Benefits of training both the arms and legs

It might seem pretty logical that it is important to train all the major muscle groups in the body. Many people do not train their whole body. For many assume getting out and walking everyday provides all the exercise they need to stay healthy. However that neglects the upper body and core muscles. The muscles of the upper body will tire rapidly when subjected to moderate to heavy upper body workloads such as shoveling, raking, lifting, and  overhead arm work. That is because there is no carry over from leg work to arm work, training your legs with walking won’t improve your arm endurance. Thus, it is important to train both.

Initially many with heart disease will find it is hard to do exercise that works both. Working both can also be an angina trigger depending on how much heart damage one has. It is something that you have to build up as tolerated.  It is advised to warm up just doing a leg activity for 5-10 minutes at light workloads, then progress to adding the arms into the work. If they tire, become heavy or you feel short of breath, then drop the arms and continue with legs only. Be alert for  the following signs of unstable angina:

  • unexpectedly becomes worse than usual at a given level of exertion
  • starts with lower levels of exertion
  • starts while resting
  • continues after stopping exercise or taking nitroglycerin medication

If symptoms don’t resolve then stop exercising. It is recommended to progress arm exercise by performing intermittent arm exercise. For instance if on the Schwinn Bike after warming up, then doing a few minutes at higher workloads, add the arms in for 1-5 minutes, then go back to legs only for up to 5 minutes, then add the arms back in. Building arm endurance as able. It is important to actively use the muscles don’t just let the ride along. Think push or pull!

If you are someone who walks for exercise you can work arms at the same time if you carry light weights and actively pump the arms, walk with ski poles.

If your have back issues or balance issues I recommend walking with ski poles. They help you to stand taller, force you to engage your arms with the walk, and you burn more calories on your walk.
Compared to regular walking, ski walking  involves applying force to the poles with each stride. Walking with ski poles uses more of their entire body (with greater intensity) and receive fitness building stimulation not present in normal walking for the chest, lats, triceps, biceps, shoulder, abdominals, spinal and other core muscles. This can produce up to a 46% increase in energy consumption compared to walking without poles. It also has been demonstrated to increase upper body muscle endurance by 38% in just twelve weeks. This extra muscle involvement may lead to enhancements over ordinary walking at equal paces such as:
  • increased overall strength and endurance in the core muscles and the entire upper body
  • significant increases in heart rate at a given pace
  • increasing vascular pathways and oxygen delivery efficiency
  • greater ease in climbing hills
  • burning more calories than in plain walking
  • improved balance and stability with use of the poles
  • significant un-weighting of hip, knee and ankle joints
  • provides density preserving stress to bones

This is my ski pole dealer.

What about walking with weights? 

If you want to walk with weights don’t use more than 1-2 lbs in your hands. Heavier weights tend to stress the neck and spine and are not recommended. Again don’t just hold the weights pump those arms, swing up to breast bone and back to hip. You engage the arms, you burn more calories.

Gym Equipment that will improve upper body endurance:

  • Stationary Bikes with upper body
  • Elliptical
  • Recumbent Steppers
  • Rowing Machines
  • Upper Body Ergometers
  • Dumbbells
  • Weight Machines
  • Kettle Bells                                                                                                                                                                                            

Take Classes that work upper body and core.

By taking fitness classes you mix up the workouts, work different muscle groups, prevents boredom,  keeps it fun, gives you alternate exercise for inclement weather. Personally November and April are the hardest months for me to stay motivated with outdoor exercise, as it is cold, dark and wet….not easy to motivate self. But that is another blog post.
  • Pilates
  • Yoga
  • Tia Chi
  • Karate
  • Belly Dancing
  • Zumba

7 thoughts on “Benefits of training both the arms and legs

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