Should I do cardio or resistance training?
This is probably one of the most common asked questions with clients and people who are working on their fitness and health journey. Any good trainer is going to respond with…well it depends!
I know it is a vague answer but honestly it’s the right answer. It depends on what your goals are, what does your lifestyle look like, and are you trying to live a long and healthy life. Seems simple right? But honestly it goes much deeper than a simple yes or no.
So let’s dig a little deeper on the pros and cons of both cardio and weight lifting.
It is one of the easiest forms of exercise you can perform anywhere because it requires little to no equipment. You can walk/jog in your neighborhood, run up and down your stairs, go swimming, play basketball with your kids, go for a hike, or literally chase your toddler around all day in your house. You can even take your cardio to the gym by hopping on a cardio machine or joining a class like zumba or kickboxing. The options are endless when it comes to choosing how you want to implement cardio.
Not only is it easy to fit in your day but it’s great for your heart and lungs. It allows blood to flow throughout your body easily, your lung capacity increases, and your heart strengthens every time you do it. You can increase or decrease the intensity based on what your goals are, like doing HIIT or slow to moderate paced cardio.
Cardio is a great option to add in if you are in a fat loss phase but there are precautions that need to be monitored before thinking this is the only way.
It’s adaptive! Cardio is a stressor on the body and your body will respond to this stress by trying to adapt to it. It will begin to signal what it is you are trying to do and respond to the stress so that next time it knows how to handle the stress. Your body learns how to respond and adapts. The only way to change this is by creating more stress with intensity or longevity. You pretty much either need to go harder and faster or perform it for a longer duration.
Let’s use an example here. An average female that weighs about 170lbs wants to lose 30lbs in 6 months. She begins running 4x’s a week for about 15-20 minutes each session. She loses about 5lbs in 2 months and then hits a plateau. Nothing in her diet has changed and now she is stumped. Her body has adapted to the stress of cardio. The only way she can create more stress to continue to lose is to either a). Increase the intensity of the cardio session or b). Jog for a longer duration like 30 min. At first it doesn’t seem like a big deal but over time to continue to lose weight she will need to do the same response at her next plateau and eventually could be running up to an hour 4x’s a week.
Also, as your body begins to adapt, you begin to burn less calories causing your metabolism to slow down. Your body begins to recognize the need for the extra calories it is devoting to the endurance response of cardio and begins to hold onto these making fat loss a little tough. This is also why so many people struggle to lose weight when they join camp gladiator or orange theory. Their bodies adapt to the stress over time.
It is not as adaptive as cardio! When you begin to resistance train or lift weights, you begin to put stress on the muscle. The muscle then sends the signal to the brain to say “hey we need to grow and get stronger to handle the stress!” Over time you are able to lift more and add more weights to the barbell because your muscles have adapted and are now able to grow.
As you begin to build more muscle, your metabolism begins to speed up. The more muscle mass you have the more you burn at rest. You see when you spend 45 min to an hour lifting, your calories being burned do not stop there. They continue to burn up to 72 hours after a session at the gym making resistance training more optimal during a fat loss phase.
The benefits do not stop there though. With weight lifting you also become stronger in your everyday life. All of a sudden you are able to pick up your kids with ease, carry the groceries in, and you can get up off the ground without moaning and groaning. It makes the simple task in life much easier for you to handle.
If it is the only thing you are doing, then some endurance activities might be difficult. You may have a hard time chasing your dog down the street after he bolted out the front door or if your toddler decides to make a run for it at Target, then you might be in a pickle.
One other drawback is if you try to do too much at once, you can put yourself at risk for injury. Lifting weights is a gradual process and you should push yourself to get stronger but not to the point of no return. Start slow and see what your body is capable of.
Resistance training will always outweigh the benefits compared to cardio for the long term effects on your life and body.
So how do you know whether or not you need cardio or resistance training? Honestly you need both but the intensity varies depending on what your goals are. If you are trying to lose fat, then you need both. If you are trying to build muscle, you will want to focus more on resistance training, and if you are trying to maintain your body you will need a combination. I design all my clients cardio and strength training around their goals and lifestyles. Apply here for one on one coaching.