Virtual Reality · Workouts · May 31, 2023
Cardio or Strength Training: Which Is Right for You?
Cardio and strength training are two of the most important components of a successful workout routine. Both types of exercise provide their own unique benefits, so it’s important to understand the differences between them. Join us as we break down the pros of each exercise, how much you need, and why you can benefit from both, no matter your fitness goals.
What Is Cardio?
A cardiovascular or cardio workout is any activity that elevates your heart rate for an extended period of time. Examples include walking, running, swimming, biking, boxing, or any exercise that gets your heart pumping and your oxygen and blood flowing. This is also why it’s referred to as “aerobic” exercise because your body demands more oxygen to maintain that continuous activity.
What Is Strength Training?
Strength training, also called resistance training, is a form of exercise that helps your body get stronger by placing resistance or stress on your muscles. Strength training is also referred to as “anaerobic” exercise because, unlike cardio or aerobic exercise, it involves short bursts of energy versus a long continuous demand on your cardiovascular system. It includes activities such as weightlifting, using resistance bands, exercise machines, or bodyweight exercises. Although the exercise and equipment might vary, the goal is the same: to put a healthy amount of stress on your muscles to build strength, muscle mass, and endurance.
Strength Training vs. Cardio
Cardio forces your heart and lungs to work harder than usual to pump blood and bring oxygen into your body. Strength training forces your muscles to grow to meet the demands you’re placing on them. In other words, cardiovascular exercise challenges your cardiovascular and respiratory systems while strength training challenges your muscular system.
Some workouts fall neatly into one category or the other. For example, a weight lifting workout with plenty of rest between sets is a form of strength training while going for a swim is a form of cardio. But a workout can combine the two together. For example, boxing can be both a cardio and strength training exercise. The continuous movement of boxing combinations strengthens your heart and lungs while the power needed to throw a punch challenges your muscular strength.
Strength Training vs. Cardio: Which One Is Better?
The short answer? Both. You need both cardio and strength training in your routine. They each offer different but important health benefits for your body that make them essential, no matter your goals. Here are their unique health benefits:
Benefits of Cardio
Cardio is crucial for your health because it challenges your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, and this can have some amazing benefits for your body:
- Healthier heart and lungs: Cardio strengthens the capacity of your heart and lungs, improving your circulation and oxygen flow throughout your body. This increased efficiency lowers your risk of certain health concerns like heart disease, stroke, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and more.
- Stronger joints, bones, and muscles: With cardio, you’re forcing your muscles, joints, and bones to adapt and grow so that they can perform the task you’re asking them to do. This helps build muscle mass and bone density, which will play a big role in the quality of your life as you get older.
- Lower cholesterol & blood sugar levels: Cardio can help manage your blood sugars and reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol levels. It also boosts your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or “good” cholesterol, which can help prevent blockage in your arteries.
- Increased brain functioning: Cardio exercise doesn’t just support a healthier body, but a healthier brain. Research shows that cardio exercise could help improve your memory and cognitive functioning. Especially a workout like boxing that requires explosive and quick movement.
- Improved immunity: All the benefits mentioned above also help build up your body’s immune health. Keeping your body healthy means it’s more prepared to handle any germ, disease, or toxin that comes your way.
Cardio is so vital to your health and wellness that the American Heart Association recommends you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity cardio each week.
Benefits of Strength Training
The benefits of strength training include more than just building muscle! The stress you’re placing on your muscular system has a ton of additional benefits for your mind and body:
- Preserves and boosts muscle mass: Strength training can certainly help you on your way to building muscle mass or hypertrophy. But even if that isn’t your goal, healthy and strong muscles have real-world applications. And as you age, your muscle mass continues to decline. With strength training, you can preserve and even build your muscle mass to help improve your quality of life as you get older.
- Builds stronger bones & joints: It's not just your muscles getting stronger! That stress you’re putting on your body as you drop into a squat or lift a dumbbell also builds stronger bones and joints. This helps reduce your risk of bone-related health concerns like osteoporosis or bone fractures.
- Protects you from injury & illness: Reducing your risk of falls is a major perk of strength training, especially as you get older. But strength training could also help reduce your risk of many chronic conditions like heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, joint pain, back pain, and more.
- Sharpens your cognitive thinking: Some studies also share that strength training can help improve your processing speed, memory, focus, attention, and other executive function skills.
Given the health benefits of strength training, the American Heart Association recommends you add moderate or high-intensity strength training to your routine at least two times per week.
Strength Training vs. Cardio: Which One Is Better for Your Fitness Goals?
Okay, so you need both strength training and cardio in your routine. But what if you have specific weight loss or muscle-building goals? Here are a few suggestions depending on what you’re hoping to accomplish:
What you need: Heavy emphasis on cardio, with strength training mixed in.
If weight loss is one of your fitness goals, a workout routine featuring high-intensity cardio is key. Cardio helps burn calories both during and after your workout. But although cardio is everyone’s go-to weight loss workout, strength training plays a pretty important role too.
Like cardio, strength training is hard work. This means you’re burning calories as you’re doing it. But the biggest weight-loss benefit is that strength training replaces body fat with muscle mass. And the more muscle mass you have, the higher your resting metabolic rate. Your resting metabolic rate is how many calories you’re burning at rest. And because muscles are more metabolically efficient than fat this means you’ll burn more calories throughout the day by incorporating strength training (and cardio!) into your routine.
What you need: Heavy emphasis on strength training, with cardio mixed in.
Strength training is the key to building muscle. And consistency is what will help you get there. A consistent strength training regimen where you’re slowly increasing the intensity or difficulty of your training by adding more reps or weight to the exercise will help build muscle. Although your focus is on strength training, cardio is still important to add to your routine to improve your cardiovascular health. Plus, that endurance you’re building during your cardio workout can help you go for longer in your weight-lifting routine.
What you need: A healthy mix of both cardio and strength training.
Cardio is the key to building endurance. But don’t count strength training out of the equation! When your heart, lungs, and muscles are stronger this means you don’t have to work as hard to perform the same activity that once left you out of breath. With cardio, your endurance increases as your body slowly adapts to the workload. With strength training, you're preparing your muscles to sustain a longer workout.
What you need: A healthy mix of both cardio and strength training.
When you work out, your body releases mood-boosting hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. And at the same time, exercise also reduces your body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. This balance in your hormones helps reduce your stress and anxiety levels while improving your mood, confidence, and energy. And these benefits apply to any form of exercise, whether that’s cardio or strength.
Train Cardio & Strength With Litesport
With Litesport, you don’t have to choose between cardio or strength training. Our classes offer the best of both worlds with options for boxing, boot camp, and strength training workouts:
- Boxing: Challenge your muscles and your cardiovascular system in our boxing workouts that include mitt drills, punch tracks, and trainer-led workouts.
- Total Body: Follow along with your trainer as you take on full-body cardio and strength exercises that incorporate exciting and responsive VR elements. You’ll slam battle ropes, rack up points on the speed bag, avoid overhead ropes with ducks and squats, and engage your entire body for our most complete workout.
- Strength: This unique-to-VR dumbbell-based workout challenges you to build strength the right way. In these classes our certified trainers will guide you through tried-and-true weight-lifting and strength exercises, ensuring correct form.
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