Exercise is clinically proven to have a whole range of benefits on the human body. A sedentary lifestyle is increasingly one of the biggest precursors to chronic illness in modern day life. Just walking, dancing or stretching for 30 minutes a day can begin to provide the benefits of exercise. Of course, as you increase your exercise output, the more you will reap the rewards. But, as with anything, don’t go too hard or you’ll wear yourself out. Build slowly and listen to your body.
Exercise is proven to:
- Improve your mood, decreasing feelings of stress, anxiety and depression
- Regulate your hormones and improve your sleep quality
- Reduce your chance of developing serious disease such as diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease
Cardio is a staple in any training routine. Cardio, short for cardiovascular is activity that raises your heart rate which has affects from blood circulation to brain activity. Most associated with sports activity such as sprinting, long distance running, rowing or sports such as football or netball, your cardiovascular system is still activated during strength-based activity like weights or bodyweight circuit training.
# Benefits of cardiovascular training include:
- Burning body fat
- Developing a healthier, stronger heart
- Increasing lung capacity
- Regulating hormones, mood and as a result your sleep quality and mental health
Strength training more specifically describes resistance training, whether that’s using weights, resistance bands or your own body weight. By adding resistance to body movement, you increase the difficulty of the movement, and thus increase the cardiovascular and muscular requirements to complete the repetition.
This is where cardio and strength training overlap, as any strength training exercises exert a cardiovascular output. However, as rep range or weight increases, the movement begins to tear muscle fibres. The tearing of the muscle fibres makes them grow back thicker and stronger, thus increasing strength and size of the muscle.
# Benefits of strength training include:
- Increasing bone density
- Increasing muscle mass
- Improving your biomechanics (your body’s functionality and muscular balance)
Ultimately, the best way to get fitter, faster, stronger and looking healthier is a combination of both strength and cardio. That said, it can help to get your cardiovascular capacity up before entering a strength routine. A good way to do this can be to combine bodyweight exercises with more cardio heavy runs, swims or rowing sessions during your week.
High-intensity cardio is that which takes your heart rate to its near maximum (around 75-85 percent). This is going to leave you feeling exhausted, breathless and in the beginning, slightly queasy. Generally, this is through high intensity interval training (HIIT), this is a hard output for a short burst, followed by a period of rest.
This could be achieved through sprint training, competitive football, boxing training, and essentially anything where you go all out for a period, then rest for a similar or shorter period, and repeat. This is unarguably one of the fastest ways to see improvements to your cardiovascular health.
Moderate-intensity exercise is going to bring you to between 50-70% of your maximum heart rate, this could include jogging, swimming or cycling, although all of these could become high-intensity by adding sprints into the workout. Moderate intensity is a good level for fat loss and heart health, but results won’t come as quickly as high intensity interval training.
Low intensity exercise describes activity which brings your heart rate to around 50% of its maximum output. This could include walking, yoga, or lightly jogging on the spot as you warm up for more intense output. This can be the perfect way to build up to more intense activity, or an important start to those who are overweight or have been out of exercise for some time. It is also a great way for more elderly people to get their exercise in, avoiding injury.
Low weight, high rep:
Low weights and high rep ranges, for example performing jumping jacks with 1-5kg weights in your hands. This is more likely to be seen during a high-intensity interval training circuit, alongside exercises such as sledgehammer strikes to a tractor tyre or medicine ball throws. These kinds of exercises overlap heavily with cardiovascular training and can be a perfect combination between strength and fitness.
Moderate weight, moderate rep:
This is where we delve into the weight room, moderate weight may not be entirely accurate as this is where the rep range tends to become 8-12 repetitions with a weight that becomes a lot harder during the final two or three repetitions. This kind of strength training really tears those muscle fibres and builds strength and mass. Though, ladies, don’t shy away for fear of looking too masculine, women don’t create enough testosterone to start looking ‘hench’, instead you will begin to sport a more toned look through this kind of workout.
High weight, low weight:
Now we enter the realm of pure strength training, or powerlifting. Here the aim is a weight that becomes much harder on the fourth or fifth repetition. While of course, there will be gains in muscle mass, this type of strength exercise focuses more on strength, through the main stapes: deadlift, squat, bench press, military press and bent over rows. These exercises require beginning with an empty Olympic bar, or even a lighter barbell, and movement up in weight at very small increments.
This is an advanced style of training and particularly here you should consult a professional to guide your progress. That said, any form of training where you are adding resistance should always be guided by a professional and you should never compensate correct form for an extra rep. No pain no gain is a fallacy, you should never be in pain when lifting. Strenuous, yes. Pain, no.
We can sit here all day and argue the benefits of strength training vs cardio, or the benefits of weight training vs cardio, but ultimately, both exert varying levels of cardiovascular output and bring numerous benefits. But, we would advise bringing elements of both into your routine to build strong foundations and a healthy engine.