As a personal trainer, one question I get asked frequently is whether strength training or cardio training is better. My answer is, “well it depends.” What you think might not be true.
Strength training helps lose fat better than cardio in the long run. If you want to lose fat and keep it off most people would say that cardio is the best way to go; however, strength training will benefit you more in long run. When you are sweating on the elliptical you are burning 10-12 calories per minutes, while you’re pumping iron you burn only 8 to 10 calories per minute.
The advantage that lifting weights provides is that it increases your metabolism for over 12 hours after a workout, primarily because your body is trying to help muscles recover. This means that if I burn 200 calories lifting weights, it’s almost like burning 250 calories.
Strength training builds muscle. For every 3 pounds of muscle you build, you burn an extra 120 calories a day—just doing nothing—because muscle requires more energy to maintain.
Cardio reduces stress better than weight lifting. Cardio workouts help clear the cobwebs from our minds. This is because cardio elevates serotonin levels in the brain, the primary neurotransmitter responsible for improving the symptoms of depression. If you haven’t checked out a spin class, give it a try. The upbeat music and intensity of the workout is almost a guarantee to make you more relaxed.
To like how you look naked, lift weights. I’ve never been one to strut my stuff in the buff, but after strength training I have noticed that my muscles look more toned. I’ve run five marathons and was very thin as a result of all the mileage, but I didn’t really like the way I looked until I started weight lifting and saw my muscles begin to stand out.
Do you want to live a longer, healthier life? Do some cardio! Although there has been considerable debate about how much cardio we need in order to help us live longer, there is no debate that cardio will increase our lifespan. My favorite form of cardio (right now) is the elliptical. I like the elliptical equipment that provides an increase in incline plus an increase in resistance.
To prevent injuries—lift weights. When I am doing my own personal exercises plus when I am working with clients, I focus on the functional aspects of training. Sure we all want to look better and feel better, and one of the best ways to do that is not to have accidents or injuries that sap the life out of us. Strength training helps adapt the body to react quickly. Specific exercises are those that work the core and force you to bend at multiple joints, i.e. lunges, rows and squats.
To answer the question of which is better—cardio or strength training—I would have to say that a balanced training program combining cardio and strength training will provide you the most overall, well-rounded fitness levels. What do you think?