When starting at Real Girls, my clients often ask me what type of exercise (i.e. cardio or resistance training) should they be doing outside of their sessions with me.
The uncertainty and confusion of where to start when it comes to exercise, is because there has long been a debate about which is best. Is CARDIO the the best way to get fit and lose weight? Or do the benefits of RESISTANCE TRAINING far outweigh those of cardio?
While both forms of exercise provide huge benefits for your health, the choice depends entirely on your goals.
In this post I am going to take a look at a few common goals and their pros and cons. Plus – what are the “rules” of cardio for different goals anyway?
1. What if your specific health goal is weight loss?
For years we’ve been told that cardio is the answer to weight loss. Well, one Duke University study  demonstrates that this still holds true.
The study examined the results of 119 previously sedentary individuals over 8 months. Some participants performed cardio only, others did strictly resistance training, and a third group did a combination of both.
The cardio-only group lost the most amount of weight (1.8kg) while the resistance training group gained 900g. Although this 900g was in fact lean muscle mass, it didn’t result in any additional fat loss over the course of the study.
2. What if your goal is overall better health – and longevity?
While cardiovascular exercise is beneficial for heart health and disease prevention, when it comes to longevity, resistance training is the clear winner.
As Dr Robert Schreiber , an instructor at Harvard Medical School states,
“just doing aerobic exercise is not adequate. Unless you are doing strength training, you will become weaker and less functional. The average 30 year old will lose one quarter of their muscle by age 70 and half of it by age 90.”
How much cardio do I need to do in general?
According to the Australia’s Physical Activity guidelines, you should aim to
Accumulate 150 to 300 minutes (2 ½ to 5 hours) of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 to 150 minutes (1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours) of vigorous intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both moderate and vigorous activities, each week.
Choose from running, power walking, cycling, aerobics or perhaps a game of tennis – the choice is yours! Aim for three x 50-minute sessions (or divide it into shorter more frequent sessions) of any activity that gets your heart rate up (thinking getting ‘huffy puffy’. Aim to break a sweat too 😉
How much resistance training is enough?
According to the Australia’s Physical Activity guidelines, you should aim to:
Do muscle strengthening activities on at least 2 days each week.
Muscle strengthening activities = resistance training!
Regular resistance training sessions will not only increase your overall strength but allow you to do everyday activities with more ease.
Do you really need to choose between cardio & resistance training?
While the Duke University study did favour cardio for weight loss, the 3rd test group in the same study did show interesting results.
This group did a combination of both cardio and weights resulting in the best change in overall body composition.
This combination of the two types of physical training helped participants lose fat AND gain lean muscle mass – which is key for maintaining strength AND longevity.
In today’s busy world it can be difficult to find time to fit in exercise at all. While your specific health goals will play a big part in choosing the type of workouts you do, the most important thing is that you’re staying consistently active. The Australian Physical Activity guidelines recommend:
Doing any physical activity is better than doing none. If you currently do no physical activity, start by doing some, and gradually build up to the recommended amount. Be active on most, preferably all, days every week.
If you aim to exercise for 150 minutes every week (or more), eat a healthful & balanced diet and you’ll be well on your way to feeling healthier and stronger. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to your exercise goals get it in touch and I can help you get started – or – you can download my free 10 minute Workout e-Guide below 🙂
1] Journal of Applied Physiology, Dec 2012: Effects of aerobic and/or resistance training on body mass and fat mass in overweight or obese adults
2] Harvard Health Publishing: Want to live longer and better? Do strength training.
3] Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology: Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines
4] Harvard Health Publishing: 7 tips for a safe and successful strength training program