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True or False? It is better to do your cardio workout before lifting weights?

Posted on August 22, 2017


I’VE BEEN TEACHING and working in the area of fitness and wellness for nearly 20 years. One of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “Should I do my cardio workout before or after I lift weights?”

Current exercise guidelines/recommendations encourage us to engage in both cardiovascular exercise and resistance training, so it is not surprising that this question arises so frequently. My response has changed little over the past 20 years and usually begins with, “It depends …”

I believe the order in which you perform your exercises should depend on your goals. For example, if your goal is to improve cardiorespiratory fitness, you are likely better off starting with your cardio workout. If your goal is to get stronger or increase the size of your muscles, then lifting should probably come first. If your goal is simply to be active and improve your overall health, it probably doesn’t matter if you hit the weights or the track first. I personally like to mix up the order of my workouts, which helps me overcome the boredom factor.

When we exercise, our muscles use stored energy called glycogen. If we do cardio exercises first, we will have less energy available for our lifting routine, and vice versa. Plus it is harder to get in a great cardio or weight-training session if we are already tired or fatigued. Imagine trying to do heavy squats after a five-mile run or running five miles after doing heavy squats. I cringe just thinking about it!

For most of us, the order really doesn’t matter. The truth is that the majority of people don’t meet even the minimal recommendations with regard to how often they should be lifting weights or doing aerobic exercise. I see people too often get stressed about questions such as: What is the best order for my exercises? Which machine will give me the best workout? Exactly how many sets and repetitions should I be doing? Find a routine you enjoy and will stick with.

A fair amount of research has been conducted on the topic of concur- rent training. Leveritt et al. (1999) published a review article in the journal Sports Medicine in which they examined 86 previously published articles on the topic. The authors concluded that research investigating the neuromuscular adaptations and performance improvements associated with concurrent strength and endurance training has produced inconsistent results. Some studies in which cardio exercises were performed before weights limited improvements in strength and power development in research participants. However, results from other studies have not shown  this limitation. If you are a high-level athlete trying to improve your overall fitness or performance level, you might consider doing aerobic exercises and weight training sessions on separate days. On the other hand, if you are like me and are exercising for general health, don’t stress over the order of your exercises. I’m a big fan of the KISS principle—Keep It Simple, Stupid—especially when it comes to our workout routines. To  me, consistency is what’s vital, not which type of exercise you perform first.

Leveritt, M., Abernethy, P., Barry, B., and Logan, P. Concurrent strength and endurance training: A review. Sports Medicine (1999), Vol 28, pp. 413-427.

True or False: Riding a bike can increase your risk for erectile dysfunction?

Posted on August 14, 2017

True.                   myth-9-bike-seat

MY WIFE AND I are what I consider moderate recreational cyclists. Years ago when we were first married—and a bit more adventurous—we did a fair amount of mountain biking in the hills of upstate New York and the beautiful western slopes of Colorado.

Now we enjoy hitting the bike trail near our house once or twice a week and going on round-trip rides that usually range from 15–20 miles. Although we are not cycling fanatics, I have to admit that I had a slight panic attack when I first started researching this topic, wondering if our cycling outings were putting me at risk for erectile dysfunction, commonly referred to as ED. Most fitness and wellness experts confirm that riding a bike is great exercise. Bike riding can help us burn calories and maintain our optimal weight, help maintain or improve our cardiorespiratory fitness level, and help tone and firm muscles in our lower body and midsection.

Riding a bike can also have a positive impact on the environment (decreased emissions from vehicles, for example) and on your wallet (less money spent on gas and parking). Some people even choose to not own a car, making their bicycle their sole means of transportation. I say great for them!

Although cycling is a wonderful form of exercise that is generally considered safe, there are risks associated with cycling just as there are with most forms of physically activity. Riders sometimes incur non-traumatic injuries to the knee, neck, shoulder, wrist, hand and back. Current research also sug gests that cycling might put some male riders at risk for ED.

Simply defined, ED is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection during sexual activity. So what is it about cycling that could lead to ED? Cycling might lead to a reduction in blood and nerve supply in the perineal region (area between the scrotum and anus), resulting in reduced blood flow and sensation to the penis. Roughly 5% of cyclists suffer from ED; however, this number could be higher, as some men might be reluctant or embarrassed to talk about the condition.

Sommer and colleagues (2010) published a literature review in the Journal of Sexual Medicine on this topic, where the authors state, “There is a significant relationship between cycling-induced perineal compression leading to vascular, endothelial, and neurogenic dysfunction in men and the development of ED.”

So as you spend more time on your bike, your risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction increases. However, the authors also state that they strongly recommend engaging in moderate, safe and reasonable bike  riding.

I could not find a specific recommendation for what is considered a safe number of daily or weekly hours for male bicycle riders. A lot depends on differences in equipment, anatomy, etc.

I would say, however, that if you find your cycling leading to tingling, numbness, or loss of sensation in the perineal region or a change in sexual function, it would be wise to back off a bit.

Meanwhile, you might consider trying padded shorts; standing  every 5–10 minutes while cycling to promote blood flow; keeping your seat level, or even tilting the seat front down just a bit; going to a bike shop and getting properly fitted for your bike; or switching to a recumbent  bike.

As with most things I write and speak about related to health, I think moderation is the key—and so is common sense. I still consider cycling a safe and effective form of physical activity, and I plan on continuing to hit the bike trail with my wife once or twice a week.

Sommer, F., Goldstein, I., and Beate-Korda, J. Bicycle riding and erectile dysfunction: A review. Journal of Sexual Medicine (2010), Vol 7, pp. 2346-2358