If you eat the same food every day, even when healthy, you still may be missing important vitamins and minerals. The same is true when you stick with only one type of workout like strength training, running, spinning, or yoga. Your body soon will reach a plateau, which makes further improvement more difficult, and you increase your risk of repetitive injury. Most of all, you ignore other aspects for all-around fitness.
Put another way—you can fly up the stairs, but need help lifting something heavy.
While athletes need to work on specific areas due to her or his sports demands, the rest of us are better off building a well-rounded body. This does not mean you have to drop your spinning class or roll up your yoga mat for good. Instead, learn how to add to your workout-of-choice.
What you get: “As we age, we lose strength and eventually even activities like walking up the stairs and lifting a bag of groceries could become too difficult. Strength training can maintain your lean body mass, which will also help you maintain a healthy body weight,” says Sara Mahoney, Ph.D., assistant professor of exercise science at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. Even more, muscles activate the metabolism at rest since it’s the most energy consumer body tissue you have. Likewise, the stronger your muscles the stronger your bone mass and joints. This keeps osteoporosis, low back pain, and other bone-joint related issues at bay.
What you miss: “In general, strength training provides some cardio-respiratory benefits, but not the same as traditional cardio exercises, such as running, swimming, or cycling,” explains Pete McCall, exercise physiologist of the American Council on Exercise. And even though a study shows that keeping full range of motion while lifting weights may increase flexibility, McCall says muscles can lose the ability to lengthen and become tight.
Get more: If the idea of 30 minutes of cardio sounds daunting, McCall recommends circuit training—performing a number of exercises in a row before rest. Your heart will work hard to pump more oxygen and nutrients to the working muscles and thus provide a cardio benefit. “It is also important to save time for static stretching or self-myofascial release like foam roll or stick, after strength training to reduce tension in the muscles and restore to a normal resting length,” he says. Ideally, devote one full day to some type of cardio-respiratory training and do some flexibility training at the end of the workout.
What you get: Yoga provides many benefits for flexibility and resistance training. The isometric contractions and balance positions engage all of the muscles and can provide an effective overload, according to McCall. Plus, the combined works of flexibility and resistance training improves your balance, which helps reduce your risk of falling as you age.
What you miss: Yoga may work on your breathing and increase your heart rate response, but it will not be enough to improve your aerobic capacity. Also, the caloric burnout is not that much compared with other aerobic activities.
Get more: Add one to three days per week of dedicated cardio-respiratory training to improve aerobic capacity, heart health, and receive energy expenditure benefits, says McCall.
What you get: Running is the most cost-effective exercise. You only need a good pair of running shoes and a place to run. Running provides many benefits of cardio-respiratory fitness, such as a healthy heart and good circulatory system. It also reduced high cholesterol and controls weight. It is no surprise that runners have been shown to live longer.
What you miss: “Its strength training is limited to the leg muscles,” says McCall. Running also can reduce flexibility by creating tight hip and lower leg muscles.
Get more: Add whole body resistance trainings that target the major muscles once or twice a week. The idea is to focus on muscle endurance so anything around 15 reps, one to two sets, will provide great benefits. The idea that strength training will reduce your running performance is an old fashion myth. In fact, when done the right way, it decreases pressure on the joints and increases overall leg power and stamina. Also, pay attention to your core. “Core training can provide additional stability at the pelvis-lumbar spine-hip region, which can reduce common knee soreness issues and help with stride rate/frequency,” says McCall.
What you get: Spinning increases your aerobic capacity and heart strength. Regular aerobic exercise also reduces your chance for developing heart disease, type II diabetes, and obesity. A spinning class is often intense enough to burn a high number of calories and thus help you maintain a healthy weight, says Mahoney.
What you miss: Spinning strengths the legs, but almost none for the upper body musculature, according to McCall. Even if you add some weights in between the cycling, as some new programs offer, the resistance will not be enough to stimulate strength benefits. Also, cycling is among the sports that taxes the less the bone mass to help prevent osteoporosis.
Get more: Add two to three days a week of strength training—either through class or free weight workouts. It is important to target all major muscles (eight to 10 exercises) and complete one to three sets, advises McCall.
Marta Montenegro is an exercise physiologist, certified strength and conditioning coach and master trainer, who teaches as an adjunct professor at Florida International University. Marta has developed her own system of exercises used by professional athletes. Her personal website, martamontenegro.com, combines fitness, nutrition and health tips, exercise routines, recipes and the latest news to help you change your life but not your lifestyle. She was the founder of nationally awarded SOBeFiT magazine and the fitness DVD series Montenegro Method.