Cardio vs. Resistance? Which is the True Champion of Heart Health?

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It’s a battle as old as time itself.

Cardio vs. Weights.

Each side’s adherents can sometimes be downright fanatical, heels dug in, on the side of their favorite workout, while perhaps only offering a nod of tolerance for the other.

But not you.

And that’s why you’re here. To see what the science has to say about this subject and to see if we can put the debate to rest.

While the latter is not entirely likely, let’s see what the former has to say and if there is anything we can learn and apply to our own lives.

We’re going to take our power back over our health.

The Study

Researchers from the University of Illinois-Chicago and Iowa State University set out to determine which form of exercise was superior, if possible, for those with cardiovascular disease risk factors.

So they found 69 adults close to 58 years old (+/- seven years), with a combination of elevated blood pressure, being overweight, and who live a sedentary lifestyle.

A not-so-great trifecta.

They then divided these participants into four groups:

  • A control group that did not exercise at all,
  • an aerobic group who did a 60-minute aerobic session three days per week for eight weeks,
  • a resistance training group who did a 60-minute resistance training session three days per week for eight weeks,
  • and a combo group who did a combination 30-minute cardio, 30-minute resistance training workout three days per week for eight weeks.

While there were positive results for all, which should at bare minimum show us the continued importance of exercise throughout life, one clearly stood above the rest.

It wasn’t the control group.

Each group had their own unique successes

The cardio group did have the best improvement in cardiovascular fitness as well as significant reductions in body weight and fat mass. If looking at cardiovascular health only, aerobic exercise obviously has its benefits.

But is it the whole package?

Resistance training shined in a couple areas aerobic did not. It did a good job of increasing lower body strength while reducing waist circumference, but that was all. Any improvements in cardiovascular fitness were not significant, as were any changes in weight and BMI.

Quite interestingly, though, is that neither aerobic nor resistance training had any significant impact on blood pressure.

Where does this leave us?

With a nice, balanced combination of the two.

The group who performed a combination of the two far out shined either alone.

The combination-style training resulted in significant reductions in blood pressure, a significant increase in cardiovascular fitness, increases in both lower and upper body strength, and an increase in lean body mass.

It showed itself to be the real deal.

It also could be a case of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps the two forms of exercise are able to work together to help amplify each other’s strengths in a way that ultimately benefits the whole body in a more synergistic way, although that is just a hypothesis.

What we do know, however, is that an appropriate combination of exercise styles appears, based on these results, to be the most well-rounded when it comes improving cardiovascular health and combating the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

There are a number of great trainers out there who are very passionate about boosting the health of their clients, so be sure to look around and find a plan that is safe and works for you. It’s never too early and it’s never too late to protect your health and well being.

Here’s to your health!

Reference: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0210292



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2 Comments

  1. A really interesting read. I genuinely believe the two forms can work well alongside each other, although I’m not really one for weights, personally

  2. Pursuit of Great
    at

    Thanks Graham. I believe you’re right. Definitely have to find what you enjoy. At least for me, that helps me stay excited about it. Appreciate the comment!

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