Ah, the age-old debate on cardio versus strength training for optimal fitness results. Both modalities have their supporters and critics, making it difficult to tell whether one would be better for you. So, read on because we are breaking it down to help you pick the right option.

Resistance Training Benefits and Drawbacks

Benefits of Strength Training

  • Effective for building strength and muscle
  • The progressive element makes workouts engaging and motivating
  • Necessary for holding onto muscle while shedding body fat
  • You can pick from numerous exercises
  • Gym machines provide control and make strength training ideal for beginners
  • Training your muscles can improve insulin sensitivity, allowing your body to more effectively use the carbs you ingest for energy
  • Fantastic for preventing or reversing age-related muscle and strength loss
  • Strengthens the bones by improving mineral density

Limitations of Strength Training

  • You need more equipment, which typically means working out at a gym
  • Improper technique can put you in a compromised position that increases the injury risk
  • Muscle soreness (especially when trying something new) can be significant
  • There is a learning curve, and the movements might feel awkward at the start

Cardiovascular Exercise Benefits and Drawbacks

Aerobic Exercise Benefits

  • The best way to improve cardiovascular health and endurance
  • The caloric burn can support weight loss (when combined with a proper diet)
  • It’s an excellent way to enhance your mood
  • It may lead to better sleep
  • It’s accessible, and you don’t need gym access to do it
  • You can pick from various activities, including running, cycling, and swimming
  • Similar to strength training, cardio can improve insulin sensitivity

Cardio Exercise Drawbacks

  • It can be monotonous
  • There is a small risk of overuse injuries
  • It’s not ideal for building muscle mass or strength
  • Outdoor cardio is weather-dependent
  • It’s time-consuming

Which is Better: Cardio or Strength Training?

Asking whether cardio is better than strength is like wondering if you should take a protein powder or fat burner. Why? Because the answer to this question depends on context.

In other words, better for what and for whom? Both modalities offer unique benefits, and their usefulness depends on what you’re trying to get out of fitness.

Are you more interested in building muscle, getting stronger, and perhaps reversing age-related muscle loss? If so, strength training is the better option. Or maybe you want to improve your cardiovascular capacity and enjoy the monotony of cardio? In such a case, cardio might be better.

For most people, a combination of cardio and strength training would be ideal, as both stress the body in unique ways and provide benefits. 

Cardiovascular exercise primarily taxes the aerobic system (using oxygen and carbohydrates to generate energy) and elevates the heart rate for an extended period. This improves circulation, boosts lung capacity, and reduces resting heart rate. 

Strength training also relies on the aerobic system (to a greater degree than most people imagine). Still, it also taxes the anaerobic system, which doesn’t rely on oxygen for energy production.

Therefore, while it also impacts the body like cardio (but to a lesser degree), it primarily focuses on targeting specific muscle groups and providing other benefits: strength, muscle gain, insulin sensitivity, etc.

So, while their effects overlap to a small degree, doing both will provide a more varied range of health and lifestyle benefits.