The two most common types of exercise in a gym include cardiovascular exercise and weight training. Cardiovascular exercise is good for the heart and lungs, while the benefits of strength training include a lowered blood pressure, an increase in muscle mass, as well as heart and lung improvements. One of the most important aspects of exercise is when to do cardio and when to do weights. To achieve a more overall healthy body, we must incorporate both. Your goals will help determine when you should aim for the cardio machines and when you should aim for the strength training equipment. In this blog, we will look at when to do cardio and why it’s important!

Some people like to do cardio first thing in the morning. As soon as you wake up, you put on the running shoes and go. Running or any other type of cardiovascular exercise first thing in the morning can be a good way to burn extra calories, but you could also be burning muscle in the process. When we do any type of physical activity, we are burning calories from the foods we eat. If we train on an empty stomach, our bodies will enter what’s called a catabolic state, meaning that muscle will be burned for fuel because there are no food calories to be used. If you are going to go on a run or a bike ride first thing in the morning, make sure that you eat something very small before or just have a protein shake to get your body going.

If we are going to perform cardio and weight training during the same session, we want to make sure we understand our basic metabolic rate, or the number of calories we burn while our bodies are at rest. When we do cardio, we are only burning calories for the duration of the exercise. The muscles get tired, but they aren’t necessarily being broken down like with weight training. In other words, as soon as you get done with cardio, you are done burning calories for that particular exercise. When we do strength training, our muscle fibers tear and bleed. After each weight training session, your body for the next 24-48 hours is continuously burning calories because it has to heal itself up. When your body repairs itself, it takes energy for that to happen. Even if you are sitting on the couch, your body is still burning calories. If you perform cardio first, you will be tired and won’t be able to perform as well with the weights, which will lead to fewer calories being burned while your body is resting. If you perform cardio last, you won’t have to worry about that because the muscles are already broken down and the healing process has begun.

If your goals include more endurance, cardiovascular improvements, or are training for a specific event, I would do cardio first but still do strength training for the same amount of time. To run longer and harder, you need a strong physique, so still do strength training and aim for a 50/50 split of cardio training to weight training. If your goals include more strength, fat loss, or just better overall health, then do cardio last. Performing cardio at the end of a workout will also be considered a cool-down. A cool-down is very important and should be implemented into every workout, regardless of type. A cool-down will bring your heart rate down to a more homeostatic state and will help prevent blood pooling, or blood clots in the legs. Performing cardio at the end will also help burn a few extra calories and will not interfere with muscle.

Cardiovascular training is important to overall health, but when you perform it is more important. Always talk with your trainer if you are training for a specific event and need tips on the type of training to do! If you need tips on post-workout nutrition, refer to my past blog!