HEALTH & FITNESS - Cardio, strength deal fat double-blow

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Toning muscles, losing weight, increasing energy or bulking up are common fitness goals. A debate for decades have people questioning, "What should I do? Cardio or strength training?"

Although both components have benefits of their own, it is essential to incorporate both whether you are a beginner to exercise or an experienced athlete.

The body is made up of lean body mass and adipose tissue, commonly known as "fat."

Lean body mass consists of the muscles, organs and bones within the body. One pound of body fat consists of 3,500 calories.

Most people have a false impression that weight loss is only fat loss.

However, the goal is to increase lean body mass, which reduces fat. Drastically cutting calories or excessive working out is dangerous and can cause burnout.

Healthy food choices, sensible portions and incorporating moderate to vigorous cardio and strength training sessions will facilitate fitness goals.

Cardiovascular fitness refers to the health of the lungs, heart and the circulatory system. Sustaining a higher heart rate for a prolonged period builds cardio endurance.

During a cardio session, high calories are burned, which decreases body fat storage and cholesterol. A 150-pound individual who jogs at 6 mph, for example, burns approximately 12 calories per minute.

Cardiovascular activities that keep the heart rate "up" include biking, hiking, swimming or running. "Runner's high" was not invented for nothing.

Cardio can squash stress and anxiety and improve energy and mood. Cardio also builds a strong heart, which can add years to a person's life.

Weight loss requires 60 to 90 minutes of cardio three to five days per week without exceeding the caloric intake.

Strength training is needed to increase muscle fiber size and bone strength and enhance our body's physique and metabolism. Women also have a misconception that their muscles will get "bulky."

Trust me women, you need strength training and you will not get bulky.

For example, a 114-pound person who contains 27 pounds of body fat weight trains and adds four pounds of muscle.

She will still weigh 114 pounds but with only 23 pounds of body fat. The initial weight remains the same, but physical appearance is leaner with more muscle tone.

An increase in muscle tissue will increase the metabolism. This is the same when there is a decrease in muscle tissue: the metabolism decreases.

With muscles being responsible for our calorie use, when non-training individuals age the body and muscles requires less energy and stores unnecessary calories as fat.

Therefore, strength training sustains the metabolism as people age.

In a workout session, cardio burns more calories than strength training; however, the resting metabolic rate is higher after strength training than cardio. Research has shown that for every three pounds of muscle gained, more than 100 extra calories per day are burned.

Beyond knocking out fat, strength training also builds sturdy muscles and joints which reduces the risk of injury as a person ages and aids in achieving cardio goals such as 5ks, marathons or triathlons.

Combining these two components of exercise can blast calories, spike the metabolism and find the pant size that suits your body best.

Elizabeth Kovar has been working in the fitness industry since 2006 with international experience in India and Australia. She has a master's degree in recreation and tourism and is a programs coordinator at the YMCA where she trains, instructs fitness classes and assists in marketing projects. She welcomes questions and comments and can be reached at ekovar@wwymca.org.

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