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Why Your Cardio Needs Strength Training

two people doing lunges at gym

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to tell you to ditch your brand new Peloton bike (that you waited eight months for) but if you’re just “spinning your wheels” doing cardio, without adding strength training, you definitely want to keep reading.

Both cardio and strength training have many of the same benefits and play an important role in your wellness routine. Both can strengthen your heart and reduce your risk of developing a ton of other health issues, including high blood pressure, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and osteoporosis, but strength training has value-added where cardio falls short. Below are just some of those incredible benefits.

Strength training:

    • Can incorporate both your upper and lower body at the same time, unlike cardio which focuses only on 50% of your body. Bonus -  it can raise your heart rate on par with cardio zone levels.
    • Can save your joints, unlike cardio, which puts extra pressure on them. Strength training strengthens all the tendons, ligaments, muscles, and even our bones. Plus, it can create more fluid in the joints without placing those repetitive blows to the joint that running or other high-impact cardio does.
    • Fights bone and muscle loss from increased stress on bones. This is great news for people with osteoporosis, or for those of us who want to get ahead of the game and prevent it.
    • Improves flexibility, according to results from a 2017 study in the journal Isokinetics and Exercise Science.
    • Prevents injuries and falls, since strong muscles are important for balance and coordination.
    • Is more effective at preventing increases in abdominal fat than cardiovascular exercise, according to a Harvard study.
    • May be more effective at reducing cardiovascular disease risks than cardio exercise such as walking and biking, according to research from the ACC Latin America Conference 2018.
    • Can boost your metabolism, so you burn more calories 24 hours a day.
    • That last one gets most people excited, and rightfully so.  One study showed that after working out with weights, your metabolism can actually be boosted for up to 38 hours post-workout. That might not sound so epic, but If you add up every time you workout it can mean a few extra slices of pizza or craft cocktails every month.

person using kettle bell weight

The greatest news? It’s not just about the physical benefits, it also improves mental health. Research published by Jama Psychiatry found that not only do those exercise-triggered endorphins boost your mood,  but strength training provides an opportunity to overcome obstacles which helps increase mental resilience.

Think about it: something as simple as increasing your weights from 5 to 8 pounds can seem like a big victory - we’ll take it!

And don’t think these benefits are just for men. A 2015 Journal of Extension study of middle-aged women, showed that consistent strength training improves body image and perceived physical appearance even if the aesthetics don’t change. But in reality, another benefit to lifting weights is that the results are relatively fast and noticeable.

If you’re looking to tone up and get more definition from your workouts, you aren’t going to see those results just from doing cardio. Watching your clothes getting looser comes from building muscle, which takes up less space than fat, and that results from strength training.

Still worried you need to do cardio every day? You’re in luck!

Strength training can be turned into a cardio workout simply by adding intervals with lighter weights and more repetitions because as long as you’re increasing your heart rate and breathing, then you’re doing a cardio workout.

See, it’s a win-win!

If you love a challenge and want to take it a step further you can up the multitasking benefits by combining upper and lower body dynamic movements that also work the core- it’s like getting three workouts in one. Think about doing a squat with an overhead press, incorporating a twist.

Just think of all the progress you’ll make - in half the time.

The great news? Just 15 minutes of strength training 3 times a week will bring you all of the incredible benefits mentioned above - especially enjoying that extra pizza and margaritas with friends.


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