Should you do your cardio before or after workout time? Like the most awkward Facebook relationship status of them all: it’s complicated.
Some people slip in their cardio before their workout, many do it after, and some do it smack in the middle. What matters is that you do it at all – studies have shown that aerobic exercise (meaning, any activity “with oxygen”) is the single most important component in training.
Continuous activities such as running, cycling, climbing, rowing or swimming at a moderate to high level, maintained for at least half-an-hour, three to seven days a week, deliver all kinds of benefits:
- It improves cardiovascular health, lessening the risk of heart disease.
- You get a buzzy mood-booster, thanks to feel-good chemicals (endorphins) triggered by heart-rate-increasing cardio. This positive feeling can last up to 24 hours, like a natural antidepressant.
- A 30-minute cardio session can burn hundreds of calories and aid in weight loss.
So now you know you should do cardio, the question is when? What will work best for you depends on your training goals. Meaning, there’s no easy anwser on the already famous debate: cardio before or after workout?
Cardio Before or After Workout?
To increase general performance:
Do cardio first and strength later
A recent study in Sports Medicine analysed the difference between doing cardio before or after workout time and its effects on endurance, strength and recovery. The results showed that a morning cardio session with strength training later on was best for improving your fitness. For example, if you’re doing HIIT in the morning, wait at least six hours before hitting the weights. It gives your muscles time to get back to full function, meaning you’re less likely to plateau, burn-out or injure yourself.
To increase strength, muscle mass or power:
Do weight training first and cardio after
It’s pretty straightforward: lifting is hard. You need all the energy you can muster to lift and shift weights without injuring yourself. When you’re sweaty and fatigued from a cardio session, your brain and body power is compromised and you’re unable to perform strength-building movements to your best ability. Science, as always, backs us up on this. Researchers found that cycling or running before a strength workout limited the number of weight-lifting reps exercisers could perform.
The absolute best case scenario? Perform cardio and weight training on different days.
There’s no reason you can’t do cardio and weights in the same workout session, or split a training session into two on the same day. But mixing up your weight training and cardio sessions throughout the week gives your body the space and energy to adapt to one specific way of moving at a time. It pretty much completely prevents any negative interaction between the two – giving your muscles time to mend after lifting or cardio and your body time to fully recover.
No matter which way you lay things out – doing cardio before or after workout time – the bottom line is that you do need to get a regular plan going. Maximise your exercise by working with one of our personal trainers – experts in progressive and playful functional fitness.