Many of my patients are surprised when they’re told they have some element of heart disease. They feel they’ve tried to eat healthy, which is good, but often they’ve neglected to put much effort into cardio or muscle strengthening exercise – which is not good. Let me tell you why this combo of exercise is so valuable to your health and how you can put more of it into your life.
Boost Your Health Insurance with Cardio/Strength Training
Most people don’t realize that your heart is simply a muscle that continuously contracts from electrical impulses to pump blood throughout your body. When that muscle is not strong enough to do its job, or arteries are clogged with plaque that narrows blood vessels, every organ of your body suffers from deficient blood supply. Your brain, eyes, and kidneys are, most often, the target organs that begin to show signs of diseases.
For example, your memory starts to get foggy, it’s more difficult for you to concentrate, your mood may be in the dumps most the time, you may have trouble sleeping; your eyesight starts to dim and you may start developing cataracts or other vision deteriorating conditions; your kidney function doesn’t work as well to clear toxins and release excess fluid from your body. As a result, blood pressure may start rising even further decreasing kidney function. It’s safe to say that adequate blood supply to these major organs is what starts the chain of deterioration.
But there is a simple way you can help prevent these conditions from getting a foot hold that will keep you out of the doctor’s office more, ultimately saving you money on your healthcare costs. It’s called cardio exercise. Cardio exercise is doing any type of aerobic exercise like walking, running, swimming, playing sports, working out on an elliptical machine, stationary bike, riding a bicycle outdoors, dancing, hiking, etc.
And no, you really can’t substitute Pilates or Yoga – which are great for stretching, balance, flexibility, toning and relaxation – for the heart strengthening power of cardio.
Cardio exercise needs to be done for a specific amount of time to build endurance for your heart and lungs as they work together to keep you alive. Cardio exercise is like weight lifting for your heart and lungs. It does what resistance training does for the rest of your body’s muscles – builds strength and endurance of your cardiac muscle and lung tissues.
Recent research out of the University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Costal Health Research Institute, has shown that seniors who do regular cardio and strength training exercise spend much less time in doctor’s office – and much less money on healthcare – than their non-cardio performing peers. The study followed 86 men and women – ages ranging from 70-80 – who were randomly assigned to do either cardio/strength training exercise or balance/toning type exercise for 6 months.
The researchers calculated the healthcare costs of all the participants throughout that time for a variety of issues and healthcare resources. Those participants who did the cardio routines had far less doctor office visits, lab tests, etc, than those who did only the balance-toning type exercise.
Another similar, prior study, published February 2014 in the Journal of Aging Research revealed that participants who did more cardio exercise had improved cognitive (thinking, memory, problem solving, concentration). The researchers of both studies concluded that cardio/strength-training exercise is much more cost-effective for healthcare systems and offer the most benefits for your health.
The Best Cardio and Strength-Training Routine
When I prescribe cardio/strength-training exercise programs to my patients, I suggest a schedule of 3 days on, 2 days off, that might look like this for you:
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Cardio exercise. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be the same type of exercise every day. In fact, I encourage you to mix things up to both prevent boredom for you and keep your body from getting too used to one routine. So, one day you might ride a stationary bike for 20 minutes at a comfortable, but moving pace, then do 10 minutes of 1 minute on, 1 minute off intense intervals at a high pace. The next cardio day you might do a fast-paced Zumba class for 30-60 minutes, or swim 20 laps in a standard-size gym pool, or do 20 minute, comfortably clipping pace on the elliptical then do 10 minutes of 1 minute on/off intense paced intervals. The next day you might ride your bike outside at a good, steady pace for 30 minutes (keep the cruising/sightseeing pace for your days off).
Tues/Thursday: Strength/Resistance Exercise. You really only need 2 sessions a week for strength/resistance exercise to build muscle strength, especially if you’re doing weight-bearing cardio the rest of the week. But, if you’d like to add another day, do another 20 minute set on one of your days off. Strength/Resistance exercise can consist of kettlebells, stationary circuit weight machines, free weights, or resistance bands. You can pick up some good routines on DVD for home use, or ask one of the exercise personnel at your gym to show you a good routine.
Saturday/Sunday off: You can still engage in physical activity like playing a game of golf or tennis, or taking a leisurely walk or bike ride. You can even save your yoga or Pilates balance/toning work for these days as well.
Now, if you only truly have 3 days a week to fit any structured exercise into your life, then you can piggyback your cardio with strength/resistance training on the same day. Just expect to spend at least an hour with your routine and to be a little more tired on those days than you would if you split your routines up on separate days.
And, despite what a lot of gym athletes will tell you, you really don’t need to do one or the other – cardio or strength/resistance training – before the other one. In fact, recent research out of the Academy of Finland has shown that it makes no difference which order you want to do your cardio or weight training exercise in and has no bearing whatsoever on the effectiveness of either. Just be sure to spend at least 10 minutes stretching in all directions to limber up for your routine.
Exercise is the cornerstone of good health at every age. But, especially as you get older, you need to be sure you’re getting enough cardio/muscle strengthening exercise. It not only helps build endurance for your heart and lungs, strengthens your muscles and bones to prevent falls and fractures, it also decreases your risk for diabetes, dementia, eye disease, and fights depression.
Ron Blankstein, M.D.
Performing Cardio, Resistance Training Order Doesn’t Matter, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140313092224.htm
Cardio and Weight Training Reduces Access To Healthcare in Seniors http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130514185340.htm