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Resistance training vs cardio for fitness

Resistance training vs cardio for fitness

You want to get fit and healthy, but don’t know whether to do cardio type workouts or resistance training? The debate for which one is better to do has raged on for many years and research has shown there are benefits for both for obtaining a healthy heart and lungs.

But, is it better to do one or the other for getting fit?

In a recent study in 2018 it was shown that lifting weights did more for your heart than cardio workouts could. The study also showed that lifting weights reduced body fat and the chances of diabetes as well as reducing long term blood pressure more than cardio only exercise did.

It is also no surprise that HIIT circuit sessions with weights or body weight exercises has been shown to burn more calories per minute than any other activity. This is due to the increased oxygen expenditure associated with lifting weights giving the heart and circulatory system a great workout. Plus resistance training will carry on burning calories for up to 48 hours post-workout. One other major advantage of doing resistance training is that you get to maintain and stop muscle loss or even build muscle, this is important, especially as we age.

Both cardio and resistance training have different affects on the heart and the cardio system in general. Despite cardio workouts having the name to suggest cardio system benefits, it has to be said that research has shown that other types of training can be equally and often more beneficial for your cardio system. When it comes to resistance training, it has shown to create a greater increase in blood flow throughout the body, especially to the limbs of the muscles being worked and can improve vascular function and health.

While long steady state cardio sessions do burn calories via body fat, it can also and will often breakdown muscle tissue. Less muscle means a reduced metabolic rate, which isn’t ideal for further reducing body fat.

However, both cardio and weight training can work synergistically well together and it is important to understand that both activities have benefits and that it may be better to do both. It would also be worth noting that some people will respond and be more comfortable/suited to doing either one or the other due to either their physical condition or abilities.

So, cardio is still important, as it can improve endurance, lung and heart health, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, lower bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol, improve your mood, help with body weight control, improve sleep and help improve your resistance training workouts by improving energy delivery, building capillaries and removing waste. While resistance training will build a stronger heart, lower your resting heart rate, burn body fat, gain strength and muscle mass, increase your metabolic rate, increase bone strength and density, reduce stress, help control blood sugar levels, improve body composition and shape and strengthen ligaments and tendons. There is of course some overlap between different types of training, but they offer slightly different ways and adaptions that can often work better done together.

All this works towards improving your overall health and fitness and both cardio and resistance training help us to do what we do in real life. For example, walking is cardio, getting up, walking up stairs, lifting shopping etc uses our muscles and many activities will utilize both your cardio system and muscles. Why not improve both?

If you would like to get started with resistance training, then please visit the workout section. If you don’t want to use weights, you can still train using your body weight, resistance bands, weight vests, weighted medicine balls etc, or even household items in place of weights.

Cardio/aerobic activities can be made up of swimming, running, jogging, cycling, walking and most active sports. If you don’t like doing cardio, then it has been shown that just 10 minutes per day of steady state cardio can still bring you great benefits.

If you are new to training, why not start with 20 minutes of weights 2 times per week and 10 minutes of steady state cardio 3 times per week. If you want you can also do 1 HIIT cardio session in place of one of the steady state cardio sessions. Take a look at my workout section to progress further as you increase your fitness level and strength. Seek medical advice before attempting strenuous physical exercise.

If you are pushed for time and want to combine resistance training and cardio in one workout session, I’d recommend a circuit style resistance training session 3 times per week. Or try something similar to my combo training.

Further reading:

Regardless of exercise type the benefits are definitely worth it, checkout ‘Why exercise is important’.

If you are interested in fat loss, why not check out my article about ‘Cardio vs resistance training for fat loss’.

You can also learn more about fitness workouts here.