Cardio vs lifting is one of the most eternal and epic battles. Where do you belong in this battle? Are you team cardio or team lifting? Fitness lovers will never get tired of arguing about which type of exercise is better. Whether you are new to fitness and working out or a long-time gym lover, I bet you have questioned which kind of exercise is better and whether you really need to torture yourself running on the treadmill (or doing push-ups if you are on team cardio). This article will help you to make the right decision for yourself and find the answer to the eternal question of what type of exercise is better.
What is cardio and its benefits?
Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, is the type of exercise that primarily puts stress on our cardiovascular system by increasing our heart rate and breathing. You are wrong if you think cardio must be running or cycling; it can also be swimming, dancing, hiking, and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) workouts. Cardio is also referred to as an aerobic activity because whenever we perform this type of activity, our body requires a constant supply of oxygen in order to efficiently get the energy to finish our hike to the top of the mountain. The oxygen is needed to break up glucose and fat into ATP, the primary source of energy for our body cells.
The primary benefit of cardio exercises is that it helps to keep your cardiovascular system healthy and minimizes the risks of heart disease. It also shouldn’t surprise you that cardio exercises increase your endurance and aerobic capacity (how much oxygen your blood gets and uses). But what might surprise you is that it also promotes better immune system functioning and cognitive abilities. Finally, you burn more calories during cardio workouts.
What about lifting or strength training?
Lifting or strength training is also known as resistance training. It includes such activities as lifting barbells, dumbbells, and kettlebells, doing push-ups or squats, and using lifting machines and resistance bands. Unlike cardio, this type of workout primarily puts stress on the muscular system and involves short bursts of intense activity that doesn’t require oxygen to get energy. Therefore, it is classified as an anaerobic activity. Lifting doesn’t require oxygen because our body uses stored energy, such as ATP and glycogen (stored in our muscles and liver). This process is not as efficient compared to aerobic respiration (used during cardio), and it is used when short bursts of energy are required, such as when we lift weights or do push-ups.
Among the main benefits of strength training is muscle building, which attracts more people to this type of workout. However, it also increases bone density and eases pressure on your joints because of stronger muscles, thus helping to prevent injuries. Interestingly, resistance training promotes better metabolism throughout the day, even after your workout – in other words, it increases your resting metabolism (how many calories your body burns while not doing anything). Finally, lifting weights helps to improve sleep and decrease stress.
American College of Sports Medicine recommends adults perform about 150-250 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity, such as cardio, a week. It is equal to 5-8 30 mins cardio workouts per week. In the case of vigorous exercise, 75 mins a week will be enough to maintain health.
When it comes to strength workouts, it depends on whether you do full-body or split workouts (working separately on different muscle groups). In the first case, generally, it is recommended to do 2-3 workouts per week. If you prefer split workouts, then you will need to have 3-5 workouts a week, depending on what split program you follow.
What’s the Verdict? Which One Should You Choose?
As it often happens when it comes to health questions, the answer is moderation, which means you need to do both for optimal health. It also depends on your goals and preferences, as doing either better than not exercising at all. If your main goal, for now, is to build more muscles, then focus on strength training. If your goal is to improve your endurance and get ready for hiking or running season, then focus on cardio workouts. However, no matter what your goal is, try to include both types of exercise in your routine.
What to Do First?
When it comes to discussing cardio and strength training, another popular question that causes many arguments is whether you should do first cardio or strength exercises. And as usual, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on your goals. Those who are focused on growing muscles should do lifting first and finish the workout with some cardio. Doing cardio, even a short 10-15 mins walk, after a strength workout will help your body to cool down and “loosen up” your muscles. This order of exercise also suits better to those who want to lose weight. Meanwhile, if your focus is on increasing your endurance, do cardio first.
In conclusion, no matter what you choose, the most important thing is to find a form of exercise that you genuinely enjoy and can stick to! Whether you decide to sweat it out during group cycling workouts or to lift iron in the gym, as long as you are challenging yourself and getting your heart rate up while having fun, you are on the right track! So choose what you like the most and keep moving towards a healthier life!