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  • Blog
  • Cardio vs Strength Training: Which is Better for Your Fitness Goals?
  • February 15, 2023 |
  • Strength Training | General Health and Wellness

Cardio vs Strength Training: Which is Better for Your Fitness Goals?

Cardio vs Strength Training

An improved level of fitness is a major goal for millions of people. In fact, recent surveys from ARRIS state that nearly 80% of Americans plan to prioritize their fitness this year. This can mean anywhere from working to achieve a proper pushup to participating in a marathon race, according to CNET's list of the best fitness goals for this year. Regardless of what your fitness goals may be, though, they're only attainable with consistent training. As it happens, cardio and strength training are two of the best ways to meet your goals.


Cardio and strength training are two of the most common forms of exercise, and each one has specific benefits to consider. If you're thinking of improving your wellness routine to better hit your goals, here's what you need to know about cardio and strength training.

Benefits of Cardio Training

There are a number of styles of cardiovascular training. Each one uses aerobic metabolism to varying degrees and thus hits different heart rate zones. A few of the basic ones include:

  • Low intensity, long duration: This includes slow but continuous activities like walking, jogging, or cycling for over 40 minutes. Intensities of around 40 to 60% of maximum heart rate (HR) are expected, and this is good for people who are only starting out with cardio.
  • Medium intensity, long duration: Aerobic work is done at around 70% of maximum HR for about 20 to 40 minutes.
  • High intensity, short duration: This demanding form of training is done for five to 20 minutes, at about 80 to 85% of maximum HR. This is generally considered to be the anaerobic threshold or the highest exercise intensity that can be sustained without substantial lactate buildup in the blood.
  • Aerobic interval training: A period of moderate to high-intensity aerobic work is alternated with a period of rest, or low-intensity work. This works to pressure your heart by forcing it to work hard and then recover. Sprinting 100m, then walking 200m, for 5 rounds is a good example.


When done properly, these forms of cardio exercise can effectively regulate your body’s ability to metabolize oxygen.


If your fitness goal is to improve your general health, cardio exercises can definitely help by improving your heart health and even by providing your body with a mental boost. This also makes cardio an effective tool for cross-training and conditioning your body for a higher level of fitness.


An overview by Daydreaming in Paradise explains that pairing cardio with yoga, or any other low impact training, can effectively prevent injury and increase recovery by acting as a cool down or warm-up exercise. Sports science researchers from universities in Hokkaido further explain that the dynamic stretching practiced in yoga can also increase endurance for well-trained runners.


On the other hand, cardio is also ideal for fitness goals related to weight loss. The HHS states that moderate intensity exercises of 150 to 300 minutes, or vigorous-intensity aerobic exercises of 75 to 150 minutes a week, paired with proper nutrition, can result in substantial changes. Cardio helps you burn calories faster because it efficiently increases your heart and breathing rates.

Benefits of Strength Training

If your fitness goal is to improve your muscle strength, strength training can help stimulate muscle growth and build lean muscle tissue. Placing your muscles under tension induces tiny injuries to muscle fibers or micro tears. Your body then heals them with proper nutrition and blood flow to the area, and this will eventually accumulate to form muscle mass that's more resistant to the tension you place them under.


This muscle growth consumes energy and burns calories, oxidizing fat even after the workout is done. Furthermore, muscle tissue is metabolically more active than fat tissue, leading to bigger resting energy expenditure wherein your body burns more calories with less exertion.


Interestingly, the latter effect of strength training is also why some choose this workout to lose weight. Health coach Sarah Hays Coomer recommends beginners stay alert as many individuals doing strength training may report gaining weight initially. However, she notes that this additional weight is simply a sign that you're developing a healthier muscle mass and that your fat mass may be steadily decreasing. This weight gain doesn’t necessarily reflect in how your body looks either because muscle weighs more than fat but can reflect in a leaner build.


Later on, this new growth can help fortify the bones, ligaments, and tendons to prevent broken bones and tendon sprains and tears. Dr. Doug McGuff, in his book Body by Science, discusses how the extra muscle mass will save your life if you’re ever in an accident. When done properly, strength training can even improve your insulin sensitivity, lower back pain, and cholesterol levels.


Be careful not to overdo it when training, however. Overtraining can be a common source of injury and, while micro tears are generally welcomed, can cause excessive micro tears that your body can no longer heal as efficiently. To avoid this, our previous article on the Signs Of Overtraining suggests changing up your exercises and taking days off between working the same muscles. Visit our gyms across California and you can find a range of equipment that you can explore and use to alternate between workouts. This can help you tackle different muscle groups and accommodate varying intensities, which gives your other muscles time to recover.

Deciding Between Cardio and Strength Training

When deciding between cardio and strength training, you don’t necessarily have to choose one or the other. A combination of the two exercise modalities can help you achieve your fitness goals more efficiently.


When attempting to lose fat, for example, combining the two means that muscles burn calories more efficiently. Strength training may add weight through the development of new muscles, but this will get balanced out with cardio that will continue to raid fat deposits.


Cardio can help your muscles grow stronger and more efficiently when paired with strength training because more blood and oxygen will circulate toward these areas during recovery. Strength training can also help your stamina for cardio increase because it works on your average power input and peak power input. This makes it easier for your leg muscles to endure cardio exercises of higher intensities or higher durations.


Furthermore, you can combine the two to broaden your range of exercises in a week and avoid overtraining. You can choose to lift weights on your cardio rest day or engage in running or swimming on your strength training rest days. Combining the benefits of both ensures that you reach fitness goals faster.


To craft a custom workout plan ideal for your body, consulting experts can help. Our personal training team at Fitness 19 are all certified fitness professionals with unique specialties, from corrective movements to building muscle. They can help create an amazing and beneficial experience for you as you work towards your fitness goals.


Article written by Rita Jesse for the exclusive use of Fitness 19

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