How important is cardio as part of your workout, and does it outweigh strength training?

It's not just runners who need to incorporate cardio into their workouts - it's vital for all in the fitness world, alongside strength training

How-Important-Is-Cardio-To-Your-Fitness-RoutineCardio is just as important to your fitness routine as strength training

The question has been asked a million times over the years; how important is cardio as part of your workout? And what’s better: cardio or weightlifting? They both have their benefits. But what are the benefits that they really offer? Yes, cardio will make you able to run, swim or cycle longer and weightlifting will make you stronger, but what affect does this have on our overall health? We’ve looked at the benefits and drawbacks of both forms of activity as well as the benefits of incorporating the two to develop the best results for you.

How important is cardio as part of your workout?

Cardio is the health kick bread and butter that everyone abides by to lose weight or get in shape, and there is a reason for that. Cardiovascular workouts push your heart and lungs to work harder and faster than they have to during strength building sessions. This means that your heart and lungs are getting stronger and more capable for long distance or high intensity sports or training.

Along with this, the benefit of increasing your body’s heart rate directly speeds up your body’s metabolism. Typically, the more intense the cardio, the more of an increase you will notice to your metabolic rate. Exercises such as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sprints increase metabolism the most due to EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) after performing the task. An increased metabolism due to this makes maintaining or losing weight easier than it would have been prior.

HIIT workouts are a great form or cardio
How important is strength training as part of your workout?

Going for a run or a bike ride used to be the first thing that came to mind when someone mentioned fitness and health, but this is no more, due to the simple fact that weightlifting has come into the limelight with Hollywood actors and sports stars donning superhero physiques. And how? That’s right – weightlifting programs! But does this mean that they are healthy or do they just look it? Well, in 2015 Harvard researchers followed a group consisting of 10,500 men for a period of 12 years. The men were subject to train either by weightlifting or by doing cardiovascular exercises. The results showed that the men who strength trained over this period of time gained less abdominal fat than those who did not, which is a significant marker of overall health.

While cardiovascular exercises burn fat, they also burn muscle, whereas weightlifting does not. Strength-based workouts not only build muscle and burn fat but also strengthen your heart even after exercising. Along with this, strength training fights osteoporosis, this works as muscles and bones react to the stress of weightlifting. In the same way muscles react to stress by becoming bigger and stronger, bones react in a similar fashion by depositing more bone to those under stress.

Strength and weight training doesn’t have to require the biggest, heaviest weights
What are the benefits of combining cardio and strength training in your workout?

It is clear that both types of exercise choice offer many benefits to our health in different ways. The key is finding the right balance between the two. Now, you may be a hardcore cardio fan or a gym bro but it’s time to put your differences aside to achieve your fitness goals. The benefits of both forms of physical activity are undeniable and they both offer very different benefits. Combining strength workouts to increase bone density and muscle strength with cardio workouts to increase the strength of your heart and lungs will improve your day-to-day health and help you lead a more fulfilling life.

Incorporating the two will only benefit your fitness. A 2014 Iowa State University study found that 10 minutes of running per day, and at slow speeds, results in a markedly reduced risk of death from all causes as well as heart disease. So simply, ten minutes of aerobic exercise a day can dramatically increase your health without having to partake in a marathon every other day like people seem to believe. It’s pretty simple really when it comes to putting the two forms of workout together; start every strength based workout (if you’re into weightlifting) with a ten minute bike ride, run or row. Or if you’re into cardio as part of your workout, feature circuit classes that involve lifting weights and performing body-weight exercises rather than sticking to the running machine.

There’s no rule that you can’t do both cardio and strength training to improve your fitness levels
So, the conclusion…

There is no right or wrong way to exercise; as long as you are getting up and about then you’re doing something right.  When it comes to working out consistently the best exercise for you is the one that you enjoy most, as it is the one that you are most likely to stick to.

Whether long runs are the thing for you or walking from the gym to your car is enough cardio for you, getting in 10 minutes of heart rate boosting exercise will leave your heart and muscles thanking you!

But one thing is clear: it’s important that you incorporate cardio as part of your workouts. Whether you want to run that marathon or you want to lift the heaviest weights.

If you’re looking for a fitness plan, by the way, Davina McCall’s very own personal trainer, Jackie Wren, has created us a 4-week workout plan that incorporates both strength training and cardio as part of your workout. And if you’re new to strength training, PT and Director of The Fitting Rooms, David Jordan, gave us some top tips on strength training and injury prevention.

Joe Tucker
the authorJoe Tucker
Joe is an aspiring fitness journalist looking to get his foot in the industry at A fair-weather runner and sparring sissy who occasionally enjoys rolling down hills ... on two wheels that is. Any story ideas? Feel free to DM him with any ideas.

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