Our bodies were made to move and the movements we do keep our muscles in shape. In fact, few of these movements make them stronger and stronger muscles make us more efficient and healthier. Be it cardio exercise, lifting weights or even a normal day-to-day activity, our body is moving by engaging a muscle or a group of muscle.
The question is, how should we decide which movement is benefiting our body?
Which type of exercise is giving positive and long-lasting effects?
Should I do cardio or lift weights?
Why cardio has become questionable and marked as useless by the people in fitness industry?
Cardio is an exercise that raises your heart rate. It increases calories used per day. In the industry, this has been quite generalized that our body compensates for those calories on the same day and does not really keep our body in calorie deficit.
However, the evidence suggests differently -
Schubert et al. (2017) demonstrated by placing people on a practice of doing 3 weekly cardio sessions for 4 weeks and measured RMR (Resting Metabolism Rate), Non-exercise Physical Activity, Exercise Metabolism, VO2max, and energy intake. Result exposed that only few participants were able to compensate for some of the calories that were consumed during exercise, most participants did not compensate and remained in a calorie deficit throughout the day. In fact, two-third of participants remained in a deficit and only one-third made up for the energy consumed.
This shows that “cardio doesn’t work” is not completely true however, “only cardio can help in burning fat” is not true either. For the majority of people, it is likely beneficial to do both cardio as well as weight training and which one plays a major role is purely depends on your goal and current physical condition. For example, if your primary goal is to increase your aerobic endurance then cardio would take major share and if your primary goal is to increase muscular strength then weight training is the first recommendation.
Now the question is, how should we divide our cardio and weight training sessions over a week? Well, detailed study of your current fitness level, good understanding of your fitness goals, scientifically designed workout program and suitable nutrition plan are the musts.
Study reference: Schubert, M. M., Palumbo, E., Seay, R. F., Spain, K. K., & Clarke, H. E. (2017). Energy compensation after sprint- and high-intensity interval training. PloS one, 12(12), e0189590.
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