Strength, Cardio, Flexibility: Which is More Important?

If we lived in a world where time was not an issue, you would do best to attend to each element of fitness: strength, cardio and flexibility. But, unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time to spend 3 hours at the gym every day. 

It’s for this exact reason that each Sweaty Chix Fitness format includes all three elements. But what do you do if you can’t attend an SCF class?

In the past, aerobics classes have focused mostly on cardio exercise, and that’s not a bad thing. Cardio is fun, and it’s a great way to get people off the couch and into the gym. The popularity of Zumba and High Fitness is completely understandable. The music pumps you up, and when the endorphins kick in, it’s better than a candy bar and Disneyland combined! But if cardio is the only thing that you do, it can have the opposite effect that you desire.

Don’t get me wrong. It strengthens the heart and lungs, improves the immune system and helps the heart pump blood more efficiently.  But too much cardio can have negative effect such as the following: 

Vascular and Heart Problems (1)

Studies have shown that daily cardio over 60 minutes can cause problems with the vascular system. Athletes who do more than 10 hours/week of intense cardio can irreversibly damage their heart.

Lower Metabolism (2)

Your body has an internal thermostat that controls how fast you burn calories. Too much cardio can cause the muscle tissue to break down. Your body wants to hang on to the muscle, so it tells the metabolism to slow down, or in other words, to burn less calories.

Increased Cortisol (3)

Too much cardio turns on the fight or flight mechanism in your brain. When this happens, cortisol is increased.  Elevated cortisol produces excess glucose which can result in visceral fat (fat that surrounds your organs) and belly fat.

Weakened Immune System (4)

Chronically high cortisol can cause the immune system to become “resistant”. The stress hormones and increased cytokines can also compromise the immune response. 

I’m not saying cardio exercise is bad!  Not at all!  It’s a good thing, but it shouldn’t be done in excess and it shouldn’t be the only exercise you do.  As a matter of fact, if time is limited, I would focus on the other two elements of fitness before focusing on cardio.  Here’s why…

Strength training can prolong not only the quantity of your life, but also the quality. Some of the benefits to strength training include: 

  • Maintaining muscle tissue – When you turn 30, growth hormones begin to decrease. This can result in an 8-10% decrease in muscle tissue each decade. Strength training can reduce that number to 1-2%! That makes for a huge difference when you’re 80!
  • Improving bone density – As you age, your bones can become frail and subject to osteoporosis and fractures. Strength training can prevent that by strengthening the bones as well as the tendons and ligaments.
  • Increasing strength - The older you get, the harder it becomes to do the simplest things such as opening a jar or lifting a laundry basket. Strength training will help make those daily tasks easier as well as reduce the risk of injury.
  • Reducing excess body fat – Lean muscle burns three times more calories that fat! The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism will be and the more fat you will use up.

Along with strength training - and a measured amount of cardio - flexibility training can greatly improve the quality of your life.  It reduces the risk of injury by correcting muscle imbalances and keeping the muscles supple and pliant. Flexibility training also reduces pain by loosening up the muscles and releasing tension. Another benefit of flexibility is improved posture, balance and a more positive state of mind.

Yoga is a great way to increase flexibility. Another bonus to yoga is that it is one of the few exercises that decrease cortisol levels, resulting in lower glucose levels and healthier blood pressure.

Not to toot our own horn, but the Sweaty Chix Formats have the perfect balance of strength, cardio and flexibility training. Some of the formats have more strength and some more cardio, but each finish with a nice, relaxing yoga cool-down 

The bottom line is we need a balance in our fitness regimen just like we need a balance in our life. So, one element isn’t necessarily “better” than the others, but they can definitely be ranked in priority. I think strength training would be listed under “Very Important” category. Flexibility would be “Important”, and cardio would be “Sort of Important”. 

That said, if you don’t have a Sweaty Chix Fitness format near you, consider signing up for one of our trainings and be the pacesetter in your area. We would love to help you get started!

 

(1)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3538475/

(2) https://www.fitbod.me/blog/can-cardio-make-you-fat#:~:text=If%20you%20%E2%80%9Cfight%E2%80%9D%20against%20it,in%20order%20to%20lose%20weight

(3) https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Chronic-Cardio--Is-it-Negatively-Affecting-Your-Weight-And-Health-.html?soid=1124872474396&aid=V2y7-QVm7uA

(4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4465119/#:~:text=Cortisol%20is%20ordinarily%20anti%2Dinflammatory,the%20immune%20response%20%5B18%5D.

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