The new year rings in with resolutions that usually involve fitness; Chances are, if you are reading this article, you either said, or heard someone say: “this year will be the year that I get in shape”, or “this will be the year I finally get those firm abs“. But, where do you start with that promise? Every weight loss gimmick and quick muscle course has been marketed to its fullest extent, whether its a new home gym machine or a free month trial at a local fitness center. Your fitness goals will commonly direct you to either a cardiovascular or weight training plan. However, which one is most effective for your personal needs?
Cardio and Weight Lifting Differences
Cardiovascular, or cardio, training involves non-resistance training, such as running or performing aerobics. You use your muscles under endurance type exercises to burn calories. In contrast, weight lifting and body-weight routines involve static resistance movements, from bicep curls to dumbbell flys, to gain muscle mass that will burn calories. Each workout type offers weight loss with different strategies, but they both have their benefits and drawbacks.
1) What is the nature of your weight loss goals?
A blog like this one is dedicated to exercising as a lifestyle, but maybe you’re not looking for a lifelong balance. Perhaps you are just seeking a short-term goal. Some people simply need to lose a few pounds to shine at a special event. The most effective way to lose weight in a short period of time is through cardio training. According the Women’s Health Magazine, 10 to 12 calories are burned each minute during biking or running. Strength training only burns between 8 and 10 calories per minute.
The higher calorie burn with cardio workouts makes this a good choice for those looking to drop weight fast. However, unless you remain active and eat a proper diet, the weight will not stay off for long. Muscle mass is needed to continually burn calories throughout the day for long term weight loss, even when you are not actively exercising.
Keeping weight off requires some muscle strength training. The muscle recovery period after a lifting exercise actually increases the metabolism temporarily, allowing you to burn calories even after you stop moving.
2) Are you looking to relieve stress or is stress not a factor?
Stress invades everyone’s lives at some point. Exercise is known to alleviate stress, but which type is most effective? Although research is still pending in regards to strength training, studies have found that anxiety levels are significantly reduced with moderate cardio exercise throughout the week. Taking a walk, or jog for only 15 minutes will help calm the mind.
Serotonin levels within the brain increase during endurance workouts, which produce a good feeling throughout the body. The increase of this neurotransmitter contributes to lower depression levels. The stress is effectively washed away through chemical reactions.
3) Do you want to lose extra fat or put on muscle mass?
Cardio training will reduce fat deposits around the body, but muscle mass is only created with strength training. By lifting weights, you are creating stress on the muscles; in response, they will begin to grow to counter the stress they feel, especially if the weight training is consistent. Heavy weights coupled with short repetitions will give you a large muscle mass, whereas lighter weights matched with extra repetitions will create a toned physique.
4) Do you have a specific sport or activity you’re training for that requires endurance or short bursts of strength?
Runners need endurance to cover miles of ground; cardio training is the best choice for stretching your tolerance for muscle pain. However, if you need immediate power, weight training will create the muscle bulk needed to jump or move quickly throughout an activity. Football players obviously need to make strength training their key when it comes to tackling head on and holding off linemen. A soccer player on the other hand will need to have 90 minutes of endurance in their legs and a tone upper body in order to be the most agile and quick. Sports-players should know what effect cardio or strength training workouts have on specific muscle groups, and what results they are looking for.
5) Are you looking to lengthen your life span or simply want to look good in a pair of jeans?
Overall, cardio is the best way to prolong your life. Cardio exercises pump up the heart rate so that its specialized heart muscle is trained to improve endurance. Looking good in a pair of jeans simply requires some strength toning, which does not contribute to a longer life span. I may seem obvious to call attention to the heart benefits of cardiovascular exercise since it’s in the name, but it should be considered by someone looking to maintain overall wellness and keep a youthful vitality without running short on breath. On the other hand, target muscle specific weight training can give you the beach body you’ve always wanted or the results on the front of the magazine.
It may be misleading to put these two forms of exercise head-to-head because each has overall health and wellness benefits and can be used together to get great results. However, the way you work your muscles has an effect on the outcome that each person should consider for their specific goals.
If you are a fan of strength training, but do not enjoy a run on the treadmill as part of your cardio supplement, there are ways you can spice up your workout sessions, by incorporating aspects of both cardio and strength training. High intensity interval training routines comprise components of both types of exercise elements, helping you build muscle mass, and achieve your cardio goals at the same time. Below is an example of a high intensity interval training workout.
Author Bio: Amy M. is a fitness blogger and personal trainer. She has helped many people reach vastly different weight training goals through motivation and fitness knowledge.