Could the resistance training trend damage your cardio fitness?

Chris Foster Chris Foster Nuffield Health Professional Head of Fitness
Nuffield Health head of fitness Chris Foster discusses the importance of maintaining a cardiovascular exercise routine in an era of resistance training.

Resistance (weight) training has seen a huge surge in recent years. While the benefits of resistance training are well documented, with many turning away from other forms of exercise such as cardio in its favour could your health suffer as a result? It's not time to pack away your trainers just yet. 

Weights are a great way to build muscle and strength and to burn fat. If you want to look good and feel strong, weights can certainly help. But if they are used at the expense of aerobic or cardiovascular exercise, your body will lose out on the vast array of benefits these heart-pumping exercises can bring.

Cardio’s positive effects are strongly backed by science, here’s just a few of the benefits your treadmill/bike/Boxfit sessions could bring you.

Fighting the ‘bad’ cholesterol

Raised cholesterol is a known risk factor for coronary heart disease, this is why we are bombarded with messages to keep our cholesterol levels in check. Cardio exercise tells the body to produce more high density lipoproteins (HDL) - the "good" cholesterol - and in turn this helps to control the levels of circulating low density lipoproteins (LDL) and triglycerides - the bad guys.

Reducing blood pressure

High blood pressure is a problem because it strains your arteries, leaving you at risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. But aerobic exercise has been shown to reduce blood pressure. During exercise your systolic blood pressure (the level of pressure in your arteries when your heart is beating) will increase, and your diastolic pressure (the level of pressure in your arteries when your heart is resting between beats) should stay at around the same level. Chronically however the cumulative effects of aerobic exercise are to reduce both systolic and diastolic pressures by up to 10mmHg which could literally prove to be a life-saver.

Keeping trim

Evidence supports the use of aerobic exercise to promote greater total body mass and fat mass reductions than resistance training. Although resistance training supports greater gains in lean (muscle) mass which is a very important factor in body composition and body shape as well as health, moderate-intensity cardio exercise can be completed for longer periods of time and on a more regular basis than higher intensity workouts and so should form part of any solid approach to weight loss.

Staying happy

As well as having such positive effects on your physiology, aerobic exercise has also been linked to numerous psychological health benefits too. Individuals who are more active have been shown in comparison to sedentary individuals to perform better on cognitive tests, exhibit reduced cardiovascular responses to stress and report fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety. These are all conditions that can lead people to take on bad habits, such as smoking and eating badly which can be very harmful to your heart and general health.

Avoiding ‘smokadiabesity’

Physical inactivity has been termed the biggest public health concern of the 21st Century, not least by Professor Steven Blair who coined the term "smokadiabesity" when highlighting that low fitness kills more people than smoking, diabetes and obesity combined. Considering how many people won't give a second's thought to skipping a day's physical activity, this is very concerning.

The benefits of cardiovascular or aerobic exercise seem clear for all to see and we should all be looking at how we can be active during our daily activities as well as our structured exercise sessions.

Last updated Wednesday 27 January 2016

First published on Friday 19 June 2015