What Are the Benefits of Cardio vs Weights?Last Updated: January 19, 2019
If you ask five different fitness experts for the best answer to this question, you'll get six different answers. But there is one solid answer that anyone (and everyone) can take to heart: you should do both!
Yes, YOU. It doesn't matter if you're male or female. It doesn't matter if you're young or old. It doesn't matter whether your goals are specific, like leaning out/burning fat or trying to clock a faster time swimming laps in the pool. No matter what your age, goals, or overall fitness level might be, you can benefit from incorporating both cardio and weight training into your exercise regimen.
Granted, if you have any sort of limiting physical disability or health condition which would prevent you from performing one task or another, you should probably stick to the routine that your doctor or personal trainer has already set for you. But if you are able-bodied and in relatively good health, there's no reason you shouldn't be pushing yourself to get all of the wonderful, combined benefits available from these two excellent forms of exercise.
Cardio: No, It's Not Just for Women
Walk into any typical gym, and you're likely to see a very sad, isolated divide: on one side, you'll see gaggles of women using and loitering around the treadmill/elliptical/Stairmaster area. On the other, you'll see a valley of benches and free weights dominated by sweaty, grunting gym rats. You may catch the occasional bodybuilder trying to lean out for a competition on the treadmill or a brave, fitness-savvy female performing some weight training exercises, but these are exceptions to the rule.
And that's a real shame. Because cardio exercise provides a whole host of physiological benefits that everyone can benefit from. And if you do cardio right by following a HIIT cardio routine (which we have written about before), you can maximize the fat-burning potential of your cardio in less than 20 minutes per day.
Some of the benefits you can look forward to include:
- Improvement in cardiovascular health
- Dramatic boost to your metabolic fat-burning potential
- Encourages sweat, which purges toxins from your body
- Improves circulation (making workouts easier over time)
- Encourages healthy liver function
- Helps manage glucose levels
- Improves the visible tone and definition of lean muscle
With all the potential benefits, what's not to love about cardio?
Weight Training: No, It's Not Just For Men
Regardless of your age, level of athleticism, or gender, weight training can do some very excellent things for your body. Despite the stereotypes, it isn't reserved for veiny, muscular gym bros who subsist off of protein shakes and pre-workout supplements. Anything that helps to build lean muscle can also:
- Keep your bones strong - which especially important for anyone at risk for osteoporosis (such as females, or the elderly). The more you use your muscles, the more your body focuses on delivering nutritional resources to them - and their support system, the human skeleton.
- Keep lost weight off permanently - building more muscle means that your body has to burn more calories in order to maintain it. And a higher metabolic rate is the first line of defense against bouncing back after weight loss success.
- Improve your balance - which will, in turn, prevent your likelihood of falling and sustaining injuries by up to 40%. It doesn't matter if you're young and clumsy or a senior citizen. Either way, this is a benefit.
And ladies, keep one very important thing in mind: lifting weights will not make you look like a bulky she-male. You'd have to engage in some seriously heavy weight training, take on a complicated nutritional plan, and likely need to inject your body with artificial hormones in order to get big and muscular. Doing simple, common exercises with kettle bells, medicine balls, or weight machines at the gym isn't going to bulk you up - your natural body chemistry prevents it.
Combining Cardio & Weight Training (the Correct Way)
If you are really strapped for time during your busy daily schedule, why not combine the two together and get double the benefits in half the time? After all, that same concept is what popular and largely successful workouts like P90X are based on. If you can do it - and do it safely - you should absolutely combine the two to your advantage.
But the keyword up there is SAFETY. When you try to mix weights and quick, explosive activity, it can become a disastrous combination very quickly. This is because most people who undergo these fitness routines aren't aware that poor form (which is inevitable when your main goal is speed and intensity) is the #1 cause of fitness-related injuries. If you don't believe us, just google the phrase "crossfit injuries" - if you have a strong stomach.
If you think you are healthy enough to combine weights with your cardio, seek out the guidance of a personal trainer first. They can give you tips on which exercises to perform and how much weight to lift based on your unique physical characteristics, and they can correct any problems in your form to help prevent injuries.
Given the massive and diverse list of benefits that cardio and weight training can yield, it's hard to believe that people still choose one or the other. Now that you know what each type of exercise can do for you, have fun experimenting with different routines and improving your fitness results!
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