Should You Perform Strength Or Cardio First?

New research breaks down how to structure your workout for the best results.

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Stat of the week

  • Should you do strength or cardio first?

  • How to eat your way to lower stress

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Stat of the Week: 14 years

On Wednesday, we shared how strength training and cardio can have life-saving benefits. While many factors beyond your control influence longevity, five factors appear to have the biggest impact on how long you live. 

Research on 34 years of data found that women can improve their longevity by up to 14 years and men by up to 12 years by focusing on five behaviors. The behaviors include:

  • 30 minutes of daily movement

  • Limited alcohol

  • A lower percentage of body fat

  • Avoidance of smoking

  • Eating a nutritious diet

And you don’t need to do it all at once. The research suggests even a couple of changes can add years to your life. Checking off four of the five behaviors leads to an average of six more years without cancer, almost nine more years free of heart issues, and ten years without diabetes.

Cardio or Strength First?

Does the order of your workout matter? Yes — but it depends on what you want to achieve.

Research suggests performing resistance training before cardio is best to maximize your strength. 

The scientists focused on 19 studies where participants performed strength and cardio during the same workout and analyzed VO2 max and lower-body strength. The studies lasted from 8 to 24 weeks, and the people exercised two to three times per week. 

When cardio was done before weights — especially in the longer-term studies — there was a significant dropoff in strength. But here’s the catch: when VO2 max was the goal, the exercise order did not matter. That means your aerobic capacity might not be affected if you do weights before cardio compared to starting with cardio. 

In general, the order of your exercise depends on your priorities and goals. If you want to improve endurance, start with cardio. If you want to boost strength, begin with resistance training. If you have limited time, you can do both in the same workout and make great progress, but the prioritized exercises will improve faster. 

Eat Your Way To Lower Stress

Normally, we wouldn’t recommend eating your feelings. But there are exceptions to every rule. 

Research suggests that eating more fruits and vegetables might help you stress less. 

While it’s often hard to draw conclusions from association studies, the scientists did a good job determining whether diet influences how you feel. In the study, participants completed questionnaires focusing on four measurements of stress: worries (anxiety and frustration), tension (lack of relaxation), demand (feeling of overload), and lack of joy. And they controlled for variables that might increase stress, such as health status, activity levels, relationship status, and smoking.

Regardless of the scenario, people who ate more fruits and vegetables perceived their lives as less stressful on all four measurements, which made them feel less stressed and happier overall. 

Eating fruits and vegetables appears to provide a mental boost, and those who had at least five servings combined per day had up to 36 percent less stress than those who didn’t consume fruits and vegetables. 

Does the fruit make you feel better, or does eating more nutritious foods make you feel better about your life? 

We can’t say for certain based on the study. But managing stress is often more about your perception than reality and not ignoring your pain or frustration.

When life hits hard, it’s easy for you to stray from behaviors that are good for you, which can make you spiral, feel worse physically, and then struggle more mentally. If life is kicking you with both feet, remember to focus on what you control and prioritize your health, and that decision could help reduce how stressed you feel, even if life isn’t any less stressful.

Thanks again for joining us for another week. If you’re at the Arnold Classic this weekend and see any of us, tell us you’re a member of the positive corner of the internet! We know thousands of you are supposed to be there. Here’s wishing you all a fantastic weekend!

-Arnold, Adam, and Daniel

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell