Cardio vs. Weights…Which one wins?

There is a lot of confusion in the fitness world when it comes to doing cardio versus doing heavy weight sessions.

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First of all, I just want to say that any exercise you are doing is good exercise! A lot of people like to start wars about this topic, and there is always someone who will think that what they are doing is “better” than what you may be doing. The truth is that when it comes to fitness, you should not be competing with other people, but instead competing with yourself in order to achieve whatever goals you may have. Exercise, no matter what type, is always better than doing nothing at all so I want to stress that right away. In this post, I will be going over the different benefits of doing strength training vs. cardio training, and explaining the exercise that I like to do to help achieve my personal goals. Everyone’s goals are different, and it is important to acknowledge that. I am just sharing what has worked for me personally, and what really matters is that you genuinely enjoy whatever fitness plan you partake in. You shouldn’t just do a form of exercise because everyone is doing it or it is the “cool” thing. Do it because you love it and it empowers you. This ensures that exercise will become an integral part of your life, not a chore that you dread. Alright, enough talk, let’s get into it.

BENEFITS OF CARDIO TRAINING:

It is recommend by the American College of Sports Medicine to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week, and vigorous cardio 20 minutes a day for three days a week. Cardio has several benefits, besides just being good for weight loss. What are some other benefits?

  1. Stronger heart and lungs: Cardio improves the muscles ability to draw oxygen from your blood. This means throughout everyday life, your heart wont have to work as hard to pump blood to your muscles. Your lungs also get a great workout from heavier breathing during cardio.
  2. Reduced stress: Cardio is a great, healthy way to relieve some stress and get your mind off things. Going on a jog or walk out in nature on a beautiful day can help you feel more centered and calm.
  3. Reduced risk of heart disease: Exercise helps to lower your blood pressure, and heart disease comes from having high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States.
  4. Better sleep: Cardio is considered a natural remedy for insomnia because it can decrease anxiety and depressive symptoms. Many studies have shown that individuals who do regular cardio sleep better than those who do not.
  5. More energy: It sounds strange, but doing cardio can actually boost your energy levels. As I mentioned before, when you do cardio, your heart gets stronger which means it doesn’t have to beat as hard to circulate blood when you are just relaxing or not doing anything. In addition, cardio exercise helps your body use oxygen more efficiently, meaning you will have better access to greater reserves of oxygen.  Cardio also gives you endorphins which lifts your mood and alleviates feelings of stress. This is known as the “runners high” where runners feel energetic and even euphoric after a long run.

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Pretty awesome, right? So, how does weightlifting compare in terms of the benefits it provides for your body?

BENEFITS OF WEIGHT LIFTING:

I have detailed the long list of benefits weightlifting provides on a previous post, but I will briefly run through them again.Weight lifting gives you ALL OF THE ABOVE BENEFITS and more. It’s great for your heart and lungs because if you lift heavy enough and push yourself hard enough, the heart will be working hard to pump blood and you will feel yourself breathing heavy as if you were on a long run. Weightlifting is also awesome for stress, better sleep, lowering blood pressure and giving you more energy post workout (since weight training also can release endorphins). What are some added benefits of weight training, not yet mentioned?

  1. Reduce risk of osteoporosis: Lifting weights builds stronger bones, which goes without saying. This in turn will reduce your risk of osteoporosis, which is degeneration of the bones. No, drinking milk is not the answer to keeping your bones strong!
  2. Improve posture and reduce back pain: Resistance training can definitely help your posture, but it is very important to ensure you have good posture while training. Neutral spine will ensure that the body is equally balanced while training and no added stress is placed on the spine. One example is doing rows and pulls, can help back pain and keeping your shoulders upright.
  3. Boosts your metabolism: Lifting weights is great for post-workout calorie burn, which long steady state cardio sessions do not provide. This means you will be burning calories hours after completing your workout which will turn you into a fat-burning machine.
  4. Increases flexibility: Resistance training with full range of motion exercises promotes flexibility. Researchers did a study with 25 college-age volunteers where participants were assigned to strength training or stretching programs. Both the tests at the end of flexibility and strength showed that they were both helped improve hamstring flexibility, and resistance training also helped with knee strength.
  5. Brain health: A recent study has shown that women aged 65 and 75 showed that twice weekly strength training can dramatically slow the disintegration of white brain matter. If younger people make lifting a habit, the brain is less likely to experience Alzheimer’s disease or other mental decline because resistance training boosts BDNF, which is a protein that helps build new brain cells.

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SO WHAT DO I PICK?

I don’t pick! I incorporate both kinds of training into my fitness routine. I like to do Functional fat-burning workouts which involve a blend of cardio, weights, and body-weight plyometric stuff. The reason why I don’t like to do just one kind of workout is because this causes your body to plateau-which basically means it won’t change. Doing different kinds of exercise helps shock the body and encourage fat loss and muscle gains.

If I had to pick one however, I would choose strength training because it has changed the shape of my body. I used to do cardio all of the time (an hour everyday), and I was skinny, but not strong. Lifting weights has led me to feel stronger, more confident, and build a better relationship with fitness. If you are accustomed to only doing cardio, I recommend starting slowly and incorporating light weights 1 to 2 times a week. As you progress, you can begin to lift heavier and more often.

I like to do lots of strength training, at least 3 to 4 times per week. This is not a set schedule though. I usually do not use machines for doing cardio; I’d rather go on a run or do HIIT with my own bodyweight. I have seen the best results training this way personally.

There are some days where I do not workout at all, some days I just do yoga, and some days I try something different, like boxing. If I did the same thing everyday, I would get bored, and I want to love fitness for the rest of my life. I love lifting heavy weights because it makes me feel empowered and I give credit to lifting heavier for seeing changes in my body, but doing cardio is also important because it will help shed excess fat and make you feel light and fantastic. So, incorporate both in anyway you can into your routine! It’s always better to get the best of both worlds.

Happy sweating!!! 🙂

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