Which one: Strength or cardio? The answer is BOTH. The two types of exercise work in tandem to provide a complete workout. Cardio challenges your heart &lungs and strength training solidifies your muscles.
Cardio, formally known as cardiovascular exercise, is a workout where you successfully raise both your heart and breathing rate. Some of the benefits of cardio exercise include a release of endorphins, an increase in blood flow (feeding the immune system with fresh white blood cells) due to widening of blood vessels, a metabolism boost, and, of course, an increase in calories burned!
Personally, I find cardio an excellent way to relieve stress and give the mind a respite from the day’s chaos. I love getting on the treadmill at the gym and running until I get my heart racing and am dripping in sweat! It’s refreshing to renew yourself with each successive breath, expelling the tension in the body. It’s a form of mindfulness and cheap therapy!
While cardio targets your heart and lungs, strength training focuses on your muscles. This type of workout is excellent for decreasing muscle injuries, toning or building muscle groups, improving flexibility, and simply obtaining overall fitness. Many everyday injuries are a result of weak muscles. For example, lower back pain can be due to one not engaging the correct muscle groups (internal obliques and quadratus lumborum) because they have not been sufficiently strengthened. Additionally, working on strength can boost body image perceptions. With the work and time you devote to shape a stronger and healthier version of yourself, you ultimately gain a sense of self pride and accomplishment.
Interestingly, I have found that even when I sign up for a workout class that is specifically marketed as solely being cardio or strength, I find myself doing the counterpart at some point during my workout. For instance, at SoulCycle, even though it’s a spin class, you still do strength training during the weights segment of the workout. On the flipside, when I attended a “Butts and Gutts” class at the Wellness Center, the workout was initiated with some cardio exercises to elevate our respiration and heart rate.
Strength and cardio function as a unit in serving our mind and body. So, next time you’re asked the question “strength or cardio?” it’s no longer a question!