Cardio Vs. Strength Training

cardio-vs.-strength training

Cardio. Strength training. Both are good for our bodies. Both have benefits. Which one would reign champ if thrown in the ring together? We all have our favorite. So, let’s put them head to head, have them compete in a few different categories and find out! I will represent both equally and fairly giving credit where credit is due. Also, I am not going to write a concluding paragraph to this particular post. I am going to state the facts and let you make up your own mind. Because honestly, when it comes down to it, both cardio and strength training are important to our overall health and help us achieve certain benefits that the other cannot. Don’t let yourself become one of those people who will only do one or the other. Keep it balanced.

Burning Calories

If you go head to head on calorie burn, cardio does take a slight lead. If you’re wanting a bang for your buck and as high a reading as possible on  the old heart rate monitor, cardio is the way to get it.  A good cardio session can have you burning calories in the range of 10-13 calories a minute. Whereas weightlifting usually caps in the range of 8-10 calories a minute. But…  Lifting weights will give you a metabolic spike for about an hour after your workout and a higher caloric burn throughout the day. Why? Because your body is trying to help your muscles recover from your weightlifting routine. Simply stated, you’ll burn an additional 25% of the calories you already burned during your strength session! Let’s say you  burned 200 calories lifting weights. You can bank another 50 calories in the additional hour following for muscle recovery. Keep in mind that as you increase your strength and start lifting  heavier weights, you’ll burn even more. Another bonus to weight lifting is that for every 3 pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories a day, just because muscle takes more energy to sustain than it’s fatty counterpart. Over the course of a year, that’s about 10 pounds of fat. Yes, please!

Winner in this category? Chalk one up for strength.

Staying off the Bench

Let’s face it, nobody wants to watch the game of life from the bench on the sidelines, we all wanna be out there playing it instead. Which of our two opponents will help you  keep your  head in the game? Cardio has a very repetitive nature which puts a lot of pressure  on your joints and the cartilage/meniscus in between the bones in  your joints. It is also hard on your ligaments, tendons and muscles. If you  are genetically disposed to any type of muscle/joint pain or problems, you probably find yourself calling for a time out a little more than you’d like to. Is there a solution? Yep! Hit the weight room! In a 2006 study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers found that a balance-training program reduced the risk of ankle sprains in athletes.  It has long been noted that functional strength training teaches your brain to allow muscle contractions that are quick enough to prevent or minimize injuries, and that is a good thing! What would be a good plan of action?    Exercises that improve your core strength,  improve your balance and use more than one joint/muscle group. Examples? Lunges, squats, rows, and presses are all good options.

Winner? Strength. I believe that’s 2 for 2 now. Hmmmm, interesting.


When it comes to adding years to your life, cardio reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, and even certain types of cancer. Cardio strengthens your heart, lungs, blood vessels, well your entire circulatory system as a whole. Why is that a bonus? Well, duh! A stronger heart pumps more blood with each beat, which in turn circulates oxygen more efficiently throughout your body. Aerobic activity prevents inflammation around your  heart and can increase the “good” cholesterol in your blood by up to 8 percent in just 8 weeks, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. What about the weights?   Lifting weights just twice a week can prevent you from gaining intra-abdominal fat. that’s the kind that wraps around your internal organs and constricts your blood vessels. Good? Yes, definitely.

Winner? Cardio.

Managing Stress

Exercise in general will help you defeat the stress monster that wants to eat you for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But when you break it down and let each of our opponents take a whack at him, which one would come out victorious?   It’s been shown that just 15 minutes of aerobic activity two to three times a week can significantly reduce anxiety. That’s because cardio elevates serotonin levels in the brain (a key neurotransmitter involved in improving the symptoms of depression) which makes you feel happy. And there’s no denying the fantastic feeling that comes with a good run. So, how do the weights stack up on this topic? Unfortunately, there is no scientific data to back this one up.nIndeed scientists have noted some promising  results regarding the mood altering effects of throwing the weights around but more research is needed to find specifics on the duration and intensity needed to achieve  said effects. I can tell you, in my own experience that when I see red  there’s nothing like a kick butt workout to clear my mind. I call it gym therapy. Makes me feel much, much better about things.

Winner? Cardio. (Only on a technicality might I point out….as soon as those scientists get it together and get that  research  published, I’ll let ya know and we can readjust the scores!)  😉

To Love the Way You Look in Everything…or Nothing at All

This category addresses self confidence as well as the pros and cons to cardio and strength training. Scientists have studied the effect of aerobic activity for years. It always comes down to the same bottom line, the self confidence that  an endurance athlete has, whether they be swimmers, long distance runners, sprinters or cyclists, comes from the sense of accomplishment they feel each time they cross another finish line. If you think about it, that makes a lot of sense.Each finish line would be one more notch on your belt. When you had to go out and buy a new belt to keep track of your notches, you’d feel pretty good about yourself, wouldn’t you? Okay, how about strength training? Have you ever looked in the mirror at yourself after a good weight routine workout? Lookin’ good, huh? That’s because your body has pumped blood into all your working muscles so they actually are slightly swollen which makes them look more toned. Sweet! As if that’s not enough, you’re also feeling good because you just moved some serious weight. In 2006, researchers tested subjects’ body image — how they felt about others checking them out, and how satisfied they were with their own appearance before and after 12 weeks of strength training. The women made significant improvements, and they were particularly influenced by the physical results of increasing the amount lifted – well, of course they were! Who wouldn’t be! My advice? Keep track of your workouts, the sets/reps and weight lifted, then every four weeks or so look back and see how far you’ve come! Talk about a  boost in self confidence!

Winner? Strength.

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