Cardio vs. Strength Training

May 19, 2017 | Fitness

Like fish and chips, and Ant and Dec, cardio and strength training are a classic combination. Every good fitness regime contains both.  

Long gone are the days when men pumped iron in the gym while the ladies in headbands and leotards did grapevines and jazz moves in a class next door. These days people take a more mixed approach to exercise, because women are cottoning on to the fact that weight training isn’t just for men, and men are increasingly popping up in cardio classes, such as Zumba and spin.

Cardio and strength training are equally important to our all-round health and strength, but what are the differences between them?

What is cardio?

Cardio, aka cardiovascular exercise, is anything that gets your heart rate up, makes you sweat, and gets oxygen pumping through your blood. Running, cycling and aerobic classes are all good examples.

The benefits of cardiovascular training are numerous: it’s great for the heart, it improves circulation and the quality of sleep, it increases bone density, which helps combat osteoporosis, and it reduces anxiety levels, due to the release of endorphins and the happy hormone, serotonin.

Government guidelines suggest adults should do two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week for optimum health.

What is strength training?

Strength training is any exercise that makes your muscles stronger and more powerful. This can be through the use of weights, or exercises that use your own bodyweight such as press-ups, squats and Yoga. You can also strengthen muscles through resistance based exercise, such as Pilates classes, which often incorporate different bits of kit like elastic gym bands or gym fit balls.

Strength or weight training increases your muscle tissue. And the more lean muscle tissue you have, the more calories you burn. As a rough guide, 1kg of muscle burns 50 extra calories a day, whereas 1kg of fat burns just three calories a day. Weight training is therefore more effective for fat-loss than cardio.

 What are the other benefits of cardio and strength training?

  1. Burning fat & keeping weight off

Cardio has an advantage when it comes to burning fat and maintaining a healthy weight. You’ll undoubtedly burn more calories during a spinning class than a Yoga class. However, strength training is effective too. After strength training, your muscles need to recover, causing a metabolic spike. So, after your workout, you’ll burn an additional 25% of the calories you burned during your training session.

If you lift heavier weights and rest for shorter periods, you can boost this number. In addition, the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn on an everyday basis – even when you’re lazing on the couch. This is because sustaining muscle requires more energy than sustaining fat.

  1. Building Muscle & Strength

    Although cardio will help you boost your muscle mass and gain strength, if performed too intensely, it may prevent you from gaining muscle mass. The key is to balance your cardio sessions with strength training. Just make sure you vary your strength-training routine to challenge different muscles and prevent stagnancy. Not only will this trick your body into working harder, but it will save you getting bored with your routine.

So, which should you do?

Both. If you want to live a long and healthy life, cardio is a non-negotiable. It strengthens your heart and reduces your risk of developing a number of health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Meanwhile, strength training improves bone and joint function, muscle, tendon and ligament strength, flexibility and balance. It’s great for preventing conditions such as osteoporosis in later life.

The recommended amount of strengthening activities for adults is twice a week. But you should vary the intensity of your training program every six to eight weeks to maintain improvement. Variables that can impact on your results include, number of repetitions, sets, breaks between sets and frequency of sessions.

TLC for your muscles

Incorporating cardio and strength training into your exercise routine is the best way to be healthy. And when you add massage to the mix, your muscles will get the TLC they need to recover between sessions. Contact Castle Thai Spa to book your massage today on 0131 629 0794.