Cardio Vs. Strength Training: What You Should Do?

Deepanshu Bedi

Different exercises affect the body differently. Regarding your exercise and workout routines, it’s crucial to note that sometimes, the type of exercise you do matters more than the fact alone that you are exercising.

If you’re a fitness newbie, you’d certainly run into the dilemma of choosing between cardio and strength training. Both types of exercises are completely different and also offer various benefits.

Cardio enthusiasts and avid strength trainers can give a million reasons why their preferred exercise is the way to go. However, it’s best to know for yourself how these exercises differ and how they benefit you.

Whether you intend to muscle up or drop some pounds, there’s a perfect exercise solution for you. This article details the difference between cardio and weight training, the benefits of both types of exercises, and which you should consider.

Differences Between Cardio And Strength Training Exercises

Cardio exercises are significantly different from strength training exercises, not just in the type of physical movements but in how they both affect your body. Cardio exercises (short for cardiovascular exercise or cardiovascular conditioning) are exercises that require oxygen and speed up your breathing and heart rate.

Running and cycling are two popular cardio exercises. However, cardio includes any activity that makes you breathe faster and speeds up your heart rate. These are generally classified as aerobic exercises.

On the other hand, strength training involves lifting weights such as dumbbells or barbells. Using weight machines is another way of performing strength training exercises (also known as weight training or resistance training).

These exercises are generally grouped as anaerobic exercises as they do not rely on oxygen like cardio exercises. There are different kinds of strength training exercises, and they fall into these major groups- muscular endurance, muscular hypertrophy, explosive power, maximum muscular strength, and circuit training.

Instead, these exercises use resistance or opposing forces to build and strengthen your muscles. People usually take legal steroids for muscle growth. Compared to cardio, these exercises use up more energy in a shorter time.

Strength training can either involve equipment such as weights or resistance bands or your own body weight as resistance. These kinds of exercises produce energy by breaking down glucose in the body.

Besides weight lifting, some other strength training exercises include pull-ups and push-ups. In basic terms, cardio (aerobic) exercises get your blood pumping faster, while strength training exercises work your muscles.

Benefits Of Cardio

Cardio exercises are more fun when compared to strength training ones. However, there are several other real benefits that cardio provides.

Burn More Calories During Workout

While doing a cardio routine, the calories burned by your body are significantly higher than in weight training. While running or cycling, a person can burn up to 12 calories per minute.

How many calories you burn largely depends on your size and the intensity of your exercise. For the same intensity, cardio burns more calories than weight training.

With cardio, you might also be able to lose weight faster. A 2012 study showed that cardio is the best bet for losing weight quicker. However, your body gets accustomed to cardio routines really quickly, so it’s best to go with speed training cardio workouts to get your metabolism going and help you burn fat. If you intend to burn more calories, you should aim for a more intense workout.

Live Longer

Cardio exercises help in the prevention of several life-threatening diseases, thus making it a great way to stay fit and keep illnesses at bay. Firstly, aerobic exercises cause you to breathe faster and also cause the heart to pump more quickly, thereby strengthening your heart and lungs and causing your heart to pump more efficiently over time.

According to the American Heart Association, a 40-minute aerobic exercise routine at least three times a week also impacts your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These exercises also regulate your insulin levels, thus helping to keep Type-2 Diabetes at bay. This is also true for weight training exercises.

These exercises also help to build stamina and endurance. Thus, participating in such exercises can make you become more equipped to power through longer workout sessions. It will also prevent you from feeling exhausted after walking long distances or taking a flight of stairs.

Due to its role in reducing the risks of diseases such as osteoporosis and obesity, cardio should certainly be an important part of your exercise routine if you desire to live a long, healthy life.

Aids Sleep

Some studies indicate that participating in cardio exercises can help to promote restful sleep. In a 16-week study involving subjects with severe sleep problems, it was found that pairing cardio exercises with good sleep hygiene helped improve the duration and quality of their sleep. These exercises also helped improve their wakefulness and focus during the day. Note, however, that exercising too close to your bedtime can affect how well you sleep.

