Exercise

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.


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.


5 Reasons to Exercise Every Day

For anyone that has exercised for the sole purpose of losing weight, you probably have experienced disappointment and even a sense of lack of fulfillment and enjoyment from your movement regimen. 

While exercising regularly is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight and a “good physique,” reminding yourself of its other benefits will help you stay motivated even when it’s hard. Below are just some of the many reasons why you should make exercise a top priority every day. 

It makes you happier. 

When you’re feeling down, getting moving may be low on your checklist. However, when you exercise, feel-good chemicals called endorphins are released in your body. These endorphins spark a positive, euphoric feeling, per MindBodyGreen

Exercise is a natural antidepressant, and especially when coupled with time outside, it can relieve stress and negative feelings that come from stagnation. By moving, you're finally able to see your situation from an outside perspective. There, you have the opportunity to let go of whatever happened to you instead of sitting in it. 

Movement can clear stress hormones out of your system, leading to a clearer and more focused you. 

Tap into your creativity.

Instead of meeting in an office or catching up with a friend over coffee, consider a walk and talk. There’s a reason some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs are choosing to move when they make decisions and work on new projects -- getting outside of the box helps you think outside of the box!

Reduce your chance of heart disease. 

“Did you know that worldwide, 8.6 million women die from heart disease each year? According to the American Heart Association, exercise helps dramatically reduce heart-related diseases, strengthens your heart muscle, and can help decrease the risk of having a heart attack,” per MindBodyGreen. 

You’ll feel energized. 

It may seem counter-intuitive, but getting off the couch and into a high intensity workout can actually increase your energy level. People who exercise regularly report feeling less fatigue throughout the day. So ditch the coffee, try a run instead, and build a workout into your everyday routine. 

Exercise improves sleep.

Sleep deprivation can serve as the big domino that negatively affects all other aspects of our lives, from work, to relationships and health. Incorporate movement in your day helps keep your circadian rhythm on track. For the best results, try to avoid exercising too close to bedtime. 


Cold Therapy: What Is It and Why You Should Try It.

The latest research from some of the world’s leading longevity and health experts indicates that cold exposure is one of the best things you can do to extend not just your lifespan, but your healthspan.

While it’s true that many people are living longer, the prevalence of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Dementia have led many people to suffer in the last years of their life. In order to slow down the process of aging and stay in optimal health, more and more people are experimenting with cold therapy.

Cold therapy is said to activate the body’s natural healing powers that can relieve the symptoms of many medical conditions and promote overall levels of health and well-being. When practiced regularly, cold water immersion has been shown to provide long-lasting changes to your body’s immune, lymphatic, circulatory and digestive systems that enhance the quality of life, per an article in 2mealday.com.

So, what exactly is cold therapy?

While cold therapy has been practiced for centuries across many different cultures, it has recently been popularized by Wim Hoff, AKA The Ice Man, who encourages daily cold showers and ice cold water immersion.

People who champion cold water immersion tout its ability to improve cardiovascular circulation, a critical component of overall health and well-being.

“With poor cardiovascular circulation, not only is the blood flow compromised, the heart becomes stressed. And this can ultimately lead to fatigue, headaches, high blood pressure, muscle cramping, or even heart attack and stroke. With improved circulation, on the other hand, we can improve heart health, enhance mental performance, boost the immune system and the metabolism, and simply give ourselves more strength and energy to live our lives," per 2mealday.com.

Many others also use cold therapy as a complement to high-intensity exercise. Because of its ability to reduce muscle inflammation, cold water immersion is great for those seeking to reduce muscle soreness, as cold water lowers the damaged muscle tissue’s temperate and constricts the blood vessels, reducing swelling and inflammation, while numbing nerve endings to relieve pain.

On an emotional level, cold water immersion may make you happier, too.

