Our ability to perform daily tasks peaks at age 30 and begins to decline thereafter (U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion 2008). Considering the national median age of Americans is 36.8 years old (United States Census Bureau 2010), significantly more than half of people reading this column (including this writer) are on the down side of peak performance.
If you’re already doing your thing to hold on to health and fitness, great! You may be in the beginning stages of changing your lifestyle to include regular exercise and healthier menu choices. If you’re even thinking about it, that’s a step in the right direction! We’ll talk about healthy menu choices later, for now, let’s address the two basic sweat-inducing activities we call exercise: Cardiovascular and Resistance.
What’s the best combination of cardio and weights? That’s a tricky question and the answer differs depending on age, gender, previous activity and current fitness level (among other factors). A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Hunter, GR et al. 2013) looked at a group of women aged 60-74 who were nonsmokers and exercised less than once per week. The study concluded that both cardio and resistance training once per week (on separate days), does just as well in the first 16 weeks of exercise as working out more often. After the first 16 weeks of regular exercise, however, two days per week of each was needed to continue gaining in health benefits. Also, the 2+2 days group saw not only improvement in muscular strength, body composition and cardiovascular fitness, but also significant increases in total daily energy expenditure (TEE), non-exercise activity related energy expenditure (or thermo-genesis i.e. NEAT), AND free living activity related energy expenditure (AEE), all of which are related to better weight management and glucose metabolism, and help to improve the body’s responses to infection, inflammation and trauma. In the study, subjects engaged in 3+3 days complained that six days per week was excessive, suggesting that long term adherence to such a protocol might be difficult for some.
So there you have it- at the very beginning, start with one day per week cardiovascular and one day resistance training. After 16 weeks of regularly working and gradually increasing your length and intensity of the workout(s), increase to two days each type, each week. Progress slowly and with great care. I personally, try to work out six days per week. When you get to where four days a week isn’t enough to fill your craving for sweat, you’ve probably got a handle on your personal fitness, or you’re on your way. Way to go!
Sally Windham is an ACE Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor. She lives in Blanco, and trains clients locally at Gem of the Hills and in Spring Branch at Family Fitness. Send your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org