Physical Activity for a Healthy Lifestyle

Friday, October 25, 2013

Couple joggingThere is no doubt that physical activity is a must for a healthy body and lifestyle.  However, there is conflicting advice out there how to spend your time when exercising.  Should you work on muscular fitness, or cardiovascular fitness or a combination of the two?  How do you know which one is better?

We should first define what the different types of physical fitness there is.  Some people that you see have a lot of really defined muscles.  They probably spend the majority of their time in muscular fitness activities such as power activities such as lifting weights and muscular endurance type activities.  The other form of exercise very popular is cardiovascular activities (otherwise known as cardio).  These types of exercises come in the form of doing something that taxes the heart and lungs (such as running, stair climbing etc.).  

Cardiovascular activities can relate easily to endurance type activities.  Most marathon runners would spend most of their time taxing the heart and lungs.  They may try to incorporate some strength exercises to build up their muscular endurance, but primarily, they want to have an efficient gas tank so to speak, and sport specificity would dictate that if you want to be good at a specific sport, then you should train specifically for that sport (if you want to be a fast runner, then spend your time running fast).  

However, most people are trying to become physically fit.  So, we need to look at the factors of how to maintain a shape or how to lose weight.  Generally most of us have a few extra pounds.  If we can train our bodies to use the additional fat stores for energy, then we will have luck in losing weight.  If we would like for our bodies to be healthier we need to have a combination of both cardiovascular activities (for the heart and lungs) and then muscular systems (to increase our overall muscle mass and tone).  The more muscle that we have, the more calories muscle can burn then fat.  So, in essence, there is not one exercise that is the best.  It is dependent on your goals and what you would like to do.
However, most people would benefit from taxes the muscles as it builds more muscle mass.  You cannot convert fat to muscle.  That is a common myth.  You can only refine and build the muscle mass that you have.  When training, you will also need to attack the fat stores (mostly through cardiovascular and endurance exercise).  Even walking can help to lose weight.  If done for long enough, your body will naturally tap into the calories that can prolong exercise the longest.  

Time is also a factor.  If you only have 30 minutes, then it may be more beneficial to do some strength exercises (lifting weights, or walking stairs).  You can achieve more benefits from quality exercise with a goal.  If you have more time and could walk for example (or jog), then if you go long enough (generally after 30-45 minutes) then you will tap into the fat stores, and your body then will burn fat.

But one thing is certain, exercise will help you either in a cardiovascular (fat burning) or muscular (increase muscle mass and tone) way.  Varying the exercises will help both systems.