“A 2007 research study found that cold showers can help treat depression symptoms, and if used on a routine basis, may be more beneficial than prescription medications. This is because, cold water triggers a flood of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, which make you feel happy. A separate study that analyzed the effects of regular winter swimming on the mood of swimmers showed that after four months of routine cold water swimming, the subjects felt more energetic, active and spritely than the control group.”

Alongside a laundry list of physical benefits, cold exposure is a mental game that you will continue to get better at. By learning to breathe through discomfort and the stress that comes with it, you can increase your ability to manage your emotions in everyday life.

Let's get outside and embrace the chill!


How to Have Successful At-Home Workouts

With winter in full swing, the idea of not needing to leave your house to get your exercise in might sound better and better every day. While many aim to skip the gym commute, save money, and get a good workout in at home, at-home practices are often forgotten or cut short.

In order to make sure that you enjoy the benefits of working out in the comfort of your own home (such as not needing shoes and having the locker room all to yourself), there are a few easy steps that will set you up for success.

Schedule it in.

Just because you don’t need to abide by a gym’s hours or the start time of a class, doesn’t mean it isn’t a great idea to schedule your workouts. If you simply wait around until you have an inclination to get active, you might end up sitting at your desk or watching TV all day.

Know yourself enough to understand if you need to stick by a strict timeline. You’ll thank yourself later.

Find an online class or program.

One thing that may hold you back from having an awesome workout on your own is a lack of experience in creating a workout regime. The good news is, there’s now an endless amount of resources and videos available online. While many of these resources are free, price can vary depending on what kind of content you purchase, and from who.

“If you don't know how to program (i.e., you're not a trainer), that's no issue. There are thousands of trainers (maybe even tens of thousands) who post workouts online, whether it be on Instagram, YouTube, or their websites,” says Lauren Kanski, NASM-CPT, as cited by MindBodyGreen.

Keep it simple.

"You don't have to do anything fancy," Kanski adds. "Standard body-weight pushups, square, lunges, stair climbs, jumping jacks, planks—any of the fundamentals—are all we need. Just move with intention! If you really want to invest in equipment, I recommend 5- to 15-pound dumbbells or kettlebells, a TRX, a yoga mat, and a set of resistance bands. These allow for some resistance, suspension, and cushion for moving."

That said, "All you need is a space the size of a yoga mat so you can move in all different planes of motion.”

Hold yourself accountable.

One draw of working out at a gym or among others in a fitness class is the push to perform. When you’re at home, you may be more likely to give up or go easy on yourself.

Recruit your roommate or your neighbor, or if you choose to do it alone, make sure that you tell someone your plan. Setting up a challenge with another person, whether they are doing the workout with you or not, is a great way to hold yourself accountable.


Reasons to Try Exercising Before Breakfast

With intermittent fasting gaining popularity, many people are now starting to adopt a diet that restricts calorie consumption to an 8-hour window every day. Many find that starting their morning without breakfast, and choosing a 12 PM-8 PM window for their meals, works best. 

A wave of research is supporting the notion that fasting can increase longevity, support weight loss, help aid in cell repair, promote healthy sleep cycles, and more. Now, a recent report outlined a study supporting the hypothesis that avoiding breakfast in the morning, and working out on an empty stomach, can increase health outcomes. 

Excerpt from MindBodyGreen

During this study, researchers analyzed whether working out before eating breakfast had any effect on health, specifically how fat becomes stored in muscles. This six-week experiment included 30 men who identify as obese or overweight and were split into three groups: a group who ate breakfast before working out, a group who ate breakfast after working out, and a control group who made no changes to their daily eating or exercise habits.

What they found was that the group of men who worked out before breakfast burned double the amount of fat as the group who exercised after breakfast. This increase in fat burning is super important, but not for the reason you might think—both of the exercise groups in this six-week experiment lost the same amount of weight.

Lead author of the study Javier Gonzalez, Ph.D., explains, “Importantly, whilst this didn't have any effect on weight loss, it did dramatically improve their overall health.”

The study concluded that working out before breakfast, when their insulin levels were low, allowed them to use more of the fat from their tissue and the fat within their muscles as fuel. 

