What type of workout is best for cardio health?
March 28, 2009 2:24 PM   Subscribe

What type of workout is best for cardio health? Is weight-lifting necessary as well as cardio work?

I've started working out three times a week, and I'm much more interested in cardio health than in getting muscular.

However, should I incorporate weight lifting into my workout for balance, or is it not necessary?

I'm a 28 year old male, 5'9, 155 pounds. Thanks!
posted by elder18 to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It really comes down to your fitness goals. The most complete and balanced form of training takes into account muscle strength, muscle endurance, cardiovascular fitness, and flexibility. If your general goal is to "get in shape," you'll want to incorporate all those elements. That's not to say you need to bulk up and learn to do the splits, but all four elements work in concert to provide optimum fitness.

If you'd like to focus more on cardio, there's nothing wrong with devoting a majority of your time to cardio machines, just don't cut out the other elements altogether.

/personal trainer
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 2:42 PM on March 28, 2009

I think any normal person's focus for weight training should be fat loss and increasing bone density. Especially since I'm a lady, I am not in it for the bulking up -- I am in it because I don't want osteoporosis when I'm 40, and I have a lot of body fat. My reasons for doing cardio at the gym in the winter is so that I can go hiking, ride my bike, etc in the summer without getting winded, and I'm sure you have similar goals. I started lifting weights in January, and I think it has improved my overall appearance more than cardio alone. However, I recently read a blog post that reports distance runners actually win out in the bone density category.

So I guess it all depends what your fitness goals are. Since you are a man, you have less concerns with bone loss as you age. I have been lifting 1-2x per week, and each session only takes 20-30 minutes, so it doesn't tack on a huge amount of time. You might give it a whirl and see how it affects your general fitness. I have the lady version of this book, I have recommended many times before.
posted by sararah at 3:35 PM on March 28, 2009

Response by poster: I'm really interested in keeping my heart healthy as I age. Oh, and I want to look good with my shirt off for my lady.

Do those count as fitness goals?
posted by elder18 at 3:37 PM on March 28, 2009


I believe the specific answer to your question is swimming or running.
posted by Rash at 4:32 PM on March 28, 2009

Yep, you should incorporate some weight training into your workout for balance. You can do this while still pursuing your cardio goals. Consider splitting your workout into 30 mins of cardio and 30 minutes of weights. For your weights, choose 2 exercises for each muscle group and do 3 sets of 10-12 reps each, with no more than 30 seconds of rest between sets. This gets you your 3 workouts a week but incorporates some weights and hits all the major muscle groups.

Something like this:

Chest + Quads + Abs
30 mins cardio (bike, treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster, etc.)

Back + Hamstrings + Calves
30 mins cardio (bike, treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster, etc.)

Biceps + Triceps + Shoulders + Abs
30 mins cardio (bike, treadmill, elliptical, stairmaster, etc.)
posted by charlesv at 5:01 PM on March 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

My 2 cents:

It took me 30 years to realize...do something functional (note the second paragraph) or your going to get bored and injured. Maybe something like this. Good luck.
posted by larry_darrell at 7:18 PM on March 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wow, no offense larry_darrel, but that Wikipedia article on Functional Training is terrible. I guess it is Wikipedia after all.
I would suggest something a lot simpler than a bodybuilding split routine. If you care mainly about cardio, then do cardio as your main mode of exercise. Add in some basic powerlifting exercises three times a week and your all set. Nothing intense needed but you could get quite a bit out of just doing Deadlifts, Squats, and Bench Press'.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:07 PM on March 28, 2009

I think if you want to look good with your shirt off for a lady, weight training is going to help you lose fat and tone up a lot more quickly than cardio alone. My lifting routine is pretty simple -- usually 5-6 exercises, 2 sets each, with the second set upping the weight so that I can barely finish the set.
posted by sararah at 9:34 PM on March 28, 2009

Eh depends how you define cardio health.

If we're talking in terms of VO2 max, the research is pretty clear interval training is more effective than cardio, eg the tabata study.

"Cardio" seems to to increase the volume of the left (and sometimes right) heart ventricle, increasing how much blood is pumped with each stroke, lowering the resting heart rate. "Intense" exercise will increase the thickness of the muscle in the ventricle walls, as some powerlifting studies have shown, allowing for full stroke volume under high blood pressure.

I don't think it's particularly clear if one adaptation is better for living longer than the other.

It is probably better to be strong and stay that way, than say gain muscle mass if you would like to live a long time. But on the other hand, victims of trauma/aids/cancer/burns and anorexics tend to die when they loose around 40% of their bodyweight, the more muscle you have the longer you can survive an "accident" or severe illness.
posted by zentrification at 1:49 AM on March 29, 2009

Can you do cardio exercise alone? Sure, up to a point. The most important thing with any sort of exercise routine, though, is to not cause yourself injury. As you gradually ramp up whatever form of cardio training you choose (did you notice I said "gradually"? that bit is important), the need for the aforementioned "balance" becomes more obvious.

Used this way, "balance" refers to not having the set of muscles/tendons/ligaments you use for your usual cardio workout become disproportionately strong compared to, say, the opposing muscles and tendons in your leg, or the stabilizing muscles in your core. As you subject yourself to more and more demanding exercise, the rest of your body needs to keep up to avoid hurting yourself.

Provided you pay very close attention to how everything you ask your body to do makes it feel, you'll likely notice the need for some balancing workouts in your routine... but this doesn't protect you from that misstep on your morning run, which stronger core muscles would have allowed you to recover from... without falling, tearing that ligament and putting you out of commission for two months.

Ymmv. Greatly. From week to week. Good luck with the new, healthier you.
posted by tigrrrlily at 7:28 AM on March 29, 2009

If you want to look nice, I would (respectfully) say to minimize repetitive cardiovascular exercise.

Where the idea that a running workout is better for the heart than a weight workout came from we will never know.

At 5'9" 155lbs you are going to be disappointed by your results if you run or swim. Your average chump at the gym looks better than many of the most elite runners, swimmers, cyclists, etc. for a reason- they aren't very good for building/maintaining muscle mass.

They are both great for heart rate, and swimming can be therapeutic, but opt for working out if your goals include looks.

Some argue that weightlifting isn't as heart healthy as running, but if you have had a focused workout before you know that your heart pumps just as hard.

For workout information, T-Nation is your new best friend.

You are probably looking for a 3 day circuit training full body workout.

If you try that and think that your heart isn't getting as much exercise as a run, you can slap me with a ping pong paddle. hard.
posted by bradly at 4:33 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

If your just starting I'd say maybe trying the http://hundredpushups.com/ or the situps site. They will get you going so when you go to the gym you don't feel embarrassed.

Biggest part of working out for me is that other people are watching and that its repetitive and boring. When I'm at home I can do simple exercises and then run outside or go for a bike ride. It doesn't take much to keep people healthy and you don't need to look like a body builder or train like one to build up a good looking body.

Goodluck :)
posted by peregrine81 at 6:21 PM on March 29, 2009

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