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Is It Better to Do Cardio or Strength Training First?

February 16, 2017 by Normand Richard, Certified Exercise Physiologist

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Cardio or strength first, does it matter?

Everyone benefits from resistance training and aerobic exercise.

Resistance training – also called strength training or weight lifting – strengthens your muscles and bones and raises your metabolism. Lifting weights and doing body weight exercises, house chores (gardening, moving heavy boxes), or labour (laying bricks, carrying shingles) are all forms of resistance training.

Aerobic exercise on the other hand, strengthens your heart, improves your blood vessel health, and gives you more energy. Doing cardio is the same as aerobic exercise. It could be brisk walking, hiking in the mountains, riding your bike, or even dancing.

A common question I get from callers at HealthLink BC is, “When I am at the gym, should I start with aerobic or resistance training?” The answer is - it depends.

If you’re simply looking to be physically active, have fun and feel good, the order doesn’t matter. I usually say start with the aerobic session as it can act as warm-up for the resistance session. If you start with resistance training, make sure you do a warm-up before you begin.

If you have specific performance goals, there are a few things to keep in mind. Your sport of choice should dictate what activity you focus on; run if you’re a runner or lift weights if you’re a weight lifter. However, doing both aerobic and resistance training can benefit your overall performance and help prevent injuries.

Different types of exercise cause different adaptions in your body. If you mostly do aerobic exercise, some of the adaptations your body will do include increase levels of proteins that help you use energy more efficiently. If you mostly resistance train, part of the adaption process includes increasing the activity of proteins that help with muscle growth. So, to get the most benefit from doing both aerobic and resistance, the key is having enough time between the two different workouts to allow for each adaptation to happen.

An example of what this could look like if you are working on your endurance: do a high intensity aerobic session in the morning, eat a balanced meal within 60 minutes afterwards, and wait three to five hours before doing a strength training session.

If you would like to know how resistance training could improve your performance or have questions about your fitness routine, give us a call at 8-1-1. The Qualified Exercise Professionals at HealthLink BC can help you!


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