What’s More Important: Strength or Cardio?

by Terry Kozmor

Ahh, the infamous question. So many times, when I meet a new client who is eager to lose weight or whip themselves into shape, the first question out of their mouth is, “Should I spend my time doing more strength or cardio?” They assume that if they want to lose weight, they should only do cardio and, on the flip side, if they want to build muscle they should only lift weights. While I understand why they think that, it’s not entirely true. Yes, you need cardio to lose weight and yes, you need weights to gain muscle; however, it’s more complex than that.

Strength and cardio go hand in hand and are both important not only for your physical health, but also for your internal health. Studies show that exercise, even when not paired with an optimal diet, causes positive changes in the gut. Exercise even lowers your risk for colon cancer, diverticulosis, and inflammatory bowel disease. (1) Let’s talk about how to create a well-rounded workout plan that will keep you strong and fit—inside and out.

Cardio

We refer to cardiovascular work as anything that creates an aerobic response within the body; your heart rate is up and your blood is flowing. Some examples are walking, running, biking, swimming, etc. This could also be a combination of movements that allow you to maintain a steady heart rate, such as box jumps or lunges. Cardio-style workouts are critical to improving heart health, balancing hormones, increasing metabolism, and maintaining overall endurance. Cardio is indeed important, but it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Ideally, we want to aim for at least 2–3 days of cardiovascular activity per week.

Strength Training

Contrary to many popular myths, strength training does not make you “bulk” or “swell” up. In fact, resistance strength training is a critical piece of weight loss. In order to lose weight, you need to build lean tissue. This can be done by resistance training at least twice per week, in combination with your cardio workout. Ixcela promotes progressive resistance training (PRT), which not only helps you lose weight and build muscle but also protects against osteoporosis and preserves bone density. Ixcela results include a customized eight-week PRT plan that will take the guesswork out of your workout. The plan includes links to exercise demonstration videos. You can also work with a personal trainer to ensure you are lifting safely with proper form.

Recovery

One aspect of a fitness routine that people tend to forget about is recovery or taking time to rest your body. Although I encourage my clients to maintain a healthy level of daily activity (for example, walking 10,000 steps), I also recommend that they take one to two days per week to rest from working out. Remember, you’re not doing your body any favors by running it into the ground seven days a week! When we overexert our bodies and work out too many days in a row, we risk injury and/or exhaustion. Recovery—active or not—is needed to help rebuild tissue, replenish energy, and reinvigorate the body. I typically suggest that my clients on beginner training plans schedule two rest days per week and those on intermediate/advanced plans schedule one rest day per week. This allows clients to maximize their workouts and have an adequate resting period.

Sample Weekly Plan

Exercise not only helps keep you lean; it creates positive changes within the gut, which may protect you from numerous serious illnesses. Combining cardio with strength training and rest is the key to losing weight and feeling your best. Even if you hate cardio, feel awkward about strength training, or don’t know what to do with yourself on rest days, you need all three. Neglecting any of these components of fitness could leave you feeling tired or stall your weight loss. You can’t go wrong when you make time for all three.



Resources

1. Monda-Ines, Vincenzo, et al. “Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects.” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, Mar 2017,

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5357536/.