So you’re heading to the gym, what are you going to train? Weight training or cardio? Feel like you’ve over done it on the sweet treats recently so thinking about a good long run to work it off; but then you think ‘I really need to work on those arm muscles so maybe an intense weights session?’ The truth is, you cannot target one area in which you want to ‘lose weight or fat’. The secret is diverse training. Switch it up, keep your body guessing… You will see more effective results and you will continue to challenge yourself. Because let’s face it, no one likes the same old boring workout.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you are genuinely overweight and need to lose body fat, you will need to do some cardio however, do remember that around 80% of weight loss will be down to a healthy diet. Additionally, you will need to do some weight training to in order to preserve muscle. Generally speaking, minute per minute, cardiovascular exercise does burn more calories than weight/ strength training but as mentioned before, cardio does pretty much nothing for your muscles. Strength training burns calories as well as building muscle. In fact a Penn State study demonstrated that a group of dieters lost 21 pounds regardless of whether or not they performed strength or cardio exercises however, in the group that did cardio, 6 pounds of their weight loss came from muscle. On the other hand, the group that did weights and strength training lost almost pure fat.

But which form of training is better overall? Let’s take a look at the key benefits of both types of training…

Why lift weights?

For one, it is healthy! Believe it or not, a weights session at the gym can really improve your mood. As well as being beneficial for your physical wellbeing it is great for your mental state of mind too. Here are a few more reasons…

You’ll sleep better

Better night sleeps are reported by those who exercise regularly when compared with those who do not. Research has found that individuals who work out (particularly those that push themselves), wake up less times in the night than people who do not workout on a regular basis.

Good for bone health

Weight lifting and strength training has been suggested to increase our bone density. Good bone density is extremely important as it reduces the risk of damage, fractures and breaks. Bone density tends to decrease as we get older therefore, strength training can play an essential role in preserving healthy bones.

Boosts your balance

Going back to bone health, what also contributes to fractures is falling over… Not only does weightlifting improve your strength but it also improves your balance, resulting in few falls and few injuries.

You might feel happier

Like most forms of exercise, weights and strength training can boost your mentality and cognitive functioning. Strength-training has been linked to aid in reducing symptoms of depression and reduce anxiety. It can also help improve your self-esteem and boost brainpower.

You don’t have to go to the gym

As Winter approaches and the evenings are getting darker, it is probably rare that you finish work and have the desire to go back out in to the cold and face the gym. So why not buy some dumbbell weights and workout from home? There are a huge variety of work out videos available online such as Youtube, so why not squeeze in a 30 minute weights work out before dinner?!

Why do cardio?

All this being said, to get the most out of your workouts physically and mentally, you should mix it up and alternate between cardio and strength training. Granted, some people prefer weight lifting and some people prefer cardio however, to get the most out of your workouts you may find it extremely beneficial to incorporate both forms of exercise in to your routine.

What is cardiovascular exercise?

The word ‘cardio’ is short for cardiovascular, and in fitness terms it refers to the circulatory system consisting of the heart and the blood vessels in your body. Cardio is an aerobic exercise which means it requires the body to deliver oxygen to your muscles and other organs in the body in order to partake in the exercise. Regular cardiovascular exercise will ultimately improve lung and heart efficiency meaning it will improve their function, keeping you healthier for longer.

There are two different types of cardio: aerobic and anaerobic

In short, aerobic exercising means needing or using oxygen, and anaerobic means without oxygen.

Aerobic exercises cover things like dance and exercises classes, running, biking etc. which means your heart is pumping faster and your lungs are taking in more oxygen to ensure you keep moving. On the other hand, anaerobic exercising refers to activity that requires fast paced movements and getting out of breath more quickly. This involves things like heavy weightlifting, HIIT workouts and fast sprinting.

Like weight lifting, cardio fitness is associated with physical and mental health benefits…

It could help you lose weight

Whilst shifting unwanted fat comes primarily through a healthy diet, regular cardiovascular exercise is suggested to be the most effective form of exercise to help you lose weight. However, do note that cardio workouts may also burn muscle not just fat, so it is important to pair this with a well balanced diet that provides you with enough protein to replenish muscle loss.

Promotes brain health

Research studies have suggested that aerobic exercise that gets your heart pumping, can increase the size of the hippocampus; the area of the brain that relates to memory and learning. This was not found in resistance training. Other studies have also found that cardiovascular exercise can increase overall brain health.

Healthy heart

It makes sense that lack of activity is a huge risk factor for heart disease. Fortunately, cardiovascular exercise has the ability to reverse this risk. Like with any muscles, the heart will become stronger the more exercise it is exposed to, and will, as a result, pump more blood round the body ensuring that it is functioning to optimum level. Individuals who partake in regular cardiovascular activity tend to have a lower resting heart rate.

Can help battle anxiety

Cardiovascular activity has been demonstrated as an effective tool to improve one’s mood and alleviate symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety. As your body starts to exercise, your brain starts to become more sensitive to the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine, which are responsible for relieving symptoms of depression.

Boosts energy levels

I think it is safe to say that those are more physically active tend to have more energy in general and suffer less with fatigue. Cardio can be beneficial for all individuals particularly those who have/ are suffering with chronic fatigue. Regular cardio can do wonders for your physical and mental energy state and is great for boosting stamina.

Decrease risk of diseases

Lack of physical activity is listed as one of the primary causes of chronic illnesses. Inactivity can lead to excess body fat which may lead to threats of heart disease and type 2. Regular cardio exercise can help improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood pressure.

So, let’s go back to the question… What us more important- weight training or cardio exercise?

The answer is, there is no answer! Both types of exercises should be considered as both provide slightly different types of health benefits. Your best bet is to practice both types of exercises to ensure you are enabling your body the opportunity to stay as healthy as possible. Weight lifting will build muscles and cardiovascular activity will help you stay lean. However, although both exercises leas the ‘aesthetically pleasing’ bodies, what you should focus on is exercising for your health! Keep these benefits in mind when choosing your workouts and try and switch up your gym routine as much as possible.