For many people, exercise is a way to improve or maintain a certain body composition. Some people want to gain muscle, some want to burn off excess fat, and many want to look more “toned,” which is actually a result of both gaining muscle and losing fat.
Americans also realize that regular exercise is good for their long-term health and that it positively impacts their mood in the short term. A survey of over 2,000 participants found that 79% of Americans feel generally happier when they stick to a regular exercise routine.
The problem? 48% of participants in the same survey said they’re too busy with work and other obligations to exercise at all. Now, whether people are actually that busy or just wasting too much time scrolling through social media or binge-watching the Great British Baking Show is debatable. Still, the truth is that many people don’t exercise because they believe they don’t have enough time.
So then the question naturally becomes, if you don’t have much time to spare, how can you get the most out of a quick workout?
This is where it is important for us to note that the efficacy of the exercise you do should not be measured by the number of calories you burn during your workout. If you depend on your Apple Watch, FitBit, or any other wearable to determine the value of a workout, you will almost always gravitate towards a long cardiovascular effort like taking a spin class or going for a long run.
Should I do cardio everyday, or focus on building lean muscle?
Not that there is anything wrong with a spin class or a long run, but the problem we are trying to solve here is how to get the most out of your workout in the least amount of time.
This is why resistance training is so important, regardless of your fitness or general health goals. You may not burn the same amount of calories in a 20-minute session of squats, lunges, and pushups as you would by doing a one-hour session on the elliptical, but that doesn’t matter.
Multijoint movements like squatting, deadlifting, and pressing have immense positive effects on your health and body composition that go way beyond the calories burned while you actually do those exercises. These movements help build muscle and burn fat in ways that extend past the duration of your actual workout. Long cardiovascular efforts on the other hand may burn more calories at the moment, but those benefits pretty much stop the second your workout is over.
The key takeaway? Any exercise is better than no exercise. Even adding a daily walk can have immense benefits if you are currently not working out at all. But if you want to have a serious impact on your health and body composition in the least amount of time possible, resistance training and multijoint movements are a must.
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