feeling a “twinge” in his neck during a gym session. The 27-year-old, with two world championship titles and three Commonwealth Games gold medals to his name, said the diagnosis “rocked him.”

“When you hear the ‘C’ word – you always think it won’t happen to you, but suddenly you have to deal with it yourself,” he tells Guardian Australia.

From a young age, Glaetzer has dreamed of Olympic glory. As a teenager, he became the poster boy for Cycling Australia after winning world championships. Once at London 2012 and twice at Rio 2016, Glaetzer received the fourth place bronze medal.

“I was feeling confident I could get the job done in Tokyo,” he says. “I believed I could finally clinch a medal at the Olympics.”

Thankfully, the South Australian rider caught his cancer early, and after a short recovery period, returned to training at Cycling Australia’s high-performance center. Immediately after back-to-back races including the UCI Track World Cups in New Zealand and Brisbane in December, Glaetzer had another round of treatment, before preparing for Tokyo.

“I do not want this stopping me from doing what I love,” he says. “This has been a setback, but as athletes we are always working with an injury here or there. I am just treating this like a little injury. If all goes well, it won’t hold me back.”

Glaetzer is a devout Christian who has used his faith as a means to get him through this tough time. While initially, the Australian athlete kept the news quiet, he has now gone public in hopes to encourage others to take their medical concerns seriously.

Medal or no medal, and Olympics or no Olympics, Glaetzer’s perspective as a cancer survivor has improved his outlook on life. “I just want to live life and have a positive impact on those around me,” he says.

Why It's a Great Idea To Add Walnuts to Your Diet

You might be surprised to learn that for the past half-century, scientists and industry experts from around the world have gathered at the University of California, Davis, for a conference to discuss nothing other than walnuts.

Walnuts are packed with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and researchers are continuing to learn about other ways they support health.

An article by Healthline discusses at least 13 benefits of eating walnuts, including its concentration of antioxidants, the most of any common nut. “A preliminary, small study in healthy adults showed that eating a walnut-rich meal prevented oxidative damage of 'bad' LDL cholesterol after eating, whereas a refined-fat meal didn’t,” read the report.

For those looking for omega-3 fats, which may help reduce heart disease risk, walnuts are a great plant-based source. They also may decrease inflammation, the root of many chronic diseases. Other studies indicate that the polyphenols in walnuts may reduce your risk of certain cancers such as breast, prostate and colorectal. However, more human studies are needed to confirm this. These nuts shaped like a tiny brain conveniently help support good brain function.

New research also shows that walnuts promote a healthy gut. Here’s an excerpt from a recent MindBodyGreen article covering a recent report published in the Journal of Nutrition which found positive changes in gut bacteria when people ate walnuts.

“The study included 42 participants, between 30 and 65 years old, who were overweight or obese. Participants were assigned to three different diets, which they followed for six weeks. One diet included whole walnuts and the other two excluded them but maintained the same level of nutritional value from different sources. Each diet used walnuts or vegetable oil to replace saturated fats.

After analyzing stool samples at the end of six weeks, Kristina Petersen, Ph.D., said, 'the walnut diet enriched a number of gut bacteria that have been associated with health benefits in the past.'

As one specific strain of bacteria (Eubacterium eligens) increased, blood pressure levels decreased. Another strain (Lachnospiraceae) reduced blood pressure and cholesterol. The other two diets had no effect on heart disease risk factors.”

Researchers indicated that replacing your snack with just two to three ounces of walnuts per day, or about a half cup of walnuts, could be a good way to improve gut health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Should You Listen to Music When You Workout?

A new report from the University of Southern Queensland in Australia, which reviewed nearly 140 studies on music’s effects on exercise, suggest that you should throw on the tunes for an overall better workout.

Researchers used existing studies that included about 3,600 people, some dating back as far as 1911. They found that listening to music during physical activity affected not just performance, but other factors such as oxygen use, and the level of enjoyment you get from exercise.

Per MindBodyGreen: “They looked at sport-related activities and exercise routines in relation to music but left out things like dance, which usually involves music already.

Not only was music found to strengthen positive feelings during exercise, but it also improved oxygen consumption, which sums up both a more efficient and enjoyable workout.

Peter Terry, Ph.D., dean of graduate research and innovation at the University of Southern Queensland says, ‘No one would be surprised that music helps people feel more positive during exercise, [but] the fact that music provided a significant boost to performance would surprise some people. And the fact that music was shown to improve physiological efficiency would certainly raise eyebrows.’”

