Let’s pretend you are new to the fitness scene – where would you start your journey into exercise – cross-training, aerobics, sports, strength training, or anaerobic? There’s a lot of noise in the fitness industry around what the “ideal” workout regimen should be. Whether it’s a magic weight loss pill, a “10 day weight loss cleanse,” or a “30-day challenge”, the fitness options are endless for someone just starting out. To add to the confusion, people get territorial and endorphin-obsessed over workouts and studios, which is a psychological pull to continue doing that workout, even if it might not be the best possible option for the human body. Along with loyalty considerations, people choose workouts based on location, sociability, and amenities, which means the effectiveness of a workout is diluted by multiple factors in considering where to workout. Putting the biases aside,we’re going to explore which type of fitness is best for the human body based on science.
First, we’re going to outline the scientific research about aerobic vs. high intensity (anaerobic) training. Dr. Kenneth Cooper was deemed the father of the term “aerobic” in 1960 when he studied the benefits of lung training to uptake more oxygen in activities like jogging, swimming, and cycling. With lung training, he noticed improvements in cell regeneration, mental health, and heart pumping efficiency, which reduced his test participants’ resting heart rates.
At the time, Cooper likely didn’t realize he would start a cardio craze that would last for 50+ years.
What many cardio obsessors don’t know is, although aerobic exercise trains the lungs in oxygen uptake, training the heart is a small component of the overall metabolic system, which, when worked effectively, can build muscle and burn stored fat and sugars (i.e. carbs). Long story short, muscle burns fat, not your lungs. Don’t get us wrong, going on a long run can be great to build a foundation for quad & calf muscles and to clear your mind with an endorphin release; however, it’s not the most effective method to consistently build or even maintain muscles and burn fat.
The other side of fitness is high intensity exercise, which is rapid and deep level muscle fatigue to stimulate future muscle adaptations (growth) – i.e. sprinting, strength training, and Lagree Fitness. Biologically, our bodies are programmed to exert a lot of energy in a short period of time (high intensity), because thousands of years ago our ancestors needed to sprint or move a large boulder quickly. Our human ancestors were not going on long runs in Africa to improve their aerobic fitness levels, instead, they were sprinting and performing high intensity exercises in order to survive – oxygen uptake just happened to also be needed in those moments, since the lungs aren’t used to exerting so much oxygen in a short period of time.
Part of the human biology of survival is the breaking down of muscles in a short period of time + a period of healing time for the muscles to perform better the next time the body is faced with a similar challenge (think – running from a lion) – this is what we mean by muscle adaptation. If you want to maintain muscle, the body must always be challenged in exercise to continue to the adaptation cycle.
Another interesting thing to note about high intensity exercise is it also includes the aerobic benefit of oxygen uptake, so you’re essentially getting both types of exercise in a singular form of workout! With aging comes a natural tendency to lose muscle and be less vigorous in physical activity, which causes more muscle loss, so, if you want to keep your body living strong through your 90’s, you’re going to need a strong heart AND body of muscle to do it.
Another element to consider in a long term workout routine is how often you should be hitting the studio. If you stick to the science of anaerobic workouts, which are proven to also stimulate aerobic benefits effectively, you’ll discover that you can work out 3-4 times per week performing high intensity muscle training and get the same cardiovascular benefit as cross training with solely aerobic workouts such as low intensity jogging or cycling. So, you can spend less time on the track putting unnecessary impact on the joints, and more time building muscle with a high intensity workout like Lagree fitness and high intensity interval training on a bike, which has little to no impact on your joints. You should also add weight in each class to continuously and progressively overload the muscle and stimulate it to adapt and grow for it’s next challenge, which is the foundation of all high intensity exercise.
Want to explore how often you should be attending classes? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Madison @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Madison Ford, CORE40 SuperTrainer