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Which Is Better? Cardio Exercise Or Strength Training? | FNBB 111
I get the question about cardiovascular exercise vs strength training all the time. I think because when we hit midlife, we get bombarded with friends, media, and doctors telling us that we should start lifting weights. Like right now. Through our youth, all we heard is that exercise is all about the cardio and that lifting weights is elective and usually just done by men. And all of a sudden, we’re hearing the opposite.
I have a hard time answering this cardio vs weights question. I seriously think that both are important for your midlife health and fitness. But this answer doesn’t cut it most times. So my pat answer is that I vote 49% for cardio and 51% for strength training. It sounds like a cop out, but with a nod to strength training because at this age, I do feel it is a touch more needed. And here is my reasoning.
You should never choose one of these activities at the exclusion of the other. There is no either-or. They each have specific benefits that will help you live a longer life. Any workout or fitness program I would put together for myself or someone else would include both. But if yours doesn’t, you are doing your health a disservice. Both cardio and weights should be no-brainers when working with a coach or when putting a program together for yourself.
So I choose strength over cardio, but there are still important reasons why you should still get in at least 150 minutes of cardio each week. The most important reason is that heart disease is the #1 killer of women. It is the cause of 1 in 3 deaths of women. Cardiovascular exercise raises your heart rate and the rate at which blood is pumped through your heart, causing your heart muscle to get stronger, which allows it to maintain flexibility. This elevated heart rate also increases the amount of oxygen pushed through your lungs, helping your circulatory system.
I believe the best type of cardiovascular training for midlife is HIIT or high-intensity interval training workouts, where you raise your heart rate in short bursts of 3-4 minutes followed by a short recovery. Pushing as hard as you can for this amount of time stresses the heart and forces the it to function more efficiently. Repeating the intervals up to six times helps strengthen the heart and the circulatory system more efficiently than other endurance type cardio workouts, such as running, cycling, walking, swimming, etc.
The benefits of strength training are extensive. Let’s start with improving your bone density or reducing your risk of osteoporosis. As we age, our bones become porous and brittle, but when we do weight-bearing activity, such as weight lifting, it stimulates the bones to produce more bone tissue.
And not only do our bones become brittle, but we also start to lose lean muscle mass at a rate of 3-8% a decade after the age of 30. Known as Sarcopenia, this percentage of loss increases the older we get. We can work to avoid this if we build our lean muscle mass by getting enough protein in our diet and lifting weights.
Besides these two major factors, strength training helps keep you mobile, helps increase your flexibility & balance to keep you from falling, it increases your metabolism, improves your mental outlook, and is known to improve brain health.
Many people believe that “weight lifting” is done to build muscle tone like Ah-Nold. But weight lifting in midlife is about moderate to heavy weights done in 2-3 sets at 12-15 reps – 30-45 minutes 3 times a week if possible. I enjoy circuit training that has you do an upper body lift, followed by a lower body lift. The purpose of this is to reduce the amount of rest between exercises. But you can also do one PUSH workout, one PULL workout, and one LEG workout each week.
Make sure to start small, with a weight that feels right. Lifting heavy weights the first time out will only end in injury. And focus on the correct lifting position. Hire a certified personal trainer to help you get started or watch videos online for proper technique. If you are at the gym, ask one of the trainers. That is what they are there for.
Cardio and strength training are both so good for you. You can’t go wrong if you do either of them. But the best of all worlds is to include BOTH in your weekly fitness plan. Each has a place. And with a mixture, they can change up your plan so that boredom isn’t a factor. Mixing in strength training with a cardio background will make you well-rounded in midlife fitness. So enjoy!