How does a combination of cardio and strength training benefit you?
Cardio and strength training help the body in different ways. Cardiovascular exercise — anything that increases heart rate — promotes heart and lung health and reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Strength training boosts the metabolism by building lean muscle mass, preventing obesity, and limiting bone loss.
When it comes to longevity and overall health, experts agree a combination of the two is most beneficial. “I wouldn’t say it’s cardio versus strength, because they are partners,” said Nicole R. Keith, a professor of kinesiology at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “We need to be doing both.”
Recent research pinpoints how much of each exercise is most likely to increase longevity. A 2022 study published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that a combination of cardiovascular and strength training was associated with a lower risk of mortality than cardio alone. Even one hour a week of cardio alone led to a reduction in mortality risk, with three hours yielding the most benefit.
Similarly, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults between the ages of 18 and 65 aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. According to Dr. Keith, that’s when you can talk, but you feel winded. Cut that number in half if you’re doing vigorous cardio, where you’re too out of breath to speak.
Experts recommend additional muscle strengthening exercises at least twice a week to further lower the risk of mortality. But strength training is about sets and reps rather than duration, according to Dr. Keith.
The C.D.C. and A.C.S.M. recommend strength training exercises that include each major muscle group (your upper body, lower body, and core). Dr. Keith recommends lifting light weights for three sets of eight to 10 repetitions to maintain muscle health; if your goal is to build bigger muscles, lift heavier weights for three sets with fewer reps.
How do you build a strength and cardio routine?
Don’t stress about achieving a perfect balance. “I honestly don’t obsess over the numbers,” said Dr. Christopher McMullen, a sports medicine physician at the University of Washington Medical Center. You’ll be more likely to stick with a routine if it works for your schedule and preferences.
The recommended 150 minutes of cardio per week can be broken down into five 30-minute sessions. And you should strengthen your core, upper and lower body two times per week. But that doesn’t mean you have to work out every day, or that you have to do your strength exercises separately.
The C.D.C. is clear that exercise is still beneficial when people break it up — say, doing a few shorter, more intense workouts. Strength and cardio exercise can also be done in the same workout session. “You can work on one muscle group each time you do cardio,” Dr. Keith said.
- New York Times
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention
- American College of Sport Medicine