There is so much information out in the world about exercise. The different types, intensities, time frames, nuances and much more! So what should we do? Well it all depends on the goal you have, but for the general population, a blend is often the best approach (but also lean towards what you actually enjoy). For the sake of this article and not writing an essay, lets focus on cardio vs. resistance training. So what are the benefits and which should we do more of? Let’s start with cardio: The easiest to execute of the two forms, cardio is mostly about the benefits to the cardio-vascular system (lungs and heart) as well as the burning of energy.
- Improved circulation of oxygen throughout the body via the bloodstream.
- Increased lung capacity, meaning that the simple process of breathing becomes easier, and with progression in intensity of cardio-vascular exercise over time your bodies ability to perform under stress will also be improved dramatically, for example how far you can run or swim.
- Reduced blood pressure and risk of heart issues. The heart is a muscle and like any muscle the more it is used/exercised, the stronger it gets. Consistent cardio based exercise has been shown to increase heart health and reduce the risk of increased blood pressure and heart attacks. Just going for walks multiple times in a week if you are currently inactive is a great step! Excuse the pun.
- Calorie burning. This is a big part of weight loss and management, while calorie burning is one piece of the puzzle of fat loss, it is certainly a piece we are in control of. Getting in consistent cardio based exercise, whether it is low to moderate intensity that may go for as long as an hour+ or high intensity that could be 30mins, cardio is definitely a great tool to have at your disposable to burn a few calories you otherwise would not.
- Mental health. A hot topic that has really gained attention over the past few years. And the good news is that any form of exercise will have a positive impact on mental health. Going for walk on a sunny day is quite often prescribed but mental health practitioners now.
Enough said. So that’s a snapshot into cardio, what about resistance training?
- Great for the muscles and soft tissue! Unlike cardio, resistance training (weights) will directly strengthening and shape muscles, but also help grow them (if your diet is supporting this). And the benefits also extend out to strengthening our ligaments and tendons, which will support joint health as well.
- Shaping. As mentioned in the last point, weight training is a big part in the shape change of our bodies, so if your looking to have an hour glass figure or shapely legs, broader shoulders or just have some definition, weights is your go to for that. And not it will NOT make you bulky, that’s a whole other conversation.
- Healthy metabolism. This could be a big point so we will try to keep this short. Your metabolism is what burns energy at rest. The faster it is, the more you burn. Weight training doesn’t burn as much calories while your exercising as cardio can, HOWEVER, the post exercise affect on the metabolism is higher for LONGER. Meaning, your bodies ability to burn calories at rest for a period of time post exercise is greater after weights than it is cardio. Pretty cool.
- Energy storage. The fuel source for weight training is primarily carbs that have been stored in our muscles, so when we weight train we burn some this stored energy and free up room for more. And the more muscle you have, the more carbs you can eat and store! This also doesn’t mean you need to look like a bodybuilder either.
- Strength. Consistent weight training over a period of time will 100% make you stronger. This can make things easier around the house, office and everyday life.
- Bone density and balance. Studies have proven time and time again that safe and appropriate weight training will increase bone density and our balance over time, this becomes particular important as we get older.
- Mental health- same as cardio! It makes you feel good.
So, there is clearly benefits to cardio and weights and some even transcend both! Which is best? What should we do? Simple, do BOTH! The benefits to each are too good and too important to miss one over the other. If you do have a preference of one then lean towards that but please don’t forget about the other. For example, I personally have a few clients who primarily train for running events, some for half marathon and marathons, yet we still do 2 weights sessions per week to make sure we are covering the bases of energy storage, soft tissue health and bone density. Just as I have clients who train to gain muscle, but they still do an element of cardio even its just walk 4x per week to make sure we are not completely ignoring their cardio vascular health. As humans we need a balance of both to be at our best now and in the future.