“Cardio vs weights” is one of those debates that places you on a team; like asking someone if they prefer Apple or PC, Ford or Chevy, Captain Crunch or Cocoa Puffs. People are part of one team or the other and each side tends to chastise the other.
I’ve played on both teams and want to share my opinion on both forms of exercise and what the pros and cons are to each. Read on as we dive right in!
Cardiorespiratory exercise (aka “cardio”) is the common term used to describe exercise that works your heart, since your heart is a (smooth) muscle after all. Simply put, cardio is movement that makes your circulatory system work harder. Performing exercises like brisk walking, running, swimming, and cycling are just a few examples of basic cardio exercises. Cardio has multiple benefits, however there can be drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of cardio.
- Cardio allows you to have a lower resting heart rate
When you are exercising, your heart has to work harder by pumping blood to your body at a faster rate. By doing cardio consistently over time, your heart becomes more and more efficient at pumping blood. This can propel your athletic endeavors or make everyday physical activities seem easier to accomplish.
Essentially, your heart will work more efficiently and continue to perform at that same level or even better. You will notice this change by seeing a reduced resting heart rate (RHR). Here is how you measure your RHR. The lower your RHR is; the better shape your heart is in (as long as it’s not too low, which is also not a good thing).
- Weight loss
As you increase your cardio, your body has to burn extra fuel in order to meet the demand of energy needed to perform the exercise. Just think of driving a car. If you want to drive faster, you will need to press the gas pedal harder, which sends more gasoline into the engine, and therefore increases your speed.
Well, in the body, stored fat is the primary fuel needed for steady-state cardio exercise. By pushing your body with cardio, you will burn more fat in the process. The increased energy expended combined with a decreased caloric intake will cause weight loss.
- Cardio will improve cognition
A recent study published by Neurology.org found that young adults with higher cardio fitness levels performed much better on cognitive tests 25 years later compared to their counterparts who didn’t participate in cardio.
As we age, there is a natural decline in our cognitive abilities and a way to mitigate this is by doing cardio. It’s never too late to strengthen your heart by doing cardio, and it appears that cardio can keep your brain young too. All the more reason to keep cardio in your regimen.
- Cardio and cortisol production
For those who don’t know, cortisol is a hormone that is produced by your adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol helps improve your body’s resistance to stress so it can continue to be healthy when external factors disrupt homeostasis.
During a long cardio workout (external stressor), the demand for energy increases as your workout intensity grows. Once your body detects low energy levels, cortisol sends a message to cells in your body that your metabolism needs to slow down.
Long story short, if cortisol secretion becomes chronic, fat begins to accumulate over time due to the constant stress. Make sure you’re not overdoing it!
- Injuries and overtraining become more common
There can be drawbacks from cardio if you continue for prolonged periods of time. Repetitive movements can cause added stress to joints and can eventually lead to injury. Have you heard of “runner’s knee”? It develops from the constant stress put on one’s knees by running frequently.
Overtraining is caused by excessive stress placed on the body from too much exercise, without proper rest and nourishment. If a proper rest period is not integrated, the body doesn’t have enough time to recover, which can lead to injuries as well.
Team Weight Lifting
Weight lifting is the activity of moving resistance through space to increase muscle size and gain strength. Examples include, squats, bicep curls, bench press, etc.
When lifting weights, stress is placed on the muscle which causes micro tears in muscle fibers. Resting and refueling between workouts lets muscles repair the tears which then allows muscles to grow in size and strength. The muscles grow stronger in preparation for the next time they will have to face heavy resistance again.
Weight lifting has many benefits but there are things you need to be careful about; let’s take a look at the pros and cons of weight training.
- Weight lifting raises your basal metabolic rate (BMR) for weight Loss
BMR is the amount of energy (calories) that the body needs to function while resting for a 24-hour period. While lifting weights, you are expending calories and increasing caloric burn (metabolism) for that day and a short period of time thereafter.
For the next 24-48 hours after your workout, your metabolism will be boosted because your body will have to work harder in order to repair the muscle tissues.
At rest, muscles burn approximately 50 calories/day per pound of muscle, compared to fat cells only need 3 calories/day per pound of fat. The more muscle you have, the more calories you will burn.
- Improves bone density
As you age past about 30 years, the density of your bones begins to diminish. One of the best ways to combat bone loss is to add strength training. According to this study, there was a positive relationship between the effects of resistance training and bone density.
Having strong bones and having the muscle to protect the bones will lower the susceptibility to fractures in the hip, spine, and wrist. Also, if you have stronger muscles, you will have better balance and you will be less likely to fall down, which is surprisingly a common issue as one reaches their latter years.
- Looking and feeling better
When you consistently lift weights you can drastically improve your physical appearance. Every guy wants a chiseled six pack and every girl wants to have those toned legs and buns. By lifting weights while living a healthy lifestyle, you can achieve those results.
You also develop confidence by challenging yourself and pushing yourself through intense training sessions, which can carry over to making you more confident and content.
When you lift weights, endorphins (feel good chemicals in your brain) are released. When you are exerting yourself to achieve your body goals, you forget what’s going on in your life and are present in the moment (runners also get this and also known as a “runner’s high”). People who work out tend to be happier people because they let out the stress in their lives through weight training.
- Lifting heavy weights can be dangerous
Form is very important when working out with weights, not only for best results, but also for injury prevention. Common injuries include muscle strains and bone fractures if proper form isn’t utilized.
Be careful with how you drop your weights, you don’t ever want them landing on your feet or any body part (make sure to choose the proper weight). Becoming aware of the dangers of lifting weights is the first step in avoiding them. Always start with light weight until you get the hang of it, then progress to a heavier weight when you feel comfortable.
- Lifting a large amount of weight can cause blood pressure to rise significantly
Blood pressure can rise from a normal 120/80 to over 200/120 really quick during an intense weight training session. This type of blood pressure can actually cause damage to aortic walls in the heart.
So What’s My Take?
I love to exercise. I have tried almost every method of training imaginable. There are times that I feel like going for a run and then there are times I feel like lifting heavy weights. There is a purpose for every workout regimen and it comes down to what your goals are.
I like to change it up all the time. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over, I find it monotonous. I believe I generate the best results by varying my training and constantly changing the way I train.
An example of my workout schedule:
Monday- weight training on a specific body part. Ex- (Arms)
Tuesday- play basketball.
Wednesday- plyometrics (jump training)
Thursday- weight train again on a different body part (Back and Shoulders)
Friday- Bulgarian Bag workout
Saturday- attend a spin class
To answer the question of what team I am on, well, I would say I am part of NO TEAM. I am a supporter and participant of both ways of exercise. I don’t think we need to choose one method over the other. Like I said before, it comes down to what you want from your fitness goals. You should take advantage of both types of exercising to become fit, healthy, and happy as possible!
P.S.- I’m actually cuckoo for Team Coco Puffs!