Illustration for article titled Sorry, cardio doesn't count as leg dayPhoto: lzf (Shutterstock)

Cardio is important to our health in many ways, and at least that is what we should all strive for Minimum requirement of 75 to 150 minutes per week. If you enjoy running, biking, or hiking and do it more often, so much the better.

But we all need strength training too. Both is importantSo if you’re primarily a lifter, cardio should be a few times a week. and if all you want to do is run you should still hit the weights.

What if I run a lot?

This is where the dilemma comes in: if you want to spend more time on the trails and less time in the gym, can you use an exercise regimen that includes days for the upper and lower body and skip the lower body stuff entirely? Because when running (or cycling or hiking) the legs are used.

Unfortunately, not. To make your legs stronger, you need to adequately challenge them heavy weights or other suitable exercises to build strength. Running is pretty much the opposite of that: you take thousands of steps, but each one is just a small amount of work. To make matters worse, the better at running you are, the more efficient you are and the less work each of these steps really is.

How do cyclists get those big legs?

Well, often it is because they are training strength in addition to all of their miles on the bike. They also often train strength-specifically with their bikes as resistance, which could probably replace the leg day in part. But you or I chugging up a few hills on a ride are not the same type of workout.

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So, yes, you have to do a leg day if you want to be a healthy, well-rounded athlete. But here’s the good news: taking the time to exercise your legs will make you faster, stronger, and possibly even less prone to injury on your runs or rides.

So instead of an upper / lower split, consider full body weight training done twice a week. Or check out the rest of the Our tips for combining running and strength trainingthat you can adapt to any type of cardio that is your favorite.