Which one is best?
Hmmm .... “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to” would Cheshire cat answer to Alice. (“Alice in Wonderland”)
Some will say cardio training is the best, some will say strength training is the best. And they are all correct because each training serves a different purpose.
Cardio, although it may sound very Spanish, it is the short name for cardiovascular (CV) and it is pretty much any form of exercise that elevates your heart rate and gets your blood pump faster. Cardio training makes the heart beat faster and deliver more oxygen to our muscles through the blood vessels network. The main benefit of doing cardio in the long term is that reduces the overall risk of death and disease on both aspects physical and mental.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you say “cardio”? .... probably running. And you are not wrong; however, it is not the only type of cardio. In fact, any type of exercise that increases our heart rate and stimulates the blood flow can count as cardio whether is rowing, swimming, cycling, boxing, walking and even weights. Although it might sound a bit confusing, with weights you can actually do both – cardio and strength ... it all depends on how you perform the training based on intensity, repetitions, sets, rest, etc.
Generally speaking, when saying cardio, people refer to aerobic training in fact – a low to moderate intensity of training. Imagine a scale from 1-10, where 10 is your maximal effort (when you cannot actually speak) and 1 is almost no effort at all (a very slow walk holding a toddler by the hand). On this scale, the aerobic training would be a perceived effort between 5 and 7. Anything going above this number gets into anaerobic – which is still cardio but at a high and or very high intensity.
Strength training is that physical activity designed to improve the muscular fitness by exercising a muscle (or a group of muscles) against an external resistance – reason why it is also called resistance training – with the purpose of increasing the muscle’s endurance, size, strength or power.
What are the first things that come to your mind when you say strength? Weights, heavy lifting, bulking up? Not many would answer “endurance” although this is also strength training, involves weight lifting but only in a lower load , higher repetitions, less rest – to name only a few variables.
Strength training is not only about lifting heavy weight and bulking up. There are many ways in which this type of training is beneficial to us:
- protects bone health - increases the bone density which otherwise tends to naturally decrease as we age.
- improves muscular mass – quality and/or quantity (depending on specific training).
- better biomechanics, posture, balance, coordination, proprioception - with healthier bones and muscles, our body mechanics will improve automatically .
- help us keep the unwanted subcutaneous adipose tissue (fat in simple terms) off – muscles are the main calories consumers, so preserving and improving them will helps us speed up our metabolism and burn more calories even when at rest.
- and it is not just about aesthetics - having strong muscles helps us better manage different conditions (such as, but not limited to arthritis, multiple sclerosis).
- like pretty much any other type of training strength will also boost our energy level and improve our mental wellbeing (with all the serotonin, endorphins , dopamine release).
On top of all of the above benefits, strength training has also impact on our cardiovascular system, although mainly when performed at lower/medium intensity, by helping us reduce hypertension (high blood pressure).
Although the initial question was “cardio or strength?”, when it comes to keeping healthy, we must not forget the flexibility. To function properly, although we might not want to do everything, our body needs a bit of everything – it needs cardio, it needs strength, it needs flexibility.
There would be so much more to write about, but I will keep this short and sweet and stop my narrative thoughts here, before I bore you completely .... and I will try to touch the “flexibility” topic in one of my future forms of expression of my poor haunted writing spirit J.