As for the best kind of music for exercise, the research suggests that it depends on your goals. For example, slow-tempo music may be best for longer-distance running as it can help maintain a slower heart rate. For something like HIIT or sprints, music with higher BPMs will support a higher heart rate.

That said, the recent report indicated that faster music is the best for working out overall. Out of the 13 distinct emotions that the researchers found that music can evoke, the one that best promotes better workouts is “energized or pumped up.”

To learn more about workout playlists and wellness trends in the media world, Spotify recently released a report on its 54 million workout playlists.

Steps to Overcoming Burnout

Many times when we feel burnout, the last thing we want to do is combat the issue head-on. This is due to the fact that burnout typically comes from a high-stress situation in which we feel numbed from the amount of work that’s on our plate. Yet when we fail to view our health and wellbeing as the number one priority, burnout has the potential to send us into a downward spiral emotionally, physically and spiritually, and wreak havoc on key pillars of our lives like family, and community.

A recent MindBody article explains how we get burnt out:

“Ironically, for many of us, burnout starts with success. We get promotions. Our bank account numbers go up. We get a big following on social media. This success can be tricky because it causes us to do more and more to pursue greater success. In our attempt to constantly grow, we work harder.

For other people, burnout may stem from focusing solely on caring for family members—especially aging or ill parents—without caring for themselves.

As it turns out, the price for pushing yourself too hard—whether you're trying to achieve wealth, a promotion, social status, a happier family, or even a better world—is disconnecting from yourself. As you get more and more disconnected, you become more robotic and less aware of the choices you're making, and this accelerates your spiral into burnout.”

If you’re feeling stuck in autopilot, overwhelmed by your daily life, and disconnected from yourself and others, you are likely experiencing burnout. The good news is, there are steps that you can take right now to heal from burnout and turn things around.

First, working on changing your mindset with a morning ritual, meditation practice, or gentle movement routine like yoga can help you gain clarity and control.

Externally, surrounding yourself with uplifting, supportive people can protect you from burnout and re-energize you. On the other hand, toxic, depleting people will drain your battery even more.

Outdoor therapy, consisting of sunlight, greenery, and water, is known to increase not just vitamin D, but your body’s level of nitric oxide, which increases blood flow, optimizes the immune system and serves as a signaling molecule for the brain. Forest bathing, a practice of simply being outside and nature, is now gaining popularity as it is shown to positively affect our moods, and make us happier, more productive and healthier human beings.

Satisfying the innate human craving for touch is also a productive way to combat burnout, per MindBodyGreen.

“These days, many of us are ‘touch-deprived.’ This contributes to burnout because stimulating our touch receptors calms us, lowers our blood pressure, and reduces our levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, it raises our levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps us to bond with other people.”

Lastly, nourishing yourself with healthy foods, more sleep, and essential nutrients, will help boost your immune system, reduce stress, optimize your brain functioning, and as a result, heal you from burnout. Ultimately, it’s important to go easy on yourself and avoid strict diets, harsh cleanses, or challenging workouts.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and pay attention to what you need, instead of numbing yourself with things that do not serve you. You’ll be back to your thriving self before you know it.

Hunter LaFave

Leader. Outdoor Enthusiast. Survivor. 

At age 30, Hunter LaFave was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer. He completed 40 rounds of chemotherapy, 28 sessions of radiation and went through at least seven surgeries, including an emergency heart surgery and one to repair a prolapsed ostomy.

“I had 3 different oncologists because I never found one who advised on lifestyle, diet, mental health, and emotional support,” said LaFave. “It wasn’t even mentioned.” His first oncologist actually advised him to eat red meat and drink alcohol and said that sugar didn’t affect cancer. He told LaFave “ to just rest and give up responsibility,” and went as far as to say that “acupuncture, fasting or plant-based dieting would kill him.

Feeling lost, afraid, alone, and at times hopeless, Hunter knew there must be another way. “I took the responsibility on myself to heal,” he said.

Hunter believed that with the power of his own mind, alternative therapies, movement, and a variety of mind-body practices, he could beat cancer.

First, Hunter removed his dependency on prescription medications, spending the last seven months of his 12 months of treatment without the use of regimented pills. He started to run, jogging upwards of 4 miles at a time, three to five times a week. Other practices he incorporated included intermittent fasting, acupuncture, plant-medicine, plant-based diet, and meditations, such as the Wim Hof breathing technique.

