For #WalkThisMay we are encouraging everyone to build heart-healthy cardio into their daily lives. However, in the same way that muscle building alone is not enough to keep you healthy, brisk walking will only get you so far on the road to fitness. Sunshine Gym is here to give you expert advice on combining strength training with cardio.
Now, we’re not talking about bulging biceps and body-builders! This is about following medical guidelines to minimise health risks and elevate fitness through your personal exercise routine.
The NHS advises that adults should work on their strength as well as completing regular cardiovascular exercise. Therefore, as you try to add 20 minutes of wonderful walking to your everyday routine, why not add in some muscular work?
What’s the difference?
Strength training is anything which works on your skeletal muscles through specific stretches, contractions and weight bearing. For example squats, lunges, weights and pull-ups. These are targeted movements so each rep you perform must be quite accurate.
The point of these exercises is to perform them fairly intensively, repeating each action until you feel you’ve reached your limit. In doing this you improve your mobility and flexibility as well as toning the muscle tissue and improving bone density.
All of this results in a faster metabolism, stronger bones and a better posture. All in all, strength training helps you to lead an active life.
This type of exercise uses quick and intense energy bursts. In order to put this level of intensity into the movement, the body needs a speedy source of energy. Therefore the body doesn’t take in extra oxygen for strength training; it is anaerobic exercise.
On the other hand, cardiovascular exercise requires energy over a longer period of time. Your body no longer needs to source immediate energy and can instead create it using extra oxygen.
Cardio or aerobic exercise is anything which raises the heart rate through sustained movement. For example swimming, rowing, cycling or a brisk walk. This type of exercise strengthens the lungs and heart, improving their performance.
This means your whole body will see the benefit of cardio; every cell function will become more efficient and your mental and physical performance will improve. Furthermore, your body will get used to creating energy which means, as long as you don’t overdo it, you will soon find you’re a more energetic person in general.
National Walking Month brings to our attention the specific advantages of walking for your cardiovascular exercise. Importantly, it’s free and simple meaning you are far more likely to get your exercise in!
As walking is so easy to build into your daily routine, this gives you more time to spend on your strength and your muscles.
But how much should you do of each?
Guidelines and Team-work
Of course, we know there are lots of benefits to both types of exercise, but many people choose to focus on just one.
Some people believe one type of exercise will hinder the other. Other people may decide that the one type of exercise they do is enough. Regardless of how active you are, performing one without the other will still hold you back from achieving overall fitness. That’s because aerobic and anaerobic exercise methods actually complement one another really well.
The better your cell functions, the easier your body will find it to produce energy. As such, regular aerobic activity will improve your ability to perform intense muscular exercises. In the same vein(!), when your muscle endurance improves, you’ll find you are able to jog, swim or cycle for longer.
Both types of activity feed into one another, optimising every aspect of your health and performance.
We’re often told to do at least 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise every week. This works out as just over 20 minutes a day. That’s why the #WalkThisMay challenge is based on 20 minute walks. However, as long as you’re moving well and getting your heart pumping, it doesn’t matter what type of cardio you do.
As we know, strength training is not covered by aerobic exercise so the NHS recommends that every adult should also work on their muscles on top of the 2.5 minimum for cardio. They suggest that you make time for two strength training sessions every week.
It’s important to work on all of your major muscle groups: arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdomen, hips and legs.
Movement, Muscles and Me
With all the guidelines and biology, the thought of starting a new exercise routine can be a bit daunting. That’s why events like National Walking Month are so important for simply getting people out and moving. To help you take the next steps towards overall fitness our guide to strength training should help you on your way.
Remember, when you increase your activity levels you need to eat a well-balanced diet to reap the full benefits. For an idea of what this looks like when you engage in regular exercise, read our advice on nutrition and hydration – you need to replenish, not restrict your resources!
When it comes to planning your strength training, you can either do it on the same day as your cardio, or save that up for a longer session on another day.
However, if you do decide to do both activities on the same day, you may want to consider the best order for your exercise.
It is generally accepted that the more beneficial order for your exercise is anaerobic followed by aerobic. There is no harm in doing it the other way around – it’s more important to get your exercise in!
Let’s look at why many trainers choose to work on muscles first.
Your body tends to have a set level of the “quick energy” you use for anaerobic exercise. As soon as you start exercising, your body starts to use your anaerobic energy supply.
Even if you start with cardio, your body will still use this energy supply before moving on to aerobic energy. Therefore, you may struggle to perform to your best ability when you get round to your strength training. This is because your supply of “quick energy” will be depleted.
To help you complete at least one set exercises for each major muscle group, we’ve put together a list of Sunshine Gym equipment options.
- Legs and Hips: Squat Push OR Twist N Step
- Arms, Shoulders, Chest and Back: Pull Down Challenger OR Combi Pull Down Challenger & Power Push OR Double Pull Up
- Abdomen: Sit Up Bench
Of course, walking is a great form of cardio. However if your joints or bones are a bit weaker, too much walking on pavements can cause shin splints or other injuries. Using the Sunshine Gym Health Walker burns the same amount of calories whilst avoiding any painful impact. If you have access to Sunshine Gym equipment there are other options for aerobic exercise. These include:
Whatever way you choose to get moving this month, we hope our guide gives you the advice, reassurance and motivation you need to get fit safely and happily!