By: Sydney Levine
In the second article of the Hol3health balance series, I will be discussing how having balance within your workout routine will reflect positive outcomes in your performance and overall health. This balance that I am speaking of refers to the incorporation of cardio, strength training, and flexibility, as well as including rest days into your workout regime. Today, it is really hard to know what exactly is effective when it comes to working out. Instagram and other social media influencers are sharing what they think works best or what workouts they suggest you follow in order to look “just like them” – it can be overwhelming and starts to get a bit confusing. The key is to figure out what works best for you and to strive for balance.
The benefits of exercise on your overall health and well-being are immense and undeniable. Exercise releases endorphins, boosting your mood and giving you more energy throughout your day (Team, 2020). When you start to incorporate regular exercise into your daily routine though, it’s important to make sure to include cardio, strength training, and stretching – as one helps to build endurance, the other to build strength, and the final one to build proper body movement and help with recovery. I feel as though, as women, we are bombarded with information, sources, and people emphasizing the importance of cardio, especially if we want to lose weight. First, I must address that we – both men and women – should not be exercising for the sole purpose to burn calories and lose weight. However, cardio is not, and should not, be the only form of exercise performed regardless of one’s specific goals. Exercise has real benefits on our bodies’ overall function. Regular exercise helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes as well as strengthen the heart and improve muscle function (Gorner & Reineke, 2020).
So, let’s talk about cardio. Cardio includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercises. Aerobic exercise involves activities that engage large muscle groups and require oxygen; examples are running, cycling, and kickboxing. As a result of aerobic exercise, you will benefit from lower blood pressure, regulation of your blood sugar, and an increase in the strength of your immune system (Reid et al., 2010). Recent studies have even shown that regular physical activity can have positive effects on your sleep quality (Reid et al., 2010). On the other hand, anaerobic exercise requires short bursts of energy. The main difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise is the use of oxygen – aerobic requires oxygen whereas anaerobic exercise does not. Instead, anaerobic exercise utilizes energy stored in our muscles, because these activities demand more energy than our aerobic system can produce (Kelly, 2019). High intensity interval training and fast paced workouts are just some examples of this type of exercise. Anaerobic training will allow your body to tolerate and eliminate lactic acid more effectively, preventing soreness and allowing you to continue your workout for longer. In addition, anaerobic exercise has shown to boost metabolism, increase lactic threshold, and protect your joints (Kelly, 2019). When we do cardio, it requires our muscles and heart to work harder. After a while our muscles will adapt and begin to handle even greater workloads which will eventually make regular activities seem easier (Team, 2020).
It is important to make sure to also include strength training into your workout routine, as it is another aspect crucial to the overall healthy maintenance of your body. Strength training, also known as resistance training, targets and exercises specific muscle groups (Liu et al., 2019). During strength training you want to build resistance. You can do this by adding more weight or increasing the number of reps for each exercise in order to gradually strengthen those muscles and ultimately get stronger. According to Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, strength training has been shown to decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke (Liu et al., 2019). When you combine both cardio and strength training, the results on your body and your overall health are far better than if you were to do only one. According to a Journal of Physical Education and Sport study, including both of these types of exercise in your routine will lead to improvement in balance, agility, abdominal strength, and the overall function of your body (Gorner & Reineke, 2020). There is a symbiotic interaction between endurance and strength training – you will not be able to maximize your endurance training without sufficient muscle strength (Gorner & Reineke, 2020). Being “fit” is not just about looking good, it is about having the ability to complete normal, daily tasks without pain or discomfort. Regular exercise will help make the activities you conduct during your day easier. Check out Sophia Erikson’s article for additional strength training benefits!
Stretching is a type of exercise that is really underrated in my opinion. Sometimes out of laziness I will only stretch for five minutes after my workout and call it a day, but you should really have an entire stretching routine – a crucial addition to any workout. Increasing your flexibility will lead to greater range of motion in your joints, allowing for deeper and easier movements throughout your normal workout. Furthermore, increased range of motion will help improve posture making it easier to sit and stand (Cronkleton, 2020). Not only this, but flexibility prevents injuries and contributes to less pain felt throughout your day. When our muscles are looser we will benefit from less body aches. Stretching is an exercise that works to help improve muscle imbalances. In order to correct these muscle imbalances, you have to work to strengthen the underactive muscles and stretch the overactive ones (Cronkleton, 2020). Therefore, having a balance of both strengthening your muscles, as I mentioned previously, and stretching your muscles can improve function and prevent injuries. Studies have shown that incorporating stretching and yoga into your workouts helps decrease blood pressure, lower back pain, delay muscle soreness, and improve balance and alignment (Polsgrove, Eggleston, & Lockyer, 2016).
Just like in every other aspect of our lives, balance is key to achieving a great exercise routine. A workout regime that includes cardio, strength training, and flexibility will allow your muscles to work more efficiently and improve your performance. Cardio will help condition your heart and lungs, strength training will help build and protect muscle mass, and flexibility will help stabilize and improve your overall physical performance. Whether you are just starting to work out or have been working out for ten years, I cannot stress enough that finding a balance between these types of exercises will help benefit your fitness journey and sustain a healthy, injury-free lifestyle.
Cronkleton, E. (2020, May 29). 6 Ways That Being Flexible Benefits Your Health. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-flexibility
Gorner, K., & Reineke, A. (2020). The influence of endurance and strength training on body composition and physical fitness in female students. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 2020(3). doi:10.7752/jpes.2020.s3272
Kelly, E. (2019, March 07). Want to Really Feel the Burn? Try Anaerobic Exercise! Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/anaerobic-exercise
Liu, Y., Lee, D., Li, Y., Zhu, W., Zhang, R., Sui, X., . . . Blair, S. N. (2019). Associations of Resistance Exercise with Cardiovascular Disease Morbidity and Mortality. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 51(3), 499-508. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000001822
Polsgrove, M., Eggleston, B., & Lockyer, R. (2016). Impact of 10-weeks of yoga practice on flexibility and balance of college athletes. International Journal of Yoga, 9(1), 27. doi:10.4103/0973-6131.171710
Reid, K. J., Baron, K. G., Lu, B., Naylor, E., Wolfe, L., & Zee, P. C. (2010). Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia. Sleep Medicine, 11(9), 934-940. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2010.04.014
Team, H. (2020, September 23). From Head to Toe: The Benefits of a Cardio Workout. Retrieved December 15, 2020, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/head-toe-benefits-cardio-workout-infographic/