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Overall Wellness & the Benefits of Exercise

By Bruce Classen: Celebrity Fitness Trainer, best known as the winning red team trainer from eTV’s Biggest Loser South Africa in 2008.

Wellness is a multidimensional state of well-being pertaining to the dimensions of the human body physically, mentally, spiritually, psychologically and emotionally.

Exercise can help one to achieve this optimum wellness because of the positive consequence physical well-being has on the other dimensions of a human-being. There are different forms of exercise normally split into two types- Strength or resistance training and Cardio-vascular training. The two are normally chosen by groups of people who favour the one over the other and argue over which is more effective especially when it comes to losing weight or losing fat.

The truth is that both are equally as important and beneficial and work hand-in-hand to secure a healthy body.

Let us start by understanding the two individually then see how they should be treated.

Cardio-vascular training:

It is referred to as Aerobic exercise and requires the presence of oxygen as per the nature of the exercises- long duration (muscles need loads of oxygen to perform long bouts of exercise). These types of exercises normally include activities such as running, cycling and swimming. This is all about the ability or capacity of the heart and lungs and peripheral vascular system like arteries and veins to provide oxygen-rich and energy-filled blood to the muscles.

Cardio training helps increase oxygen capacity of the lungs and the efficiency of the heart. One can burn a lot of calories while doing cardio training and the energy consumption can last up to eight hours after cessation of the cardio bout. Cardio training has very little effect on muscle growth or body shaping.

Strength training or resistance training:

This is referred to as anaerobic training – the ability to perform in the absence of oxygen. These activities normally include weights or body weight and are way shorter in duration. This kind of activity stimulates muscle growth which in turn promotes a firm and well shaped body. It also is responsible for ongoing caloric consumption for up to 48 hours after the cessation of the exercise session due to muscle repair.
Comparison of Cardio and Strength training

Most fat oxidation occurs after exercise and not so much during training. Due to the nature of strength training great effort is required to perform the exercises therefore one can burn more energy in less the time that one would during cardio training. Cardio- elevates cortisol levels in the blood stream which is known to break down muscle.

Strength training also produces cortisol but also testosterone and growth hormone which are powerful muscle-building and fat-burning hormones which counteract cortisol. Provided one adhere to a well-balanced diet. Eating correctly wins you approximately 90% of the battle.

During strength training the body predominantly relies on glucose or glycogen energy. This will cause the body to up-regulate the muscle glycogen storing enzymes. This simply means that with strength training the body will send nutrients (food) to the muscles (where it can be used to perform the activity and build lean muscle tissue) during exercise and away from fat cells where they can be stored as body fat. This is definitely a better aspect than that of cardio exercise.

Cardio training promotes the increase of slow twitch muscle fibres in the body while strength training promotes the increase of fast twitch muscle fibres. The latter promotes hypertrophy(muscle growth) firming up the body and boosts the resting metabolic rate therefore increasing ones capacity to burn fat and not store it.

If one were to compare the body of a marathon runner who relies on slow twitch fibres for this aerobic or cardio activity to the body of a sprinter whose body relies on fast twitch muscle fibres then one will see that the sprinter is the one with the firm toned body and the marathon runner is the one who is skinny, flabby body with no muscle tone.

Exercise in general combining both cardio and strength training helps one resist hypokinetic diseases. It regulates blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol. It increases bone density which will help prevent osteoporosis. It increases mental vitality and help prevent stress and depression.

If one were to change the long periods of moderate intensity cardio training to high intensity interval training you save more time and get greater fitness and fat-burning results and leave one with more time to fit in some strength training.

One of the projects which I am working on at present, which is incorporating both cardio and strength training, is Boot Camp for moms and for kids in Durban.
We are running an adult boot camp, starting 1st November and running for a period of six weeks. We are also organising a children’s holiday Boot Camp, promoting health and wellness amongst our youth. This will be a five day boot camp running from 10 - 23 December, broken into Primary School age and High School age.
For more information, please visit