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When you first arrive at the gym, it's packed. Would you hop on the first free treadmill you saw? Or go to the gym, where there must be one or two that no one uses? More importantly, is there really a difference in the order in which you complete the components of your workout routine -- cardio, weight lifting, balance, flexibility exercises?
Lance Dallek, PhD, associate professor of physical education and exercise science at Western Colorado State University in Garnesen, Colo., studies the best times to exercise. He said: Yes, actually. "The order in which you exercise matters when you consider the physiological function of training," he said. "But based on individual priorities, one person's best order will be different from another." So how do you determine what workout sequence is right for you?
Use the goal-based guidelines below. How do you know if cardio or weight lifting should come first?
If you want to run faster: Do cardio first. In his study, Dallek found that for the same intensity and duration of exercise, the heart rates of exercisers who performed aerobic exercise late in their workout period were 12 times higher per minute than those who performed aerobic exercise first. In other words, exercise feels harder than it actually is. In a separate study, exercise scientists at James Cook University in Australia reported that even a single strength training session in the days following training may lower the performance of endurance athletes, particularly runners and cyclists.
If you want to lose weight: Do strength training first. Resistance training strengthens muscles. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest. "Since your resting metabolic rate accounts for the majority of your daily calorie consumption, if your goal is to lose weight, it makes sense to lose it first," Dallek said. In one study, 10 weeks of resistance training increased resting metabolic rate by 7 percent and reduced fat weight by nearly 4 pounds. But don't skip cardio altogether, because your cardio workouts will still burn more calories than strength training.
Want to be strong: Do strength training first. This may seem obvious, but the science behind it is interesting. Weightlifting is similar to sprinting -- it requires short periods of extreme effort -- and it requires your muscles to use energy other than oxygen to complete the exercise. Depending on your fitness level, your muscles (and heart) can only tolerate so much anaerobic training before they tire. So if you deplete your energy reserves during the aerobic part of your workout, you won't have as much energy to build strength on. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, exercisers who ran or biked before lifting weights had 20 percent fewer reps -- and they lost significant weight.
It's recommended that you use a BP doctor watch watch to set up your exercise regime