Certain things in life just go together naturally. In the kitchen, peanut butter and jelly is a classic combination. Another such pairing is apple pie and ice cream. Other categories of life experience, such as human performance, prize the association of freedom and creativity. And in the field of health care, exercise and nutrition are two pillars of a solid foundation for long-term wellness and well-being.
The combination of exercise and nutrition makes intuitive sense, of course, but it’s useful and informative to drill deeper into this relationship. Regarding exercise, almost any type of this activity is beneficial.1 “Whatever works for you” is a time-honored principle in fitness. Swimming, running, bicycling, lifting weights, playing basketball, doing yoga, and walking all provide substantial benefit for people. What’s best is to do the things you like to do. Hidden beneath the surface, however, is a very interesting fact. If you combine certain types of exercise, specifically, if you do both strength-training activities and cardiovascular exercises during the course of a week, you’ll obtain enhanced results. Interestingly, both your strength and endurance will improve more rapidly compared to doing only one type of activity.
Beyond expedited improvement (and the great satisfaction many of us derive from lifting heavier weights in the gym and running faster on the track), improved strength and endurance are very closely linked to numerous important indicators of optimal health and well-being. It’s the combination that makes the difference.2,3
Similarly, good nutrition is not only a matter of making sure that every food group is represented in your daily diet. Choosing foods from the fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains, and dairy groups is the key first step in all nutritional programs that provide lasting value. But, again, there are hidden relationships. Combining proteins and carbohydrates at every meal causes improved digestion and improved absorption of all nutrients. By more efficiently breaking down the food you eat and more effectively absorbing valuable nutrients, you derive enhanced benefit from the calories you’re consuming. You gain more energy to use throughout the day and are able to perform at a higher level. As a result, your sleep is more restful and you wake up refreshed, ready to engage with whatever challenges the new day brings.
The principle behind the power of these various combinations is that of hybrid vigor. The concept is derived from studies of genetics in the 19th century in which it was discovered that cross-breeding often produced hardier plants. We, too, can harness this principle to become hardier ourselves, enabling us to enjoy long-term health, wellness, and well-being.
1Lackland DT, Voecks JH: Metabolic syndrome and hypertension: regular exercise as part of lifestyle management. Curr Hypertens Rep 2014 Nov;16(11):492. doi: 10.1007/s11906-014-0492-2
2Sigal RJ, el al: Effects of Aerobic Training, Resistance Training, or Both on Percentage Body Fat and Cardiometabolic Risk Markers in Obese Adolescents: The Healthy Eating Aerobic and Resistance Training in Youth Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Pediatr 2014 Sep 22. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.1392. [Epub ahead of print]
3Ho SS, et al: The effect of 12 weeks of aerobic, resistance or combination exercise training on cardiovascular risk factors in the overweight and obese in a randomized trial. BMC Public Health 2012 Aug 28;12:704. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-12-704
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