Cardio or Strength Training: Which Exercise Type Is Better?

Yoga Abductor Squeeze - strength trainingExercising is important. You know that. However, what’s the best way to exercise?

The debate between cardio (or aerobic) exercise and strength (or weight) training has been making the rounds in recent years.

In the past, it was believed that only athletes and body builders needed to build muscle. However, more people are learning about the benefits of increasing your muscle mass.

So what should your workout routine include: cardio or strength training? Let’s take a look at each.

Benefits of Cardio Workouts

You have probably already heard that cardiovascular activities are good for you. But, are you aware of all of their benefits? Some of the benefits of cardio exercise, as outlined by Discovery Fit & Health, include:

  • Improved cardiovascular fitness (improved lung and heart functions)
  • Stress relief (cardio releases endorphins)
  • Increased stamina and reduced fatigue
  • Weight loss (most effective when combined with healthy diet)
  • Reduced contributing factors to various diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension
  • Extended life span
  • Improved muscle health

The above health benefits should motivate you to lace up your running shoes and start running. But wait – what about strength training?

Benefits of Strength Training

Some people – especially many women – avoid weight lifting or other strength training out of the fear that it will make their muscles too bulky. Others shy away from weight training because it may seem overwhelming. However, there are numerous health benefits to strength training, including:

  • Increased fat burning (creates a metabolic spike and increased muscle mass burns more calories)
  • Weight loss (most effective when combined with healthy diet)
  • Stress relief (endorphin release)
  • Improved body mechanics and balance
  • Rebuilding bone strength and muscle mass
  • Improved tone and appearance of body

Strength training and cardio workouts both have great benefits, but you should also be aware of the potential dangers associated with each form of exercise.

Potential Problems Associated with Cardio

Many aerobic exercises – like running and cycling – involve repetitive movements, which can put added strain on your body. This can cause various injuries, including:

  • Shin splints
  • Stress fractures
  • Heel spurs
  • Plantar fasciitis (often referred to as arch pain)
  • Pain and tightness in calf and Achilles tendon

In addition to the above injuries, cardio exercise can cause dehydration. Because you can lose a lot of sweat during aerobic exercise, your body may become dehydrated if you do not properly replenish your fluids and electrolytes.

Potential Problems Associated with Weight Training

Just like cardio workouts, strength training also has risks. According to Discovery Fit & Health, some of the potential problems include:

  • Greater risk of injury, requiring additional supervision during training
  • Possible back injuries if you do not have strong abdominal or back muscles or if you do not utilize back support
  • Difficult to remember all steps to properly and safely perform each exercise
  • Certain moves are complex and hard to perform

Bottom Line: It’s All about Balance

Despite the potential risks, it is important to exercise regularly. In fact, in most cases, the benefits outweigh the risks.

So where should you focus your activity – on cardio or on strength training?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should strive to have at least 150 minutes of exercise per week and it should be a combination of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities. The CDC recommends that each week should include two or more days of strength training that works all muscle groups.

Get the most out of your exercise program. Start incorporating both aerobic activity and strength training today!


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