Boosts Immunity

Research on sedentary and active women has linked aerobic exercise to better immune function. The study showed that participating in aerobic exercises can increase the body’s production of certain antibodies called immunoglobulins that boost your immune system function.

Benefits Of Strength Training

Weight training has several health benefits for your body and mind. Here are a few ways in which strength training can benefit you:

Burn More Calories at Rest

Cardio training is great for burning calories. You also get to burn more calories during a cardio exercise session than an equivalent strength training session. However, strength training exercises help you to build muscle mass that causes your body to burn more calories even while you are not exercising. In other words, it helps to increase your body’s resting metabolic rate.

Some findings also indicate that these resistance training exercises can increase your body’s metabolism for up to three days after your training. The muscles you build during a weight training workout are more efficient at burning calories than fat mass. This is what accounts for your body’s metabolic rate after strength exercises. In a small study featuring men and women participating in strength training exercises, it was found that there was a 7 percent increase in their average resting metabolic rate. However, there was a more significant increase in the resting metabolic rates of men (9%) than women (4%). Thus, this kind of exercise helps you burn off calories more efficiently in the long run.

Boost Your Strength

Strength training exercises are the perfect exercises to build strength and endurance. Due to the nature of these exercises, you become more equipped to perform harder tasks. For example, with frequent strength training exercises, carrying heavier objects and even participating in activities requiring endurance, strength, and speed becomes easier.

Develop Leaner Physique

One obvious characteristic of regular strength training is developing a leaner or “ripped” physique. With strength training exercises, more muscle (lean muscle mass) equates to losing fat, and due to the density of muscles (as compared to fat), they take up less room in your body compared to fat. This will cause you to appear leaner around your waist and other parts of your body, even if you don’t see a change in your weight.

Reduce Risks Of Injury

One factor that increases the likelihood of sustaining sports injuries is overworking muscles. This can even happen to the fittest sports people and athletes. Frequently participating in strength training exercises can help you increase your muscle stress capacity. This can significantly reduce your risks of falling or sustaining injuries. This is because strength training exercises help to strengthen the joints, bones, and even your tendons and ligaments. It also strengthens the muscle’s connective tissue sheaths. This helps to boost your body’s performance and reduce fatigue, thereby significantly reducing your chances of sustaining injuries. Functional strength training teaches your body and mind how to cope with and handle muscle contractions, and thus might help to minimize your chances of sustaining injuries.

Improves Mobility

When a person has weaker muscles, they become less flexible and have a lower joint range of motion (ROM). Strength training can increase a person’s ROM and thus lead to better mobility and flexibility in most people. To ensure that a strength training exercise increases your ROM, ensure to engage your full range of motion for the joints involved during your workout. For example, to perform squats, ensure that you work your knee joint as fully as possible while maintaining optimal form.

Strengthens Your Bones

Strength training is beneficial to people of all ages as it helps to make bones stronger in young and older adults. Because of the weight-bearing nature of these exercises, they put the bones under much pressure, thus causing the necessary cells to produce stronger bones. Therefore, participating in strength training exercises keeps your bones strong and could prevent the onset of bone-related diseases.

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Benefits Of Combining Cardio And Strength Training

Cardio and strength training exercises have different benefits. Thus, you might benefit from including both types of exercises in your workout routine. Here are some ways you can benefit from doing both kinds of exercises.

Efficient Weight Loss

Combining cardio and weights is an effective recipe for weight loss. Many trying to lose weight often stay away from cardio as they do not want to build muscle. However, these sorts of muscles are lean tissues and even help to balance your body’s composition.

They also have the added effect of increasing your body’s resting metabolism, which could, in turn, lead to more calorie burn and faster weight loss. However, this does not mean you should abandon your cardio workout altogether. A peer-reviewed study showed significant weight loss (up to 5.7%) in overweight adults after participating in aerobic exercises for ten months.

