Cardio vs. strength training

Which is better?

Whether you’re a beginner, you’re returning to exercise, or you’re a well-established fitness fanatic, you would have heard about cardio or strength training.

Knowing whether cardio or strength training is better requires a little more explanation into the benefits of each and depends on your goals. We’ll help you decide which is best for you in this blog - let’s get into it!

Cardio training

Simply put, cardio (short for cardiovascular) is an exercise that involves any physical activity that gets your heart rate pumping! Some examples include cycling, running, swimming, and skiing.

Here are the benefits of incorporating cardio training into your regime:

Better skin

Being active helps increase circulation and direct blood flow to your cells - including your skin cells! This helps reduce signs of ageing and improves your overall complexion. The lower stress levels that come with increased activity can also help keep skin conditions such as eczema at bay.

A brain boost

Cardio exercise activates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a molecule that helps repair brain cells and make new ones. While there’s no sure-fire way to prevent conditions such as dementia that affect memory, research has also shown that regular cardio training can help to protect the brain from cognitive decline.

Strengthens immune system

Less stress from the release of happy hormones (such as serotonin) during cardio exercise, paired with better blood and oxygen flow to your cells, makes a great recipe for a healthier, more effective immune system. Be sure to build rest and recovery into your routine though, as exercising too often can be counter productive.

Aids heart health

It’s no wonder that “cardio” translates to “heart” in Greek! Regular cardio leads to a decrease in resting blood pressure and heart rate, while improving good cholesterol levels and lowering blood fats.

Two Column Gut Health (1)

Strength training

Now on to strength training, also referred to as weight training, which involves any exercise that engages your muscles against resistance to enhance muscle power and endurance. This is typically done with equipment such as kettlebells, dumbbells, specialised weight machines, or even your own bodyweight.

Some advantages of strength training include:

Getting stronger and more defined

Strength training does what it says on the tin, it helps you become stronger which makes your body more defined. When using weights, a greater resistance is put on your muscles which breaks down tissue and signals your body to heal, all while building muscle as it happens. Patience is key here – results don’t happen overnight. It takes commitment, but once you start to see the results, it can be very rewarding. Some women can feel reluctant to venture into the weights section in the gym due to a common myth that they will become ‘too bulky’. While it’s true that lifting enough weights over a long enough time will help you gain muscle mass, there isn’t a huge difference between how quickly men and women build muscle when they’re on similar training plans.

Protects bone health

Strong muscles can lead to stronger bones! Activities that put stress (the good kind!) on bones can trigger bone-forming cells into action, with the result being stronger, denser bones. While weaker bones are a normal part of ageing, protecting your bone health can also help to prevent bone diseases such as osteoporosis.

Two Column Barbell

Post-workout calorie burn

While cardio burns calories during a workout, strength training burns calories long after you’ve finished exercising as your muscles continue to break down and repair themselves, which uses energy (calories).

Prevents injuries

When you have stronger muscles, your joints and mobility are better supported, helping to prevent injuries. Having stronger joints also improves your balance, coordination, and posture, which can reduce neck and back pain.

So, what’s the verdict?

When it comes to answering the question of whether cardio or strength training is better, the truth is that it all depends on your own goals. If your aim is to boost your strength, it makes more sense to lean towards strength training. But if you want to run a marathon, cardio is more sensible to start with.

So, what happens if neither of these are your goals? Based on the benefits above, diversifying your routine with a mix of both throughout the week is ideal. Doing some exercise is better than none! Maybe you could try cardio on Mondays and Wednesdays, then strength training on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A personal trainer can come in handy to help you decide what exercise is most suited to your goals and if you’re unsure of how to plan your workouts.

Mixing things up is also important when it comes to training. You could try either form of exercise in the gym, in a studio, outdoors, or even in the pool. Having something different to look forward to is more likely to lead to better results, reduced boredom, and less chance of plateauing.

Don’t forget that with a Premium membership you get unlimited swim, gym, and classes, allowing you to try different things. You even get a discounted rate on LES MILLS+,  meaning that you can take fitness (and over 2,000 science-backed, feel-good workouts!) wherever you go.

What’s most important is to get your body moving as regularly and comfortably as you see fit!

Sources: Cardio Vs Strength Training: Which is better for you (TRX) | The (Many) Benefits of a Cardio Workout (Cleveland Clinic) | Exercise & fitness: Working out your brain (Harvard Health Publishing) | Staying healthy: Strength training builds more than just muscles (Harvard Health Publishing) | Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier (Mayo Clinic) | Osteoporosis (NHS) | Benefits of exercise (NHS) | Sex Differences in Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research)

Read more blogs

Take a look at all the blogs we have for you to enjoy

Read more