In recent years, a subtle battle seems to have been waged between those who focus most of their workouts on cardio and strength training enthusiasts. The latter group cites studies showing cardio is ineffective, while cardio lovers quote numerous studies touting the many health benefits of aerobic activity.
The truth is, both types of workouts have their strengths and weaknesses. Below is a breakdown of each.
- Mental benefits. Cardio elevates the brain’s serotonin levels, which is thought to reduce depression and feelings of stress.
- Burn more calories. While strength training burns its share of calories, too, cardio training usually involves steady, consistent exercise, where strength training incorporates quite a few breaks as weights and exercises are changed. For this reason, cardio workouts will usually burn more calories in a set period.
- Extreme cardio has been linked to cardiovascular problems in some studies. This is often seen in cases where individuals exercise to excess, as seen in marathon runners.
- Cardio increases appetite. The theory here is that as you burn calories, you’ll crave more and unless you’re careful, you may end up undoing all your progress.
Strength Training Pros
- Muscle burns fat. The benefits of strength training continue long after you’ve left the gym. Because muscle requires your body to exert more energy, you actually burn calories throughout the day.
- Long-term effects. Strength training has been found to have more long-term weight loss effects than cardio training.
Strength Training Cons
- Joint damage. If done improperly, strength training can damage joints, especially if a person doesn’t give the muscles time to repair between workouts.
- Less cardiovascular benefits. The health benefits of cardio have been stated repeatedly. Strength training isn’t thought to have the same benefits, although it’s hard to do strength training without getting your heart rate up, which is what provides those health benefits.
Which is better? In truth, the answer is that any exercise you do each day has significant health benefits. Most experts believe a combination of both is best, but if you’re doing an exercise regime you enjoy, you’re more likely to stick with it, so base your choice on the activities you enjoy doing.