Cardio vs. Weights: How Strength and Aerobic Exercises help your Heart, Bones, Brain, and more
Which is better for you — running or pumping iron? Find out how much you know about the best exercise for your body.
Cardio is the only exercise that may help prevent heart disease
Cardiovascular exercise, also called cardio or aerobic exercise, raises your heart rate and makes you sweat — and that’s great for your ticker. Regular cardio, whether it’s jogging, cycling, swimming, or brisk walking, will make your heart stronger. It also helps with blood pressure and cholesterol, and can even help ward off some cancers.
Aerobic means ‘with air’
Your heart’s main job is to deliver oxygen to your body. Aerobic exercise, also called cardio, helps it do this better. It includes any activity that makes your body need more oxygen, like jogging.
Adults should get at least 2 1/2 hours of cardio each week
That’s 150 minutes of any exercise that makes you breathe harder and revs up your heart rate. Break it up any way you’d like — do 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week — just be sure to move for at least 10 minutes at a time. Can’t get to the magic number? Do what you can. You’re still doing your body good.
People with muscles burn more calories
Your muscles burn calories even when you’re not working out. So the more muscles you have, the more calories you’ll burn. If you work out with weights often, you’ll also lose fat and look slimmer. Want to turn your bod into a lean, calorie-torching machine? Reach for the dumbbells or hop onto a machine that uses weights.
You do need strength training even if you do a lot of cardio
Cardio is king when it comes to your heart, but strength (also called resistance) training does wonders for your bones and joints. Get in at least two sessions a week and work your legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms.
Which is better for you?
What you tackle first depends on your goals. If you’re training for a 5K, start with cardio. Your muscles will be warmed up, and that may help prevent injuries during strength training. If you’re focused on strength, hit the weights first. Pumping iron before cardio could make you stronger and more toned.
Which lowers your risk of dementia?
Whether you swim, run, power through pushups, or use a leg-curl machine, you’re doing something good for your brain. Cardio and strength training can both help you think more clearly and improve your memory.
Weight training might help keep you from falling when you’re older
Using weights can lower your chances of osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes you more likely to fall and have fractures. Training with weights strengthens your bones, helps with your balance, and can make daily tasks easier as you age — like climbing stairs, getting out of a chair, or lifting groceries. Other weight-bearing exercises, like walking or dancing, can help with this, too.
It’s best to go at least 48h between strength training workouts
When you lift weights, you get small tears in your muscles. Your body needs time to recover before you lift again. You can keep up the cardio, though.
You should switch up your weight training routine every 6 to 12 weeks
You’ve got to keep your body guessing to get the biggest gains. Changing things up will make you stronger and help prevent injury. If you’re a little bored with your workouts, try different exercises, use heavier weights, or vary the number of repetitions you do.
It’s best to lift weights slow and steady
Rushing through your reps can lead to injury. Instead, focus on good form. Don’t jerk the weights or use too much force. If you haven’t done much work with weights, get some tips from a trainer. For example, remember to breathe. Breathe out as you lift the weight, and breathe in when you lower it.