The participants who worked out before breakfast saw their bodies respond better to insulin. This improved ability to regulate blood sugar levels could lower people’s risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The muscles of the men in the fasted group also showed an increase in key proteins, despite the fact that they had the same workout program and meals as the other groups. 

"The group who exercised before breakfast increased their ability to respond to insulin," wrote Gonzalez, "which is all the more remarkable given that both exercise groups lost a similar amount of weight, and both gained a similar amount of fitness. The only difference was the timing of the food intake."


5 Tips to Stay Consistent with Exercise

If the thought of leaving your desk full of work, or comfortable bedroom to go out on a run, or drive to the gym, seems like a daunting task, the good news is that you are definitely not alone. For most people, the idea of a regular workout routine makes a lot of sense, but is extremely hard to implement in practice. This is why gym memberships tend to spike around New Years resolution time, and slowly drop off as the year goes on. The truth is, many people struggle to commit to and maintain a consistent exercise regimen. 

There are many reasons why it might be tempting to skip a workout, and some of them are fully legitimate. 

"The sandwich generation is real, and a lot of my clients are trying to handle a parent with disabilities or cognitive decline, not to mention taking care of their own children or even grandchildren," said Dr. Elizabeth Frates, assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and director of wellness programming for the Stroke Research and Recovery Institute at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. "They may also be at the peak of their career and have a lot of wonderful opportunities coming their way to lead or take on more responsibility at work, and all of this can be overwhelming."

However, whether it’s school work, taking care of a parent, working a second job, or general laziness, there really is no excuse to remain glued to the couch, desk, or bed. When it comes down to it, maintaining your health with a physical workout routine is the only way to ensure that you will be at your best when you show up for all of the other things in life. 

Find your why 

If you haven’t pinpointed the reason that you are doing something, you likely have a weak commitment. While you might have many “whys” for working out, try to focus on a couple, such as staying mentally sharp, being able to live independently, getting ready for your long-distance run, and boosting your confidence levels. 

Shift your thinking

Instead of looking at exercise as a way to improve your health, you may find it helpful to think of failure to exercise as a threat to your medical wellbeing. Most people find that it is easier to stay motivated to fix a problem, rather than add a healthy habit. 

Schedule your workouts

A main reason why many people skip their workouts is because they fail to properly schedule it into their day. Be proactive at the start of the week and make sure that you allocate enough time for the vitals, like proper sleep, exercise, and time to meal prep. All of these things will serve as positive reinforcement, given when you are sufficiently rested you have more energy to workout, and when you workout, you want to eat better. 

Create a new environment 

If setting aside time for your workouts seems impossible, try changing up activities that you already do and make them active. For example, suggest walking meetings, or use an exercise ball as your office chair. 

Add some excitement

Just like after a while, eating the same thing every day would make you crazy, going on the same run, or taking the same fitness class with the same instructor will bore you to inaction. Try a variety of things you enjoy, and consider rewarding yourself with something like a drink with a friend, or a relaxing bath afterwards. Hiking outside, or trying a new activity like kickboxing, are great ways to change your environment and shift your mindset for the better.

Ultimately, don’t be too hard on yourself. Pretending that you are your own good friend, who has your best interest in mind, will set you up for success. 


The Underrated Benefits of Walking

While no one may be posting on social media or bragging about that really long stroll they took yesterday, there are countless reasons to get outside and go on a walk. 

High-impact workouts like HIIT training and running have their place in a well-balanced fitness routine, yet many times, they are not evenly balanced with other low-impact exercise. Plus, for people who need to give their joints and muscles a break, or who want to connect with a friend while getting their movement in, walking is a much better alternative to the couch or your desk. 

Research shows that walking for just 15 to 40 minutes a day five days a week can significantly impact your health, according to Livestrong. Walking has been shown to reduce body fat, improve core strength, ease lower back pain, and prevent heart attack and stroke. It’s also an easy, free way to change your surroundings, get a breath of fresh air, and reduce stress during the day. Walking has been shown to positively impact emotional wellbeing, increase endorphins, reduce fatigue, and decrease stress hormones. 