A combination of both strength training and cardio is complementary to your weight loss goals. They neither affect nor cancel out each other but instead work together to help you lose weight more efficiently.

To include both in your workouts, you can decide to have cardio and weight training days. Also, you can incorporate both types of exercise into your daily fitness routine.

Injury Prevention

Combining cardio exercises and strength training with your exercise routine goes a long way in aiding injury prevention. Alternating and mixing your workouts help your body break the cycle of repetitive motions and also build and strengthen muscles simultaneously.

For example, someone who participates in cardio exercises five times and strength training twice a week is less likely to be at risk of injury than someone who does only cardio motions all week.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests a cardio-to-weight training ratio of 2:1 as an ideal ratio. However, your ratio can differ based on your ability, goals, and preferences.

Promotes Heart Health

Combining both aerobic and anaerobic exercises could benefit the heart more than doing either one of them. An 8-week study showed that subjects who combined both forms of exercise during the period of the study significantly improved their health disease risk factors compared to others who only participated in either aerobic or anaerobic exercise.

Boosts Mood And Improves Mental Health

Exercises are a great way to boost your mood and might also have some benefits to your general mental health. Physical activity in any form is often beneficial to your mental well-being. Both cardio and strength exercises combined can provide relief for anxiety and depression symptoms.

During physical activity, the body produces and mobilizes endocannabinoids that may help reduce the severity of anxiety and depression. Also, some studies show that exercises are as effective as prescription medication for treating symptoms of mild depression.

Which To Do First: Cardio Or Strength Training?

Now that you have decided to include both cardio and strength training in your routines, it’s important to know what is the best order to practice them. Note that the order in which you do your routine depends on your fitness goals. Not only would these goals determine your exercise sequence, but they also determine how much of each exercise type you should do.

When To Do Cardio First?

If you are trying to build endurance, then it helps to do cardio first before weight training. Also, if your goal is general fitness, you can start your workout with cardio and then graduate to strength. However, the order does not necessarily matter in this case. Also, start with the exercise you like less. Thus, if you prefer strength exercises and are exercising for general fitness, you could perform cardio reps first.

When To Do Strength Training First?

Doing weights or resistance exercises before cardio is the best way to go if your goal is to lose weight or burn more calories. Due to the way weight training affects the body, performing cardio after strength training could cause your body to burn calories faster.

If you want to build strength, it’s also best to do strength training first. Also, if you want to focus on training the muscles in your lower body, go with strength training first. If you are focused on training your upper body muscles, the sequence does not really matter, and you can start with either.

How Often To Do Cardio And Weights?

To avoid overtraining, setting out a schedule for your cardio and strength workouts is important. You must also note that how much cardio and weights you do depends on your fitness goals and your schedule.

When it comes to building muscle, a study shows that you should engage in weight training twice a week at least. In addition, you should perform up to 150 minutes of intense cardio workouts or up to 250 minutes of moderate cardio a week to maintain your weight. With a slight reduction in calorie intake, some people will lose fat by observing this formula.

For weight training, you can choose to do them 2 or 3 days a week or do muscle group-focused strength training up to 6 times a week. These strength exercises target common muscle groups like the chest, arms, shoulder, etc.

To Summarize: Why Knowing About Differences Between Exercises Is Important? 

It can be hard to tell the difference between types of exercises, especially as a fitness newbie.

However, it is crucial to understand how best exercise bike like strength training and cardio differ. Both strength training and cardio exercises offer various benefits to the body and mind. Cardio exercises can provide a fun way to burn calories during workouts.

However, resistance training helps to build more muscles that help boost your body’s resting metabolic rate.

Cardio exercises like running, cycling, and swimming are great workouts that keep the heart healthy and strong. Weights are fantastic if you need to boost your physical strength and improve your mobility and flexibility. It might be essential to discuss your fitness goals with a fitness professional to create a tailored workout plan for

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