Cardio vs Weight Resistance: Which is Right For You?
Dr. Kara's Health Insights

Cardio vs Weight Resistance: Which is Right For You?

by DK Kara MD on May 10, 2022

Fitness can be fun, especially because there are many ways to get your body moving. From Pilates to martial arts, marathons to weight training, there’s something for everyone.

But is one type of exercise better than another? And should you be sticking with one type of exercise, or should you mix it up?

Those are all great questions, and for the purpose of this article we’ll cover the two most common categories of fitness: cardio vs weight resistance.

Goals

Before you can know which type of exercise is best for you, it’s important to consider what your goals are.

For some, it may be to regain strength after a surgical procedure. For others, it may be to lose some stubborn belly fat.

Other things to consider are:

  • Medications you’re taking
  • Your current health condition
  • Expected time frame for desired results
  • Your personal commitment level

These all matter when it comes to achieving sustainable results.

We’re going to look at two main exercise categories, cardio and weight resistance training, in light of their definition, pros and cons.

Cardio

The term “cardio” is short for cardiovascular, which means these types of exercises elevate your heart rate. Another word for this is aerobic exercises, which rely on oxygen for energy (3).

Examples of cardio workouts include:

  • Jogging
  • Dancing
  • Bicycling
  • Swimming
  • Skating
  • Brisk Walking

Cardio exercises are also divided into two sub-categories: high impact and low impact.

Pros

Some of the biggest benefits (4) associated with cardio exercises are:

  • Increase longevity
  • Aids restful sleep
  • Enhances mood
  • Improves circulation
  • Reduces disease risk  

Cons

On the flip side, doing too much cardio (1) too often can result in:

  • Joint Pain
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Injury
  • Physical/mental exhaustion
  • Hypertension
  • Sleeplessness

Weight Resistance

Also known as weight training or weight resistance training, these types of exercises are more localized and don’t involve as much whole body movement.

These types of exercises are also called anaerobic, because your body uses glucose for energy under a low oxygen state (3). This results in more energy being used in a shorter amount of time.

There are three core methods of resistance training (5):

Isometric: These exercises tighten or contract certain muscles without moving the surrounding joints. Examples of these are planks or leg lifts. These work well for those with arthritis, or rehabilitation patients looking to gain strength in one particular area (6).

Isotonic: A word that comes from the Greek meaning “same tone” or “same tension”, these types of exercises keep the same tension throughout the entire motion. Examples of these are pull ups, squats, and bench presses. They can also utilize a joint’s whole range of motion (7).

Isokinetic: These exercises involve a machine that creates a variance in resistance while the movement remains the same (2). Examples include shoulder press, chest press, and leg presses.

Pros

Depending on which method you choose (and for what purpose), some of the benefits (5) of weight resistance training are:

  • Lower risks for injury
  • Works opposing muscles at the same time
  • Good strength gains
  • Equipment not always necessary
  • Good endurance gains
  • Easier to perform
  • Good for rehab

Cons

In contrast, weight training can have negative and even dangerous outcomes if not done properly. Some of the negative aspects (5) of weight resistance are:

  • Can be more expensive
  • Greatly raise blood pressure
  • Higher risk of injury if not careful
  • Angle specific
  • Can limit strength and endurance gains

Again, these are dependent on which method you use, frequency, whether proper training was given, and how long you intend to do this.

Which is Best?

The truth is, both are needed to enjoy optimal health. But if your goal is to lose weight, consider these facts:

Cardio helps you burn more calories during a workout and can help you lose weight faster (8, 10).

Weight training helps you burn more calories after a workout, because the lean muscle you’re building increases your resting metabolism (11).

What about Pre-workout Supplements?

You might be wondering if pre-workout supplements can help boost your cardio or weight training efforts.

There are lots of opinions out there, but Dr. Kara weighs in on the matter in this article (9).

Summary

Exercise is a part of healthy living, and thankfully there’s more than one way to do it.

Whether you enjoy brisk walks around the block, hitting the gym with your accountability partner, or watching a low impact Zumba on YouTube, there are plenty of ways to work up a good sweat.

Depending on your goals, you may have heard that cardio is better than weight training, or vice versa. While each type has their advantages, the truth is it depends on multiple factors.

Evaluating where you’re at in your fitness journey can help you determine the best course of action. Cardio is great for increasing heart rate, reducing inflammation, and keeping you young. Weight training is helpful for building muscle strength, increasing endurance, and localizing your efforts.

How has incorporating cardio or weight resistance training helped improve your health? We’d love to hear from you, let us know in the comments below!

References & Disclaimer

(1) https://www.healthline.com/health/cardio-everyday

(2) https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/isokinetic-exercise

(3) https://greatist.com/health/cardio-vs-weights#whats-the-difference

(4) https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-many-benefits-of-a-cardio-workout/

(5) https://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/christen/strengthtrain.html

(6) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/expert-answers/isometric-exercises/faq-20058186

(7) https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/isotonic-training#advantages

(8) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25162652/

(9) https://www.karamd.com/blogs/health/are-pre-workouts-worth-it

(10) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25162652/

(11) https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2001/04000/Effect_of_strength_training_on_resting_metabolic.5.aspx

✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author