Levels of fitness and fitness goals vary from person to person. Building fitness levels and achieving those goals is therefore something of a minefield for the established and novice exerciser alike.
Some camps argue cardio exercise is best, while other favour weights.
But which is best for you?
Cardio exercise, as the name suggests, is exercise that gets the heart pumping. Running, swimming, cycling, dancing and step are all cardio activities.
Also known as aerobic exercise – because it pumps oxygenated blood around the body – it is great for you for a number of reasons…
It exercises the heart
Many people think exercise is just for the skeletal muscles but what’s great about cardio exercise is that it gets the heart pumping which is great for your overall health.
It builds lung capacity
And as the heart pumps the body requires more oxygen requiring you to breath fuller and for longer. Less fit people get out of breath quicker during this type of exercise because their lung capacity is less, but regular cardio exercise addresses this and makes the body more efficient during and after exercise.
It detoxifies and cleanses
Sustained aerobic activity creates warmth in the body and the natural cooling system perspiration then begins. This takes warmth to the skin and delivers toxins out of the system through the skin – which may not be pleasant at the time but is also beneficial.
It burns calories
Cardio exercise is intense and doing it for just 30 minutes at a time is a fantastic calorie burner. Not only during the exercise itself but also for some time after as the cardio vascular system operates at a higher level for some time even after the exercise is over.
It stimulates the brain and other vital organs
The resulting extra supply of oxygen and blood to the vital organs has all kinds of benefits including increased alertness, and more efficiency in the processing organs like the kidneys and liver.
It burns blood sugar and fat
Energy is stored in the blood in the form of a sugar and it is this energy that cardio exercise consumes. Deposits of blood sugar vary from person to person and are generally in lower supply earlier on in the day.
If the average person exercises at intensity for one hour the first 45 minutes will be supported by blood sugar which will be replaced by carbohydrates from food the next time s/he eats. The remaining 15 minutes will take its energy from the person’s fat deposits.
It builds stamina
Stamina is vital for well-being and regular aerobic activity will build it significantly.
It impacts on the joints
And here’s the negative – lots of aerobic activity can impact on the joints. The pounding of feet from running, aerobics, dancing and so on may be harsh on the joints if the muscles that support them are weak or posture is poor.
Weight bearing exercise is lower in intensity and involves using the weight of the body itself or additional equipment like barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and medicine balls to strengthen the muscles.
It builds muscles
The stress of weight on the muscles makes them stronger. Muscles are made up of fibres which literally ‘tear and repair’ as a result of weighted workouts. When they repair they’re stronger and more toned.
If weight bearing exercise is neglected, the muscles do the opposite and waste. This muscle depletion begins in adults at the age of 25 and a failure to counteract this process with weight-bearing exercise can lead to whole heap of health problems.
So from that point of view it’s a must for everyone.
It can improve posture
As well as building muscle in the gym we also build muscle through our every day activity.
That may create poor posture from sitting at a desk, standing for long periods leaning, carrying bags on one shoulder repeatedly and so on. These imbalances will strengthen certain muscles and weaken others leading to at the very least the odd niggle and in worse scenarios serious postural issues, many of which present themselves during cardio activity.
The good news is weight training can prevent and even correct poor posture because by building the muscles in a disciplined way they then give additional support and improved alignment to the skeleton.
It alters metabolism
Weight training does not burn as many calories as cardio at the time or immediately after exercise. However, a body that is higher in muscle mass does require more calories at rest. So, just like cardio there are longer- term calorific benefits to working out with weights.
It strengthens bones
Resistance training is good for the bones as well as the muscles. It results in greater bone density so bones are less likely to break or bend with conditions like osteoporosis if weight training is part and parcel of your exercise regime.
So which wins?
If you’ve not worked out the best work out already then here it is… a mix of both in the degree that suits your needs the best.
If your goal is to get fit then go for a cardio-dominant exercise plan with weighted work to keep your posture and tone. If you want to build bulk elect a more weighted regime with a little cardio to keep your heart healthy and your stamina strong. Or if you’re an undecided voter then split it down the middle and enjoy the fantastic benefits of both.
It’s one election where a hung parliament is a good thing…