It's hard to believe that exercise, which seems to be a relatively simple topic, can cause so much debate. However, when assessing the efficacy of weight training vs. cardiovascular exercise, there are plenty of conflicting opinions on which is better - and this debate may never get resolved. Therefore, the staff at BioFit and Wellness decided to compare the benefits and risks of the two forms of exercise so you can make an educated choice as to how to approach either type of workout. (Note: For the sake of simplification, we will use the term aerobic and cardiovascular interchangeably.)
The No. 1 benefit of following an aerobic exercise plan is the change in your cardiovascular fitness that results from this kind of training regimen. Regular aerobic exercise causes your lungs to process more oxygen with less effort; your heart to pump more blood with fewer beats; and the blood supply directed to your muscles to increase. As a result, by performing cardiovascular exercises, you are increasing your body's endurance and efficiency.
In addition to the cardiovascular benefits, other benefits of aerobic exercise include:
- Weight loss: Combined with a healthy diet and appropriate strength training, aerobic exercise will help you lose weight.
- Improved mental health: Regular aerobic exercise releases endorphins, your body's natural painkillers. Endorphins also reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
- Improved immune system: People who exercise regularly are less susceptible to minor viral illnesses such as colds and flu. It is possible that aerobic exercise helps activate your immune system and prepares it to fight off infection.
- Increased stamina: Exercise may make you tired in the short term, i.e., during and right after the activity, but over the long term it will increase your stamina and reduce fatigue.
- Disease reduction: Extra weight is a contributing factor to conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and some forms of cancer. As you lose weight, your risk of developing these diseases decreases. In addition, weight-bearing aerobic exercise, such as walking, can reduce your risk of osteoporosis and its complications. Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as swimming, cycling and pool exercises, can help keep you fit if you have arthritis, without putting excessive stress on your joints.
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- Increased life span: The Harvard Alumni Health Study (1986), published in the New England Journal of Medicine, scientifically linked exercise with increased life spans for the first time. Since then, additional research has supported this finding.
- Improved muscle health: Aerobic exercise stimulates the growth of tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in your muscles. This helps your body more efficiently deliver oxygen to your muscles and remove from them irritating metabolic waste products such as lactic acid. This can lessen your discomfort if you have chronic muscle pain or chronic low-back pain.