If you were allowed to choose only one type of exercise to do, which one should you choose: cardio exercise or strength training? In other words, which is better for you?
A World of Benefits
This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Both cardio exercise and strength training are linked to long lists of health benefits. Cardio exercise is proven to reduce body fat and improve circulation, sleep, stress levels, mood, and cognitive function and to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and various types of cancer. Strength training has been shown to prevent back pain, strengthen the bones, improve joint function, boost-self esteem, increase insulin sensitivity, and slow functional aging.
Both cardio exercise and strength training increase life expectancy. For example, a study from the University of Pittsburgh found that, in a group of 70-79 year olds, the strongest men and women had the lowest risk of dying over a five-year period. And a recent Finish study found that the death rate among aerobically unfit older men was 2.75 times higher than the death rate among their aerobically fit counterparts.
The Yin and Yang of Health and Fitness
While there is some overlap in the benefits of cardio exercise and strength training, they are largely complementary. These days even ultra-endurance athletes such as marathon runners lift weights to prevent injuries, while strongman competitors do cardio workouts to improve their fatigue resistance. So it's a good thing that you don't have to choose just one type of exercise to do! A program that combines cardio exercise and strength training is the best way to go.
Keep in mind that the results of any exercise program are only as good as the nutrition you use to fuel your body. For the best results, combine a diet based on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and the healthy fats.