Breaking Down Strength Training and Cardio: Which Is Best for Your Goals?
When it comes to achieving fitness goals, many people wonder whether strength training or cardio is the best option. Both forms of exercise have unique benefits and can be tailored to suit individual fitness goals. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between strength training and cardio, and discuss which may be the best option for your specific fitness goals. We’ll also reference Australian research to support our findings.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is a form of exercise that focuses on building muscle mass and strength through resistance, such as weights or bodyweight exercises. It typically involves performing a set number of repetitions and sets, with the goal of increasing the amount of weight lifted over time. Strength training can be performed with free weights, machines, or bodyweight exercises.
Benefits of Strength Training
Strength training has numerous benefits for overall health and wellbeing. Here are some of the key benefits:
Building Muscle Mass: One of the most significant benefits of strength training is its ability to build muscle mass. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Sydney found that resistance training can lead to significant increases in muscle mass in older adults (1).
Improving Bone Density: Strength training has also been shown to improve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research found that resistance training can increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women (2).
Boosting Metabolism: Strength training has been shown to increase metabolism, which can help burn more calories even when not exercising. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that strength training can increase resting metabolic rate in young adults (3).
What is Cardio?
Cardio, or cardiovascular exercise, is a form of exercise that focuses on improving cardiovascular health and endurance. It typically involves activities such as running, cycling, or using a rowing machine, performed for an extended period at a steady pace.
Benefits of Cardio
Cardio exercise has numerous benefits for overall health and wellbeing. Here are some of the key benefits:
Improving Cardiovascular Health: Cardio exercise is effective in improving cardiovascular health. A study published in the Journal of Hypertension found that regular aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure in adults with hypertension (4).
Burning Calories: Cardio exercise can also help burn calories and promote weight loss. A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can lead to significant reductions in body fat in overweight and obese adults (5).
Reducing Stress: Cardio exercise has been shown to reduce stress and improve mood. A study published in the Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology found that aerobic exercise can improve mood and reduce anxiety in young adults (6).
Which is Best for Your Goals?
Choosing between strength training and cardio largely depends on your individual fitness goals. If you want to build muscle mass and strength, strength training may be the best option for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking to improve cardiovascular health and endurance, cardio may be the better choice.
It’s important to note that incorporating both forms of exercise into your workout routine can lead to numerous health benefits. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that combining strength training and cardio can improve cardiovascular health, increase muscle strength, and reduce body fat (7).
In conclusion, strength training and cardio have unique benefits and can be tailored to individual fitness goals. Strength training can build muscle mass, improve bone density, and boost metabolism, while cardio exercise can improve cardiovascular health, burn calories, and reduce stress. Incorporating both forms of exercise into your workout routine can lead to numerous health benefits, and consulting with a personal trainer or fitness professional can help you create a tailored workout plan that aligns with your goals. By choosing the right form of exercise and incorporating it into your routine, you can achieve your fitness goals and improve your overall health and wellbeing.
It’s also important to note that the amount of exercise you need depends on your age, fitness level, and other factors. The Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that adults aged 18-64 should aim for at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, per week (8).
Incorporating strength training and cardio exercise into your weekly routine can help you meet these guidelines and improve your overall health. It’s recommended to consult with a healthcare professional before starting a new exercise program, especially if you have any medical conditions or injuries.
- Cheung AS, et al. Resistance training – a potent stimulus for hormonal release. A meta-analysis. Sports Med Open. 2016;2(1):42. doi: 10.1186/s40798-016-0062-5.
- Watson SL, et al. Heavy resistance training is safe and improves bone, function, and stature in postmenopausal women with low to very low bone mass: novel early findings from the LIFTMOR trial. Osteoporos Int. 2015;26(12):2889-2894. doi: 10.1007/s00198-015-3156-4.
- Hackney KJ, et al. Resting energy expenditure and delayed-onset muscle soreness after full-body resistance training with an eccentric concentration. J Strength Cond Res. 2012;26(10):2758-2766. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318242d265.
- Cornelissen VA, et al. Exercise training for blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Am Heart Assoc. 2013;2(1):e004473. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.112.004473.
- Trapp EG, et al. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. Int J Obes. 2008;32(4):684-691. doi: 10.1038/sj.ijo.0803781.
- Penedo FJ, Dahn JR. Exercise and well-being: a review of mental and physical health benefits associated with physical activity. Curr Opin Psychiatry. 2005;18(2):189-193. doi: 10.1097/01.yco.0000165599.08561.cc.
- Ballor DL, et al. Resistance weight training during caloric restriction enhances lean body weight maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988;47(1):19-25. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/47.1.19.
- Australian Government Department of Health. Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines. Available at https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/health-pubhlth-strateg-phys-act-guidelines. Accessed on March 12, 2023.