Cardiorespiratory exercise, known simply as cardio, is used to describe exercise that works your heart, since your heart is a (smooth) muscle after all. Simply put, cardio is movement that makes your circulatory system work harder. Performing exercises like brisk walking, running, swimming, and cycling are just a few examples of basic cardio exercises. Cardio has multiple benefits, however there can be drawbacks as well. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this type of exercise.

Pros:

  • Cardio allows you to have a lower resting heart rate

When you are exercising, your heart has to work harder by pumping blood to your body at a faster rate. By doing cardio consistently over time, your heart becomes more and more efficient at pumping blood. This can propel your athletic endeavors or make everyday physical activities seem easier to accomplish.

Essentially, your heart will work more efficiently and continue to perform at that same level or even better. You will notice this change by seeing a reduced resting heart rate (RHR). The lower your RHR is, the better shape your heart is in (as long as it’s not too low, which is also not healthy).

  • Fat/Weight loss

As you increase your intensity when doing cardio, your body has to burn extra fuel in order to meet the demand of energy needed to perform the exercise. Just think of driving a car. If you want to drive faster, you will need to press the gas pedal harder, which sends more gasoline into the engine, and therefore increases your speed. By pushing your body with high-intensity interval cardio, you will burn more fat in the long run.[i]

  • Cardio will improve cognition

A recent study found that young adults with higher cardio fitness levels performed much better on cognitive tests compared to their counterparts who didn’t participate in cardio.[ii]

As we age, there is a natural decline in our cognitive abilities and a way to mitigate this is by doing cardio. It’s never too late to strengthen your heart by doing cardio, and it appears that cardio can keep your brain young too All the more reason to keep cardio in your regimen

Cons:

  • Cardio and cortisol production

For those who don’t know, cortisol is a hormone that is produced by your adrenal glands in response to stress. Cortisol helps improve your body’s resistance to stress so it can continue to be healthy when external factors disrupt homeostasis. 

During a long cardio workout (external stressor), the demand for energy increases as your workout intensity grows. Once your body detects low energy levels, cortisol sends a message to cells in your body that your metabolism needs to slow down. In turn, fat stores last longer so you can keep you going until food arrives and replenishes the body.

Long story short, if cortisol secretion becomes chronic, fat begins to accumulate over time due to the constant stress. To manage this, take a look at MPA Supps Cortisolve

  • Injuries and overtraining become more common

Repetitive movements can cause added stress to joints and can eventually lead to injury. Naturally, many runners eventually develop knee issues. If proper rest periods are not integrated, the body doesn’t have enough time to recover, which can lead to joint problems as well nervous system issues and fatigue.

Basics of Resistance Training

When lifting weights, stress is placed on the muscle which causes micro-tears in muscle fibers. Resting and refueling between workouts stimulates protein synthesis so muscles can repair the tears, which then allows muscles to grow in size. The muscles grow stronger in preparation for the next time they will have to face heavy resistance again.

Weight lifting has many benefits but there are things you need to be careful about; let’s take a look at the pros and cons of weight training.

Pros:

  • Weight lifting raises your basal metabolic rate (BMR) for weight Loss

BMR is the amount of energy (calories) that the body needs to function while at rest. While lifting weights, you are expending calories and increasing caloric burn (i.e. metabolism) for that day and a short period of time thereafter.

At rest, muscles burn approximately 50 calories/day per pound of muscle, compared to fat which only needs about 3 calories/day per pound of fat. Thus, the more muscle you have, the faster your metabolism (and the more you can eat while staying lean).

  • Improves bone density

As you age past about 30 years of age, the density of your bones begins to diminish. One of the best ways to combat bone loss is to continually train with weights. According to research, there is a positive relationship between the effects of resistance training and bone density.[iii]

Having strong bones and having the muscle to protect the bones will lower the susceptibility to fractures in the hip, spine, and wrist. Also, if you have stronger muscles, you will have better balance and you will be less likely to fall down, which is surprisingly a common issue as one reaches their latter years.

  • Looking and feeling better

When you consistently lift weights you can drastically improve your physical appearance. Every guy wants a chiseled six pack and every girl wants to have those toned legs and buns. By lifting weights while living a healthy lifestyle, you can achieve those results.

You also develop confidence by challenging yourself and pushing yourself through intense training sessions, which can carry over to making you more confident and content.

When you lift weights, endorphins (feel good chemicals in your brain) are released. When you are exerting yourself to achieve your body goals, you forget what’s going on in your life and are present in the moment (runners also get this and also known as a “runner’s high”). People who work out tend to be happier people because they let out the stress in their lives through weight training.

Cons:

  • Lifting heavy weights can be dangerous (especially with poor technique)

Form is very important when working out with weights, not only for best results, but also for injury prevention. Common injuries include muscle strains and bone fractures if proper form isn’t utilized.

Be careful with how you drop your weights, you don’t ever want them landing on your feet or any body part (make sure to choose the proper weight). Becoming aware of the dangers of lifting weights is the first step in avoiding them. Always start with light weight until you get the hang of it, then progress to a heavier weight when you feel comfortable.

  • Lifting weight can cause blood pressure to rise significantly

Blood pressure can rise from a normal 120/80 to over 200/120 acutely during an intense weight training session.[iv] Though, in most healthy individuals, this is an ephemeral change and won’t cause issues.

So Which Should You Emphasize for Body Composition Enhancement?

I have tried almost every method of training imaginable. There are times that I feel like going for a run and then there are times I feel like lifting heavy weights. There is a purpose for every workout regimen and it comes down to what your goals are. That being said, it stands to reason that weight training/resistance training should be a priority over cardio when the goal is to improve body composition, primarily because the more muscle you build, the greater your metabolic rate will be and the easier time you’ll have losing fat.

Cardio should still be an adjunct to your resistance training program, but the goal is to keep it is minimal as possible while still achieving your fat loss goal every week.

 

 

[i] Talanian, J. L., Galloway, S. D., Heigenhauser, G. J., Bonen, A., & Spriet, L. L. (2007). Two weeks of high-intensity aerobic interval training increases the capacity for fat oxidation during exercise in women. Journal of applied physiology, 102(4), 1439-1447.

[ii] Etnier, J. L., Salazar, W., Landers, D. M., Petruzzello, S. J., Han, M., & Nowell, P. (1997). The influence of physical fitness and exercise upon cognitive functioning: a meta-analysis. Journal of sport and Exercise Psychology, 19(3), 249-277.

[iii] Layne, J. E., & Nelson, M. E. (1999). The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(1), 25-30.

[iv] MacDougall, J. D., Tuxen, D. S. D. G., Sale, D. G., Moroz, J. R., & Sutton, J. R. (1985). Arterial blood pressure response to heavy resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 58(3), 785-790.