Cardio is short for cardiovascular. Knowing this little bit of info should already explain it. Cardiovascular or aerobic exercise benefits the heart and blood supply system (aka cardiovascular system) It also makes the lungs work more efficently to supply oxygen to the blood. The most common type of cardio we see is LSD (Long Slow Distance) running on a tread mill, dance/Zumba, elipticals, bikes/spin, ect. Most people do a lot of LSD cardio. Unfortunately, if you are trying to lose weight (lets be REAL...you know that's why you go to the gym) this is just not as effective as it's been hyped up to be. How many times have you been to the gym and all the cardio equipment is full? All the time. Yet these folks don't seem to change or see lasting results. A more effective way for weight loss would be HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). This pushes you hard and it doesnt take hours of your time to complete. An effective HIIT workout can take as little as 10-20 minutes and still be more effective than a long 30-60 min run. So what is it you want to accomplish? If you are training for a Marathon or Triathlon then absolutly you better be doing aerobic LSD exercise and getting miles under your belt. For the average individual who just wants weight loss and to be able to get off the toilet when they are older, this may not be the right option. If it's weight loss then you need to make sure HITT is part of your program and consider adding in resistance training.
What is resitance training? You have seen the commercials "I pick things up and put them down" Yes that! Weight lifting and strength training. The first question I get (mostly from women) is "will it make me look bulky like a body builder?" The answer is NO! It will not because women don't produce testosterone in the quantities that men do. It would take a lot of supplements and maybe even steroids for women to get the bulk effects you see in those body building women. So don't let it make you fear the weight room because the benefits are far better. The benefits are these adaptations to resistance training:
- Increased bone density (fights ostioperosis)
- Increased capillary size (improves blood floow)
- Increased lean muscle mass (more efficient metabolism)
- Increased metabolism (burn calories longer)
- Increased strength (better to be strong than not get off the toilet)
- FAT LOSS not just weight loss. (Self explained)
Here is the easiest way to put this, If you don't do it you lose it. If you can't do it then you should do MORE OF IT!! The number one reason most people check into nursing homes is because they don't have the strength to get up to go to the bathroom. How do you prevent this? Get strong before you get to that point. Its never too late. I would love to see my gym full of older folks getting strong rather than a bunch of people in treadmill hamster wheels. Don't let yourself be this person.
There are benefits to both aerobic and anerobic exercise but your goals and needs determine what type you really need to be doing. As for the myth that cardio burns more calories than resistance training, it is only true DURING the cardio exercise. The bennefits of resistance training will continue to burn calories much longer AFTER the workout making it more effective in the long run and easier to maintain a consistant loss over time. Again, depending on your needs and goals determines what type of training is best for you. A combination of BOTH makes for a well rounded program for most people. If you don't know if you should do one vs the other, ask your self this question, Am I going to run a marathon this year? If not then go lift some weight and get strong!!