Cardio vs. Strength TrainingPosted: March 13, 2013
Be honest: Are you one of those people who heads to the gym, hops on a treadmill/elliptical/bike/stairclimber/[insert cardio equipment here] for 30 minutes, and heads home?
A lot of people are. Especially women.
And it’s a bummer.
Cardio is great for you; It promotes cardiovascular (heart) health, reduces blood pressure and cholesterol, decreases body fat, helps with depression, anxiety, and stress, and can even make you live longer. But when it comes to exercise, cardio is not everything. Sure, some people love to run, bike, or swim – and that is fantastic. Never would I ever say that they should give that up. But strength training adds so much to your overall health and fitness, and if your healthy enough, it’s a great thing to include as part of your routine.
This article from Women’s Health highlights some of the health benefits of strength training:
Lifting weights raises your metabolism for an hour after a workout because your body is trying hard to help your muscles recover. This means that afterwards, you’ll burn an extra 25% of the calories you just burned during your workout.
For every three pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories a day, just by living, because muscle takes more energy to sustain than fat does.
The repetitive nature of cardio puts serious pressure on your joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons, and everything in between, but strength training teaches your brain to allow muscle contractions that are quick enough to prevent or minimize injuries.
It seems that a lot of people get stuck in cardio ruts, running on the treadmill day after day bored out of their minds, but they don’t know what to do about it. Maybe they feel too weak to lift weights, or maybe they just don’t feel confident enough to try something new. A lot of people are nervous about lifting weights for the first time, and a major source of that anxiety, especially for women, is fear of the weight room itself. Often times, the perception is that weight rooms are full of big, muscley men, grunting and yelling and dropping heavy weights on the floor, and that’s not exactly an inviting environment for most women as it is, but the unfamiliar equipment can be just as intimidating.
My best tip to get you started here would be to start off slow. Do your research, talk to fitness professionals, and learn how to do some strength training moves before you jump right on in and end up feeling embarrassed or overwhelmed. As I discussed earlier this week, start with bodyweight exercises and then build up to incorporating weights into your routine.
After you really get going with your strength training, my second tip is to embrace the soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), where pain or discomfort is felt 24-72 hours after intense exercise or unaccustomed physical activity, is a real thing – and it can really hurt. But it means your body is reacting to a stressor – namely, the increased weight you are moving around – and all kinds of physiological and psychological processes are going on within the body. Trust me, you’ll learn to love it.
Clearly there are arguments for both sides as to whether cardio or strength training is a “better” approach to exercise. There will always be those people who advocate for one over the other entirely, but the bottom line is: you need to do both. There are distinct health benefits for each, and one without the other isn’t going to allow you to achieve nearly as much as a combination of the two together will. Like anything else, you need to take a balanced approach to get the maximum benefits.
What does your mix of cardio and strength look like?
Which is your favorite – cardio or strength? Mine is strength, by far!