Like any form of physical activity, walking can increase the functioning of your body’s immune system. Harvard Medical School reports that individuals who are more active are sick for a shorter amount of time, and experience less severe symptoms. 

“Researchers already know that any kind of physical activity blunts the risk of breast cancer,” wrote Harvard Medical School. “But an American Cancer Society study that zeroed in on walking found that women who walked seven or more hours a week had a 14% lower risk of breast cancer than those who walked three hours or fewer per week. And walking provided this protection even for the women with breast cancer risk factors, such as being overweight or using supplemental hormones.”

The Harvard Health article outlined other surprising benefits of walking, such as its ability to counteract the effect of weight-promoting genes, and to curb cravings for chocolate and sugary snacks. 

According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking is "the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.”

The next time you have a meeting or a coffee date with a friend, why not propose a walk and talk? Instead of that heavy-traffic commute to work or the gym, next time, give yourself time to walk. You may find that you have a more enjoyable time when you get outside of the box, and feel better too.


The Benefits of Shaking Up Your Workout with Dance

Most of us don’t go out for a night dancing in order to squeeze in a good workout. Yet dancing is one of the best exercises for our mental, physical and emotional health. It’s one of those things that immediately after we do it, we ask ourselves why we waited so long. But most of us still don’t consider adding dance to our workout routine. Studies show that getting out of your seat and into a dance flow can help you lose weight, stay flexible, reduce stress, improve your social life, and bring countless more benefits to your life. 

Instead of breaking up the day at your desk with a circuit workout or a short jog, consider turning on your favorite song and dancing like no one's watching.

Since dance is exercise, the physical benefits are similar to that of other cardio workouts. Unlike high impact exercises like running, dancing is gentle on the body. It can also improve flexibility, easing joint pain and alleviating post-exercise soreness. Also unlike other exercises that emphasize repetitive or linear movement, dance allows for the body to move organically and without structure. This not only gives way to creative expression, but can also activate new synapses in the brain and prevent injury. 

"Movements that we typically do in our daily life, like walking, taking the stairs, and common workouts like treadmills and cycling, occur in the sagittal plane, but dance works your body from all planes, including lateral and rotational, which turns on and conditions all muscles, meaning no muscle is left behind,” explains Jonathan Tylicki, the director of education for boutique fitness studio AKT, per HealthLine

Another unique benefit of dance versus other forms of exercise is its ability to improve balance through rhythm and music. 

On a mental level, dancing can improve cognitive performance. While it may be true that the best dancers are those that don’t think about it, most of us can agree that dancing requires a high level of presence and brain power. This is required to learn a new style of dance, tune into the rhythm of a new song, or sync up with a dance partner. 

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine supports the notion that dancing boosts memory and may prevent the development of dementia. According to the researchers, dancing involves both a mental effort and social interaction, which explains why it was the only one out of 11 different types of physical activity that lowered participants’ risk of dementia. 

This may be explained by the fact that aerobic exercise has been shown to reverse volume loss in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory retention, per Everyday Health

Emotionally, dancing can bring about stress relief, improve self-esteem and promote positive emotions. Another study conducted in 2012 by researchers at North Dakota’s Minot State University found that Latin-style dance programs such as Zumba lifted participants’ mood and certain cognitive skills, such as visual recognition and decision-making, per Harvard Medical School

The benefits of dance are boundless and will affect every individual in a unique way. That said, maybe the most incredible thing about dancing is that it is the great equalizer. Anyone with mobility in their body, even if limited, can participate. This makes it a great social activity, and a fun way to connect with others.

With all of the different forms of dance that exist, such as ballet, hip hop, tap dancing, swing dancing, salsa, belly dancing, pole dancing, and more, there’s bound to be something for everyone.