The cardio versus strength training debate is one that just won’t die in the fitness world, especially among those who are aiming to shed body fat. Which among the two is more effective in losing those unwanted pounds? Let’s go over the benefits of strength training versus cardio and how the two compare.
The Cardio Obsession
For decades, the general belief — particularly among women — is that strict cardio is the best way to stay lean. And it’s a belief that has certainly taken hold and refuses to let go. Go to any gym and you’ll see rows of treadmills and ellipticals, all taken by eager athletes looking to drop a few pounds.
The conversation of whether or not cardio is the best approach to maintaining a lean physique goes a lot deeper than this. First, though, let’s go over the benefits of cardio.
The Benefits of Cardio
Here are just a few ways in which cardio can benefit your health.
Helps Burn Fat and Calories
One of the most popular reasons why people do cardio is to burn fat. Studies show that cardio can indeed burn a lot of calories, making it one avenue for fat loss.
The number of calories burned varies depending on the activity and the person’s body weight. For instance, one study shows that 30 minutes of low-impact aerobics burns around 210 calories for a 125-pound person, 260 calories for a 155-pound person, and 311 calories for a 185-pound person.
Strengthens the Heart
Want to improve your heart health? Do cardio! A 30-minute cardio workout four to five times a week is recommended to keep your heart strong and to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Think running, rowing, and swimming.
Increases Lung Capacity
The sedentary lifestyle negatively affects a person’s respiratory function. Doing aerobic exercises regularly can strengthen the muscles of respiration and improve lung capacity.
Improves Recovery Rate
Doing moderate cardio exercises like walking or jogging after a lifting session can reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It can also improve oxygen circulation in the bloodstream, which affects muscle building and repair.
The Rise of Strength Training
Strength training has been stepping more into the spotlight in recent years, keeping cardio on its toes. Strength training, also known as resistance training or weight training, is an exercise method which makes use of resistance — often in the form of barbells, bands, dumbbells, and kettlebells — to improve strength and promote muscle development.
Some examples of strength training workouts are powerlifting, bodybuilding, and Olympic weightlifting.
The Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training offers its own unique advantages.
Burns More Calories in the Long Run
Cardio burns a lot of calories during the time you’re performing the exercise — which is good! But, if you want to burn more — say, even if you’re sitting at your desk and doing office work — adding some strength training to your routine is a smart idea.
Why? Because strength training helps you build lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat does, even when you’re at rest. Thus, doing strength training is great for long-term calorie burn — and thus, fat loss.
Improves Muscle Strength
You utilize muscles whenever you’re moving — walking, opening doors, carrying shopping bags — and strengthening them can ease the motion. Moreover, strong muscles lead to healthier and stronger bones.
Reduces the Risk of Injuries
Strong muscles and strong bones can improve flexibility, mobility, and balance. This enables you to move better and also reduces the risk of injuries.
Prevents the Loss of Lean Muscle Mass Caused by Aging
Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, is considered natural. Aside from aging, this issue is also caused by poor lifestyle choices, like staying sedentary and not engaging in enough physical activity.
The good news is that its effects can be significantly minimized through strength training. If you want to age gracefully, preserve muscle mass, and retain your mobility and balance, executing a few weight exercises regularly can help.
Other Benefits of Cardio and Strength Training
Aside from fat loss and muscle gains, cardio and strength training are also good for a person’s mental and emotional health.
Stress in small doses can help a person perform better, but chronic stress can have the opposite effect. Furthermore, it can cause a number of problems like depression, anxiety, and irritability. One way you can prevent (or at least reduce) the effects of stress is through regular exercise.
Regular cardio or strength training can make you feel good — the confidence you get from having a physically fit and strong body, the feeling of accomplishment you get every time you complete a workout... All these contribute to a more positive outlook and improve a person’s self-esteem.
Exercise can reduce inflammation and insulin resistance. This affects the brain cells and as a result, improves memory and brain health.
Cardio and strength training doesn’t only regulate stress and anxiety but also helps a person sleep better, which can improve mood. As a matter of fact, one study confirms that exercise produces positive effects on a person’s mood.
Which Type of Training is the Most Effective?
Strength training versus cardio is bound to bring up some heated opinions. People often ask: “Which one is better for me?”
So, what’s the answer?
The answer is this: You need to find the balance that best suits you.
Not the simplest solution, we know, but because of the unique benefits cardio and strength training offer (or what they don’t offer), it’s most likely in your best interest to incorporate both into your fitness programming.
For example, if you spend an hour in the gym, this might mean doing squats and strict presses for a full-body weight training workout. Then, you can cap it off with box jumps (for both cardio and to practice explosiveness), and five to 10 minutes on the rower.
With programming like this, you get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Important to note, also, that the myth that cardio helps you lose more body fat than strength training is just that: a myth. If you really want to maintain a leaner physique, strength training will help you burn more calories long after you’ve finished working out.
Also bear in mind that for women, the common fear that strength training makes you “bulky” is completely unwarranted. Women don’t biologically have the amount of testosterone that men do, which is why they’re able to build so much more muscle, so much faster.
It’s best to create a program that suits your schedule and preference. The good news is it doesn’t have to be complicated. You can monitor your progress, track the calories you burn every minute (even when you’re not working out), and improve the efficiency of your workout easily with Atlas Wearables. Want to learn more about it?
Using Your Atlas Wearables Device During Cardio
You probably know by now that your Atlas Wearables watch will be your favorite training partner when it comes to lifting — but did you know it’s also an amazing tool for all of your cardio workouts?
The device is designed to help you achieve your goals, by tracking and measuring your pace, strides per minute, and distance. Looking to improve your mile run? Training for a half marathon? We’ve got you covered.
And for all of you HIIT fans out there, we didn’t forget about you. You can use your Atlas Wearables device to guide you in your AMRAP workouts. Track your rounds and reps and monitor your progress over time.
They say that variety is the spice of life, and the same goes for your fitness programming. Switch up your workouts to include both cardio and strength training, and your body will thank you for it.