“None of this came easily and it was a constant battle within myself to choose to do these positive things when I didn’t really feel like it,” said Hunter. “It’s hard to comprehend unless you have been through it, but I feel just wanting to survive or be healthy is not enough of a motivator.  At many points in my treatment, I felt like giving up and the only time I prayed was to not wake up in the morning. But I would tell myself, ‘this won’t be my story, I won’t do this on my knees.’ At times that worked, but when I still didn’t have the strength I would tell myself ‘I won’t let my mother bury me.’  I’d say it over and over again whenever I felt weak or overwhelmed. Sometimes it would take 10 times just to sit up, 10 more to put on my shoes, run to the bathroom to throw up, cry, say it 10 more times to walk outside, sit in my truck and cry, 10 more times and drive to the park to jog. “

Hunter is one of many cancer survivors whose life has been transformed by the cancer survivor community. During the NCAA Final Four, he played in the Hardwood Heroes basketball game, where he met other survivors and felt what it was like “to have someone else who understood.” Through that experience, Hunter was introduced to an organization that sent him on a free water kayaking trip to Montana after his treatment.

“The strength I gained from challenging myself, opening up, expressing what I felt and have it be received and reciprocated by others who had been through something similar was beyond valuable,” he said. Hunter focused on improving his lifestyle, relationships, work, and his own beliefs around himself, which is clear to anyone who meets him. Hunter has a contagious energy and motivated mindset and is sharing his experience to benefit others.

Hunter now runs a website called It’s In Your Head, to help others struggling with a diagnosis, treatment, depression, and other challenges emotionally, mentally and physically. His passion for serving others with community building and the outdoors led him to start Breath of Fresh Air mindfulness treks around the world.

“For me, the mental and emotional toll cancer takes on you is by far worse than any sickness I had felt and there was absolutely no mention by any doctor on how to handle these things.  My goal is to give others what I wish I had in my own treatment. This has also helped me to heal my own emotional scars.”

To learn more about Hunter and the inspiring projects he’s working on, start here. 

Read This Before Sugar Detoxing

While the best way to promote health and wellbeing is to make long-lasting lifestyle changes, sometimes it’s necessary to make more drastic changes in the short-term. One such example is with sugar detoxing or cutting sugar out of your diet.

Excessive sugar consumption has links to harmful health conditions including obesity and metabolic syndrome, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, chronic inflammation, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and dental plaque and cavities, according to Medical News Today.

A recent study found that the consumption of sugary drinks, such as sugar-sweetened beverages and 100% fruit juices, was significantly associated with the risk of overall cancer cases. Researchers suggested that sugary drinks might represent a modifiable risk factor for cancer prevention.

Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet can help you reduce your risk of other health conditions. Meanwhile, replacing high sugar foods with healthful options can help you get all of your essential vitamins and minerals without the added calories. For those struggling with weight loss, a low sugar diet has been shown to help improve outcomes. The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that adults in the US get around 15% of their calories from added sugars alone!

Another 2017 study linked a high sugar diet with changing mood states, implying that lowering sugar intake can prevent mood swings.

It's important to know that going cold turkey on a sugar detox may induce fatigue, dizziness and low blood sugar, especially if we are used to consuming large amounts of it throughout the day. Whether you are cutting sugar out completely or starting slow by simply reducing sugar in your diet, you can expect to see your health improve, with other side effects including better skin and weight management.

A recent CNN article spoke to sugar detoxing:

“About 10% of the US population are true sugar addicts, according to Robert Lustig, professor of pediatrics and member of the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California, San Francisco. What's more, research suggests that sugar induces rewards and cravings that are similar in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs.

One of the biggest concerns is the amount of added sugars in our diets, which are often hidden in foods. Although ice cream cake is an obvious source of sugar, other foods that may not even taste sweet -- such as salad dressings, tomato sauces, and bread -- can be loaded with the white stuff.

"People don't realize that seemingly healthy foods are loaded with sugar -- and so we're basically eating sugar all day long, from morning till night,” said sugar expert and registered dietitian Brooke Alpert.”

Alpert recommends a sugar detox in which the first three days consist of no added sugars and no artificial sweeteners, which she says dull our pallets and make us “immune and less reactive to what sweetness really is.”

"By the fourth day, an apple tastes like candy," Alpert said. "The onions are sweet! Almonds are sweet! Once you take sugar away from your diet cold turkey, your palate recalibrates, and you start tasting natural sugars again."

Some tips for cutting out sugar out of your diet include reading product labels carefully, and keeping an eye out for different names for sugar including cane sugar, corn syrup, sucanat, evaporated cane juice, and ingredients ending in “ose.” It’s also wise to avoid simple carbohydrates like white flour, white pasta, and white rice, and focus instead on whole foods like vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains and legumes, and nuts and seeds.