Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Trainers say more lifting, less cardio

By Patti Ghezzi

Cox News Service

September 11, 2007


Amy Jones used to think of a strenuous workout as a long run on the treadmill. Then she joined her husband at CrossFit, a gym he belongs to that stresses Olympic-style weightlifting and other strength moves over cardio.

Within a few sessions, she was hooked. "I'm more toned, I have more energy and more endurance," she said. "I've turned fat into muscle, and my clothes fit better."

She has no intention of returning to the treadmill.

Almost 40 years after Dr. Kenneth Cooper coined the term "aerobics," a concept that would later spawn a generation of spandex-clad cardio junkies, some trainers are steering their clients away from traditional cardio-intensive workouts and toward mostly strength moves.

The reasons: Many exercises that are good for the heart are hard on the joints. And cardio training without muscle conditioning can lead to loss of muscle and bone density, experts say.

Even Cooper now believes strength training is important. Some people -- those fighting aging and those with injuries -- benefit from more time on muscle conditioning than cardiovascular exercise, he said in an interview from his Texas clinic.

He cites Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, a onetime cardio king who shifted to more intense weight training. (Aikman said through a spokesman he does not think cardio is overrated, but he cut way back on his once daily 4-mile runs because he didn't want to further tax his body. He dropped body fat when he made the change, he said.)

Cooper does not believe cardio is a bad habit to be kicked. "If you go strictly muscular-skeletal conditioning, it's a major mistake," he said. "You'll wear out."

Cooper's belief is not shared by Jim Karas, author of "The Cardio-Free Diet." Karas believes cardio workouts overstress the body and work against those trying to lose weight.

Karas, who helped Diane Sawyer get svelte, experienced a revelation in the '80s when he was an aerobics instructor. He saw shocking amounts of excess flesh, even on those who came to class religiously. Then he looked in the sparsely populated weight room. "Everyone was so lean!" he said in an interview from his Chicago studio. Karas changed his approach and found he and his clients could keep weight off more easily with strength training rather than aerobics.

The book jacket of "The Cardio-Free Diet" promises "real results" with just 60 minutes of exercise a week. But Karas said he works out 40 minutes, five days a week. The added time in the gym is to relieve stress, he said. Karas walks most everywhere -- a form of cardiovascular exercise, he acknowledged, adding that he encourages clients to take stairs instead of elevators.

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Training tips

Cardio and strength training each have a place in a fit lifestyle. Here's what Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Texas doctor who coined the term "aerobics" in the late 1960s, advises his patients:

* In your 30s: 80 percent aerobic/20 percent muscular conditioning.

* 40s: 70 percent aerobics/30 percent muscular conditioning.

* 50s: 60 percent aerobics/40 percent muscular conditioning.

* 60s: 55 percent aerobics/45 percent muscular conditioning.

Cooper, 76, suggests shifting to even more strength work as you age.

-- Cox News Service

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

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