If you want to be as healthy as possible, you have to get a bit of daily exercise.
And to get the best results, it pays to use certain combinations of exercises – even if you don’t want to spend too much time and effort on the whole enterprise.
Now, I’m not talking about a hard-to-learn program that consumes a large chunk of your day. You reap most of the benefits it’s possible to get with a simple aerobic activity like brisk walking. But you magnify those benefits by adding a dash of strength training, too.
This combo could even save your life, since it improves your chances of recovery if you run into health problems that cause you to be hospitalized. Here’s how you can use this exercise combo to armor yourself against the worst results of a spell in the hospital. . .
Cardio’s Crucial Metabolic Hormone
If you had to choose between aerobic and strength training, my vote would go to the first. Studies show that aerobic exercise is uniquely beneficial. When you get out of your chair and move around enough to get your heart beating faster, you improve your metabolism.
How that happens: Research in Denmark shows that aerobic activity – running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, etc – encourages the body to make significant amounts of an important hormone known as FGF21.1
This hormone helps control blood sugar, increases the body’s efforts at burning body fat and helps keep your weight down.
The results of these Danish tests were so striking that researcher Christoffer Clemmensen commented, “FGF21’s potential as a drug against diabetes, obesity and similar metabolic disorders is currently being tested, so the fact that we are able to increase the production ourselves through (aerobic) training is interesting.”
Add Strength Training for Even Better Results
Of course, you don’t have to choose between aerobic and strength programs, and the point of this article is that you’re better off doing some of each.
Strength training produces benefits that complement the results of aerobics.
For instance, research at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center shows that when you’re hospitalized for critical illnesses like congestive heart failure, sepsis (a dangerous bacterial infection) and a variety of respiratory problems like severe pneumonia, being stronger and more mobile increases your chances of successful recovery.2
In this analysis, 575 older adults in their seventies were given strength tests, walking tests, balance tests and tests of their mobility.
When the researchers looked at what happened when some of these people became sick and were hospitalized, they found that those who were weaker and slower had longer hospital stays and were more likely to die within a year of hospitalization.
The Combo Takes off Weight, Too
If you are looking to lose weight, medical researchers also advise you to do both aerobic activity and strengthening exercises.
According to scientists at Wake Forest University, if you only do an exercise like walking while you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll lose more muscle tissue as you shed pounds than if you also get in some weight training.
In this 18-month study of 249 dieters in their sixties:3
- People lost the most body fat when they performed weight lifting exercises along with dieting – losing an average of 17 pounds of fat tissue.
- When people dieted and walked without weight training they lost, on average, four pounds of muscle. The weight-lifting dieters only lost about two pounds of muscle.
- Dieters who walked briskly – as opposed to a leisurely stroll — were able to accelerate extra loss of body fat.
Amid all this data from research into exercise, the most important thing to remember is this: The best advice is to at least do something. Walk around the block. Walk in a mall. Hike through a park. Keep some light weights in your house and do some occasional lifting. Doing any amount of physical activity beats the nothing that too many of us settle for.