In order to achieve complete physical fitness and effectively manage weight, it is necessary to combine aerobic or cardiovascular exercises with anaerobic exercises particularly muscle-building routines.
Aerobic exercises such as running, swimming, cycling, and many others strengthen the heart and lungs. Weight training tones the entire muscle structure of the body. Done together, these exercise programs provide the most effective overall fitness results.
The benefits of cardiovascular exercise are well known. Consequently, it is the most preferred exercise group among health and exercise enthusiasts of varying aptitude and experience. However, many people assume that when it comes to losing or maintaining ideal weight, aerobic exercises should be the only focus of their exercise programs. This notion results mostly from the impression that muscle building or weight resistance exercises are only for bodybuilders whose aim is mostly to reach their maximum gain in terms of muscle size, sometimes to the detriment of flexibility, cardiovascular endurance, and even aesthetic appeal.
Though in many cases this assumption may be observed to be true, this is a somewhat narrow understanding of the benefits of weight training. When it comes to the specific goal of reducing unwanted fat through exercise, weight resistance training should not be ignored or considered an inferior alternative to cardiovascular exercises.
The truth is, while aerobic exercises burn plenty of calories during a given workout, it stops doing so when the person ends the workout. In contrast, though a weight training routine burns fewer calories during the exercises, it causes the body to continue burning calories long after the individual completes the workout, even when the body is at rest. In other words, the fat-burning, weight decreasing benefit of lifting weights cannot be denied.
There are two general forms of weight training workouts. One is designed to build muscle mass and strength. This is done by lifting heavier weights at lower repetitions (the number of times the weight is lifted) and doing more compound exercises (exercises with weights that involve numerous joints and muscle groups in one movement). The other is meant to tone muscles and increase endurance. It is accomplished by emphasizing lighter weights at higher numbers of repetitions during exercise and including more isolated movements (exercises that target specific body parts) during the workout.
An ideal workout, not only in terms of losing weight but also as a means to achieve optimal physical fitness, is one where exercises from both general types (aerobic and anaerobic) are incorporated in a single workout routine or alternated among different workout sessions. For example, one might train with weights three times a week on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, and engage in an aerobic routine (running, jogging, swimming)every Tuesday and Thursday. This results in the constant burning of calories leading to weight loss.